Indoctrinating America’s youth against Israel

Indoctrinating America’s youth against Israel, Israel Hayom, Richard Baehr, August 4, 2017

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East ‎Reporting in America has published a new monograph: “Indoctrinating Our ‎Youth,” a case study of the bias in the high school curriculum in one U.S. city ‎when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and teaching about Islam.‎

The booklet is of interest because it helps explains a dramatic shift in the attitudes ‎toward Israel among younger Americans.‎

According to a study by the Brand Israel Group, in just six years, support for Israel ‎has dropped from 73% to 54% among U.S. college students. The drop-off in support among Jewish college ‎students has been particularly steep — from 84% to 57%. It is no great secret that the environment for pro-‎Israel students on many if not most college campuses has become quite hostile. ‎The movement to create an intersectionality of interests among various purveyors ‎of identity politics — the LGBT community, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims, among others — ‎now seems to have adopted anti-Zionism among its key tenets. The exclusion of ‎Jewish women in Chicago from various rallies because they carried rainbow flags ‎with the Star of David is typical of the increasingly fierce attempts to banish ‎anything remotely connected to Israel from the movements on the Left.‎

Elements of the organized Jewish community have been working to fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement ‎on college campuses and to support, train and educate pro-Israel activists. It is ‎clearly difficult for pro-Israel students to isolate themselves from accepted ‎‎”wisdom” or belief among their peers and push back with an alternative ‎viewpoint.

But the CAMERA study reveals that the problem begins earlier than ‎college. The pattern of indoctrination and ‎pressure to adopt narratives hostile to Israel are now common in high school, if not ‎even earlier.

In a typically comprehensive, carefully footnoted ‎study, CAMERA staffers took the time to evaluate all the materials used in teaching ‎about Israel, as well as the Islamic faith, in the two high schools in Newton, ‎Massachusetts, an affluent, heavily Jewish suburb of Boston. In some cases, ‎materials had to be obtained through Freedom of Information requests. School ‎administrators did what they could to impede efforts by local ‎parents and a few local groups who pushed back after learning about the heavily ‎slanted curriculum. Promises were made about changes in the class ‎materials that proved to be false. The school system seemed committed to ‎advancing a point of view, if not just circling the wagons when challenged. ‎

One has to ask how this happened, and why. Newton, of course, is part of the ‎Boston metropolitan area, which is densely populated with colleges and ‎universities, including some of the most elite institutions in the country, if not the ‎world. Not surprisingly, given the current orientation toward Israel on campus, ‎the Newton school system relied on materials from the Outreach Center at ‎Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and invited a BDS ‎supporter from the center, Paul Beran, to conduct teacher training activities to ‎help develop the curriculum in the Newton high schools. The center also ‎mainstreamed a textbook, “The Arab World Studies Notebook,” by ‎Audrey Park Shabbas, as a resource for teachers and students. This notebook ‎was described as “replete with factual errors, inaccuracies and misrepresentations” ‎in a study by the American Jewish Committee after parents in Anchorage, Alaska, ‎complained about the book’s bias against Israel back in 2004. ‎

The AJC found the book to be riddled with “overt bias and unabashed ‎propagandizing,” such as depicting Israel as the aggressor in every Arab-‎Israeli war, and praising Muslim conquerors throughout the ages for their ‎‎”gentle treatment of civilian populations.”‎

The CAMERA analysis makes clear that the high schools presented a picture ‎of the Arab-Israeli conflict in which Arabs had no agency, but were always victims ‎of displacement and occupation. The Palestinian Arabs were shown as the ‎indigenous people, dating back to the Canaanites, and the Jews the modern ‎interlopers as a result of the Zionist movement and then European guilt over the ‎Holocaust, leading to the 1947 partition resolution at the United Nations. Palestine Liberation Organization heads Yassar Arafat ‎and Mahmoud Abbas were depicted as leaders who have always sought peace but were stymied by Israeli intransigence ‎and reluctance to share the land. The dispute was always about land, not ‎religion. ‎

Discussion of terrorism as a political tool is almost entirely absent from the ‎materials, and when mentioned, it is explained away as a ‎product of frustration that the plight of the Palestinians was being ignored by the ‎world.

The teachings about Islam naturally soft-pedal the violent history during the Prophet Muhammad’s time, the meaning of jihad, and the growing strength of radical and ‎violent movements within the religion in recent decades. The real threat today is ‎always virulent Islamophobia. ‎

In Newton, there was significant pushback against the school system, though some ‎major Jewish institutions seemed fearful of rocking the boat. But in the time ‎between the complaints by the Anchorage parents and the brouhaha in Newton, a ‎large number of school systems have adopted the textbook, and similarly biased ‎supplemental readings, maps and films, as their blueprint for teaching about the ‎conflict and the region. Thousands of high school history teachers have been ‎introduced and trained in presenting the materials. Other than Anchorage and ‎Newton, there are few instances where parents objected in other locales. Tulsa, ‎Oklahoma, is one of these. ‎

The author of the “Arab World Studies Notebook” has bragged about its wide ‎distribution and influence. ‎According to a Jewish News Service report, “Shabbas has claimed that the Notebook has been distributed to more than ‎‎10,000 teachers, and ‘if each notebook teaches 250 students a year over 10 ‎years, then you’ve reached 25 million students.’‎”

JNS quotes Curriculum Watch’s Dr. ‎Sandra Alfonsi as saying that “the most important statistic is the number of workshops that Shabbas has ‎given to instruct teachers in how to use the book. She has conducted hundreds of such three-day ‎teacher-training sessions.”

Further, JNS reports, “Shabbas’ website names 211 schools where she ‎ran teacher workshops from 2000-2006. Other years are not listed.”

In essence, an entire generation of high school students has been exposed ‎to this propaganda, with virtually no alternative views offered, nor any ‎critical analysis of the bias in the textbook. ‎

CAMERA’s monograph is an important first step in providing such a critical ‎commentary on the textbook and other materials that are now in wide use. ‎Hopefully, both parents and the organized Jewish community will show ‎more sustained interest in battling this insidious corruption of the ‎curriculum, which has but one goal: to create a new generation of ‎Americans far less favorably disposed toward Israel.

 

Richard Baehr is the co-founder and chief political correspondent for the American Thinker and a fellow at the Jewish Policy Center.

Explore posts in the same categories: Academia and Israel, Academia and Palestinians, America and Israel, American high schools, Anti-Israel propaganda

Tags: , , , ,

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s