Posted tagged ‘America and Israel’

Indoctrinating America’s youth against Israel

August 4, 2017

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.

A whole new ballgame

July 7, 2017

A whole new ballgame, Israel Hayom, Ruthie Blum, July 7, 2017

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman delivered a speech this week that made the ‎unbearably hot and humid weather feel like a breath of fresh air. At the annual Fourth of July ‎celebration, held Monday evening at his official residence in Herzliya, Friedman not only ‎reiterated his personal faith in Judaism and the Jewish people, but stressed America’s ‎‎”unbreakable bond” with the Jewish state.‎

The bond Friedman was referring to had become so fragile during former U.S. President Barack ‎Obama’s two terms in office that it became the punchline of a joke made in 2014 by comedian ‎Jay Leno. Obama, Leno quipped, knows just how unbreakable the U.S.-Israel bond is, “since ‎he’s been trying to break it for years.”‎

It was not only Friedman’s address that was crafted to convey the loud and clear message that ‎the new administration in Washington is going to behave differently — that it is and will continue ‎to be unequivocally and unflinchingly on Israel’s side. The fact that he was the first U.S. ‎ambassador to invite settler leaders to the event, and proudly pose for photographs with them, ‎already spoke volumes.‎

Friedman began by recounting that the first time he hosted a party in Israel was at the Western ‎Wall in Jerusalem, when he was 13. “As the son of a rabbi of modest means, I can assure you that ‎my bar mitzvah party bore absolutely no resemblance to the party that we are attending here ‎tonight,” he said. “But the spirit … is exactly the same. It is the spirit of patriotic Americans ‎committed to increasing the ties and enhancing the relationship between the United States and ‎the State of Israel. That’s what my family stood for 45 years ago, and that’s still who we are ‎today.” ‎

That right off the bat he boasted of his Jewish connection to the Western Wall in the context of ‎U.S.-Israel relations was highly significant. It signaled to those supporters of President Donald ‎Trump who became disillusioned by what appeared to be a backtracking of his vow to move the ‎U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that this is not a case of yet another administration ‎reneging on its promises in an attempt to appease the Palestinians and impose a peace deal on ‎Israel. It also indicated to Israel’s enemies that America recognizes Israeli sovereignty over its ‎capital city. ‎

Friedman went on to say, “It was just two months ago that I had the honor … to be the master of ‎ceremonies at the very first party ever hosted by the White House to commemorate Israel’s ‎Independence Day, [where] I had the privilege to proclaim, ‘yom haatzmaut sameach l’medinat ‎yisrael’ — ‘Happy Independence Day to the State of Israel.’ Today, it is my great pleasure to return ‎the favor from 6,000 miles away. And so let me proclaim, ‘yom haatzmaut sameach l’artzot ‎habrit,’ ‘Happy Independence Day to the United States.'” ‎

And then he quoted, in Hebrew, a line from Psalm 118 — “This is a day that the Lord has made; ‎let us [be glad and] rejoice in it” — to make a point about Israel’s being “the source of many of the ‎Judeo-Christian values that spawned the American enterprise.” He invoked the famous Puritan Pilgrim John Winthrop, who in 1630 “implored his followers to be faithful to the teachings of ‎the Jewish prophet, Micah, to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God,'” and told ‎new immigrants to America that if they did so, they would “find that the God of Israel is among ‎us.” ‎

He said that when Winthrop “referred to New England as a ‘city upon a hill with the eyes of all ‎people upon us,” he was also referring to Jerusalem. Indeed, Friedman added, “So much of who ‎we are derives from the teachings of ancient Israel. And, perhaps for that reason, it is no surprise ‎that the United States and Israel have the most special of special relationships.”‎

Here, again, Friedman purposely spoke of Jerusalem, emphasizing that the success and mutual ‎admiration that America and the Jewish state enjoy emanate from “ancient Israel.”‎

‎”We have, of course, common enemies that unite us,” he said — as well as military, trade, culture ‎and cybersecurity cooperation. “But our collective core, what fundamentally unites us, is that we ‎are the two shining cities on a hill, drawn together by a shared history, shared values and … a ‎shared destiny of continued greatness.”‎

This declaration was nothing short of momentous, particularly as it came on the heels of senior ‎Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s June 21 meeting in Ramallah with PA President ‎Mahmoud Abbas, whose henchmen described the encounter as “tense.” Apparently, being told ‎by a prominent member of the White House staff that the paying of terrorists’ salaries has got to ‎stop is not what Abbas had expected to hear — despite being yelled at by Trump himself in May ‎for having lied about the rampant incitement in the PA against Jews and Israelis.‎

Friedman’s next allusion to Jerusalem involved noting that he is the “first [U.S.] ambassador to ‎accompany [Trump] in visiting the kotel hamaaravi, the Western Wall.” From here, he segued ‎into his conclusion by talking about how, earlier in the day, he and Israeli Prime Minister ‎Benjamin Netanyahu had toured the aircraft carrier the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of ‎Haifa. ‎

Peace through strength, he announced (quoting King David’s words in Psalm 29, which he said ‎his father used to recite every Shabbat morning) is “a foundational cornerstone of the Trump ‎administration” and a “guiding principle of the State of Israel.” ‎

Finally, Friedman said that American men and women in uniform, like their Israeli counterparts ‎in the IDF, “hope never to fire a shot,” preferring to keep the world safe through a demonstration ‎of strength and courage. However — he implied — they willingly sacrifice their lives in this ‎mission if left no other choice.‎

While the new U.S. ambassador to Israel wound down his remarks by wishing the United State a ‎happy 241st birthday, the audience revved up its cheering for the start of what Americans call “a ‎whole new ballgame.”‎