With reporting from Lesley Walker
A private British school in Qatar has come under fire after putting up a display of the world’s flags in its school this week.
The bunting was hung up in the main hall of Doha College West Bay, where it was spotted by some parents who took issue with the inclusion of the Israeli flag.
— صحيفة الشرق – قطر (@alsharq_portal) September 27, 2016
Israel is a sore spot for many in Qatar, and the two countries do not currently have a diplomatic relationship due to Doha’s solidarity with Palestine.
However, Israeli athletes do occasionally compete here in international events.
Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education tweeted about the incident on Monday, saying the school had “conveyed its apology for any discomfort it caused.”
It went on to explain that flags of all UN member countries had been displayed “in a celebratory gesture for the new academic year. Israel’s flag was displayed as a mistake and it was taken down.”
المتحدة احتفاءا بالعام الدراسي الجديد، ومن ضمنها علم اسرائيل على سبيل الخطأ وتمت ازالته.
— وزارة التربية والتعليم والتعليم العالي (@Qatar_Edu) September 26, 2016
In a statement to Doha News, Principal Dr. Steffen Sommer said the incident involved “an error of judgement” during a language day celebration. He added:
“The bunting was removed immediately and the Ministry of Education have accepted and publicly thanked Doha College for their apology and swift action to rectify the situation.”
Though the matter was resolved, many people online have used the incident to question the values children are taught in international schools in Qatar.
@Qatar_Edu اعيالي كانوا ف مدرسة خاصة ومن البلاوي اللي كانت ف المدرسة طلعتهم ودخلتهم مستقله ماخفي اعظم ف هالمدارس والاهالي مستانسين ع اعيالهم
— عاشقة الفردوس (@3ash8talfrdos) September 26, 2016
Translation: My children attended a private school and seeing all the catastrophes at that school, I took them out and enrolled them at an independent school instead. There’s a great deal of damage hidden in these schools (but) families are just happy their children go to a foreign school and learn another language.
Translation: Doha College is one of the oldest private schools in Qatar. I don’t think there’s anything that excuses raising the Israeli flag (as they know Qatar and its traditions well).
However, others thanked the school and the ministry for taking care of the issue.
— جاسم سلمان (@jassimsalman) September 26, 2016
Translation: The apology of both the education ministry and Doha College together with the explanation that the raising of the Israeli flag was a mistake ends the story and closes it (for good). Thank you for the transparency.
This isn’t the first time an international school has ruffled feathers in Qatar over cultural misunderstandings.
In January, a Spanish school was told to remove a copy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from its library. A parent had complained that the illustrations in it were indecent.
At the time, the principal of SEK International School apologized for causing offense. She said the school has now “revised and enforced the procedures to ensure that this type of incident will not happen again.”