Watchdog Group Urges US Public Broadcaster PBS to Amend Lesson Plan Featuring Palestinian Terrorists
A media watchdog group commended PBS this week for amending an online lesson plan for high schoolers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but urged the network to make further changes after the updated program was found to contain unfounded charges and exclude vital information.
Titled “Dying to Be a Martyr,” the original lesson plan included three filmed interviews with Palestinian men who either carried out or planned to commit terrorist attacks against Israelis, as well as written materials that were “extremely one-sided, prompting students to sympathize with the Palestinian side,” according to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
After a public campaign, PBS updated the lesson plan with a fourth video, this time showing the devastation wrought by two Palestinian terrorists during the Har Nof massacre in Jerusalem in 2014, as well as the jubilant reaction of Hamas members, a condemnation by then-President Barack Obama and a call by then-Secretary of State John Kerry for an end to incitement.
The network further included a statement urging teachers “who use this lesson to strongly condemn terror and any assertion that it is ever appropriate.”
While praising PBS for these updates, CAMERA noted that a student handout accompanying the fourth video included the “baseless” Palestinian claim that “Jewish assailants” were responsible for the death of a Palestinian bus driver shortly before the Har Nof massacre. Forensic examiners — including a Palestinian coroner — determined that the man’s death was a suicide, and Israeli officials linked incitement in Palestinian society over the fabricated charge to the attack at Har Nof.
The segment also featured a recording of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas denouncing “Israeli aggression on the holy sites, like burning mosques and churches,” while failing to mention that Israeli forces have not carried out such acts, and that arsonists acting independently of the state have been arrested and charged with crimes.
“This statement, by Abbas himself, is, again, exactly the type of incitement that Kerry and Netanyahu condemned,” CAMERA noted. “PBS, however, let it pass as a legitimate accusation and failed to show any examples of the incitement that is rampant in Palestinian media.”
The lesson plan also failed to note the PA’s policy of incentivizing terrorism by paying lifelong salaries to Palestinians who perpetrate attacks against Israelis.
“Finally, there is also still no mention of the Palestinian Authority’s rejection of multiple opportunities to create a Palestinian state, or of the multiple times Israel was attacked by Arab armies,” CAMERA observed.
This was not the first time that PBS has published a controversial lesson plan on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the watchdog group told The Algemeiner.
In 1989, PBS produced material based on David Shipler’s documentary, “Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in the Promised Land.”
“40,000 copies of the lesson plans had been sent to public and private schools around the country,” CAMERA said. “It was deceptive, biased, and inaccurate.”
It also pointed to the use of biased PBS school material in a Newton, Massachusetts school system from a program entitled: “A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
“It’s a sharply distorted document that clearly should not be in the classroom,” CAMERA added. “So PBS needs to take a look at all its lesson plans. CAMERA will be.”
PBS’ now-former ombudsman, Michael Getler, noted in April that critics of the original lesson plan — which was written before the 2008 negotiations between Abbas and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — “raise what I consider to be some legitimate questions about the content, or more precisely as I read it, a lack of more contextual content.”