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January 31, 2023 10:50 am

Anti-Israel Educators Promote ‘Solidarity with Palestine’ in Public Schools

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avatar by Jany Finkielsztein and Steven Stotsky


Social distancing dividers for students are seen in a classroom at St. Benedict School, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Montebello, near Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

It was inevitable. Anti-Israel professors at the college level have spawned a generation of teacher-consultant-activists seeking to inject false, anti-Israel narratives into American public schools. If their efforts are successful, they could undermine longstanding American public support for Israel.

This movement of ideologues has banded together into a nationwide coalition that features most prominently a group called the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium (hereafter called the “Consortium”). The Consortium and its partners conduct educator workshops and webinars in which presenters seek to enlist teachers of students in kindergarten through 12th grade in their campaign to vilify Israel.

The teacher consultants have acknowledged openly in webinars, podcasts, and interviews that their intent is to inject “Palestine” into classroom instruction. This political goal is precisely what, in their view, makes the curriculum “liberated.” Proudly anti-Zionist, the activist-teachers emphasize students should go beyond simply learning about Palestinians, to demonstrating “solidarity” with them. The curriculum offers options for doing this.

There is no explanation about why students should express solidarity with Palestinians. It is simply asserted. The intense focus on the Palestinian cause and vilification of Israel reflects the increasing influence of anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists in the liberated ethnic studies movement. Notably, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only foreign conflict that the Consortium curriculum focuses on.

Promoters of this radical, politicized content have given no reason why so much classroom attention should be devoted to the Palestinians. Their claim that the Palestinians have been denied a voice is easily refuted. In fact, the Palestinian voice is strikingly amplified by many school curricula, exemplified by the growing genre of propagandistic Palestinian literature targeting elementary and middle school students.

It is important to emphasize that Ethnic Studies in US public classrooms are not classes in International Relations or geopolitics. Rather, they are meant to educate students about prominent ethnic groups in US history and in contemporary culture; such classes should inform American students about the kinds of fellow citizens whom they are most likely to meet as they progress through American society.

It’s a fair question to ask why the Palestinians, who are involved in a foreign conflict against a longstanding American ally, have been elevated above other groups in a curriculum intended to teach about American ethnic diversity. Among the vast mosaic of American ethnic groups, the Palestinians do not stand out as especially noteworthy in American history, nor are they numerous. Palestinian-Americans make up about 0.1% of the American population. Nor have the Palestinians experienced injustices in the United States, as have other groups featured in ethnic studies curricula like African-Americans and Native Americans.

Liberated ethnic studies proponents gained national attention when their effort to gain approval from the state of California for their version of an ethnic studies curriculum was blocked due to a last-minute writing campaign by members of the public who were outraged, in large part, by the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish content.

Embittered by the opposition of the Jewish community, Consortium consultants continue to promote their ahistorical and partisan vision for public school classrooms. They exploit the limited knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among many American teachers and students. This allows them to present analogies to civil rights struggles in the United States, South Africa, and Latin America that more knowledgeable individuals would recognize as absurd.

The Palestinians are likened to African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans through what is alleged to be a shared victimhood. Students are not informed that the Palestinians refuse to live in peace with a Jewish state within any boundaries, and they are not told of the relentless incitement to hate and kill Jews by Palestinian officials, religious leaders, and media. Instead, their program depicts Israel as a cruel colonizing project of white supremacy.

One lesson plan links “Palestine” and Mexico as similar examples of settler-colonialism states, despite the fact that Israel does not fit the definition of settler colonialism; it was founded by Jews from many countries returning to their land of origin from which they had been expelled centuries earlier.

Another lesson draws similarities between the forced removal of Cherokee Indians from their land with the flight of Arabs during Israel’s war of Independence. The analogy ignores established facts of the conflict. It was the Arabs who attacked Israel to start the war, and most of the Arabs who fled their homes during the period of conflict did so at the urging of their own leaders with the promise that they could return once the Jews had been defeated. After Israel’s unexpected victory, the Arab states refused to make peace and kept the Palestinian Arabs in camps, partly in order to ensure that the conflict remain unresolved.

Yet another claim made by Consortium consultants is that Israel is restricting the movement of the Palestinians and grabbing land through the construction of a wall. They never explain that the “wall” — most of which is actually a security fence — was constructed to stop suicide bombers and other terrorists from murdering civilians. The decision to build the security barrier was made in 2002 in the midst of an escalating Palestinian suicide bombing campaign that killed 452 Israelis in that year alone.

The Consortium’s portrayal of the Palestinians also conceals decades of Palestinian terrorism. Nor is there discussion of the fact that half of Israel’s population are Middle Eastern Jews who are no more or less “white” than the Arabs.

In a webinar in 2022, a Consortium consultant showed a map of the Middle East depicting “Palestine,” but no Israel, tipping their hand as to their goal for the future Middle East.

Most outrageously, the success of the Consortium and its partner anti-Israel groups in getting public school systems to approve their versions of ethnic studies curricula means that taxpayers are footing the bill for the anti-Israel indoctrination of their children.

The attempt to hijack the field of ethnic studies to inject anti-Israel indoctrination into schools obviously breaches the norms of academic integrity. The question is whether parents, educators, school boards, and others will comprehend the gravity of the moment and end this assault on American schools.

Jany Finkielsztein is a public school educator and a research consultant at CAMERA. Steven Stotsky is the Director of the CAMERA Education Institute.

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