Are Massachusetts School Officials Hiding Anti-Israel Material?
JNS.org – When researchers at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) reported earlier this year that public school history textbooks and curricular materials were biasing students against Israel, some school officials were dismissive.
Ruth Goldman, chair of the Newton, Massachusetts, school committee, told the Washington Free Beacon that the issue was “an old subject,” and “had all been taken care of.”
She also said that the anti-Israel controversies cited by CAMERA “happened before my time on the committee.” However, it has since been revealed that Goldman began her tenure in 2013 — a year before a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was submitted by concerned Newton citizens to obtain the problematic curricular materials.
In addition, CAMERA released further findings — which JNS.org previously reported — showing that school officials are not being candid with the public about misinformation that is still being taught.
“What we found is that school officials use a kind of sleight of hand,” said Andrea Levin, CAMERA’s executive director. “They tell the media about what’s been removed from the classroom, which distracts attention from other disturbingly false materials that are still being used.”
Levin said that school spokesmen in Newton highlight that the Arab World Studies Notebook — a binder of problematic documents — was removed from the curriculum several years ago, and then falsely assert the whole issue was resolved.
Yet “there are many other biased, inaccurate materials still in the system, spreading false information to our kids,” Levin said. “We’ve documented it extensively and the public deserves to know what the school committee is going to do.”
One example is an eight-page timeline taken from the PBS website, which omits any mention of Arab terror attacks inside Israel during the 1970s and 1980s. The timeline also omits Yasser Arafat’s efforts to direct a wave of mass suicide bombings in the early 2000s.
“Students simply won’t understand a critical element of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if they don’t learn about Arab terrorism against Jews,” said Steven Stotsky, CAMERA researcher who authored, “Indoctrinating Our Youth,” a study of anti-Israel bias in US public school materials.
“Arab terrorism directed at Israeli civilians isn’t a partisan point; it’s a fact of history that is central to grasping not only Israeli society and politics, but also core attitudes of many Palestinian leaders and public,” Stotsky added. “To omit this is to deny students a full understanding of the realities.”
Levin added, “The question has to be asked of the school committee and superintendent: Is the distorted, inaccurate PBS timeline staying or going?”
CAMERA’s research has shown that a number of textbooks, maps and handouts also routinely downplay or omit the Palestinians’ repeated refusal of Israeli peace offers.
“Instead, Israel is depicted falsely as unwilling to compromise,” Stotsky said. “That’s demonstrably false history.”
Stotsky also said that students are receiving materials that conceal the religious component of the conflict — as well as information about the violent incitement against Israel and Jews that “saturates Palestinian political discourse.”
“These subjects cannot be omitted if you’re going to have students study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Levin said. “Indoctrination can happen as much through the sin of omission, as the sin of commission.”
Jonah Cohen is director of communications for CAMERA.