Help Stop Anti-Israel Bias in U.S. Schools
Anti-Israel rhetoric on U.S. campuses gets lots of press (as it should). But far less well-known is the fact that many students begin college having been exposed to distorted depictions of Israel in high school or earlier. CAMERA’s in-depth study of one school system that’s dispensed skewed information about Israel is a window on what’s being taught in institutions across the country and how difficult it can be to gain full access to classroom materials – and to redress the bias.
The controversy in Newton, Massachusetts began when a parent learned his daughter’s reading assignment included a passage claiming “Israeli occupation forces” had “imprisoned, tortured and killed” hundreds of women “active in the Palestinian resistance movement.” Wanting to know whether such false, incendiary statements were to be found in other school materials, concerned citizens ultimately had to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legal measure to extract a full accounting of the teaching materials from administrators.
CAMERA was enlisted to analyze the lesson plans, handouts, videos, maps, articles and timelines related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islam secured through the FOIA request. We published the findings in a monograph entitled Indoctrinating our Youth: How A U.S. Public School Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Islam. It describes the troubling bias discovered and recounts what transpired in efforts to seek redress in the affluent Boston suburb, home to a sizable Jewish community.
CAMERA has urged the Newton School Committee and other officials 1) to establish transparency for the public so that everyone can know what students are being taught; 2) to establish rigorous vetting procedures to monitor materials used in the classroom, especially those taken from the Internet without academic oversight; 3) to remove specified classroom materials that are inaccurate, biased or grossly lacking context regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islam.
What is to be done to uncover the full facts about distortion and propaganda in our schools?
As a first step, parents, grandparents and others need to know exactly what their children and their neighbors’ children are being taught. What books, articles, handouts, videos, maps, and so on?
This is vital! Please do your part to help prevent false assertions and bias about the Jewish state from turning America’s youth against Israel.
What you can do!
• Please read the information here on how to determine whether factual, balanced information about the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islam is being used in your school system – or not – and what to do.
• Remember you are legally entitled to know what is being taught in public schools.
• Ask your friends, children and/or grandchildren what they know about the teaching of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islam in their community’s schools.
• Be sure to collect, if possible, any articles, lesson plans, books, maps etc used in your schools that are relevant to the topic. Identify the grade and year the materials have been used.
Call CAMERA at 617-377-6911 if you need guidance!
• If you know teachers, ask them what they know about presentation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. What handouts, books and articles could the teacher share?
• Some school systems post their entire school curriculum online. Check to see if your community does this and then review the information if it’s available.
• If you do discover there are questionable materials, let CAMERA know. We can help assess the accuracy of materials and we can offer guidance for gaining redress.
If you are a resident of Newton, MA:
• Contact Members of the School Committee and urge action to open the curriculum to public access. Urge close oversight of classroom materials, especially those pulled from the Internet. Urge removal of the distorted, inaccurate and incomplete materials cited in the CAMERA letter to them and in the Monograph. Committee members' names, email addresses and phone numbers are here.
• Contact the Superintendent of Schools to remove biased lesson plans and institute reforms that provide rigorous oversight of teaching materials as well as transparency for the public.
• Send feedback about your schools! Call CAMERA’s hotline to report school bias or ask for assistance at 617-377-6911. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org
Is Newton, Massachusetts a unique case? Unfortunately, not. Reports about bias in other schools surface regularly. A tenth grade class on “decolonization” at Bellaire High, a prestigious Houston school, included shockingly biased assertions about Israeli history, as reported by the Elder of Ziyon blog on June 5, 2017.
Carlmont High School in Belmont, California, brought radical anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour to speak two years ago and scheduled a return appearance this fall – though she recently canceled because of a conflict. Sarsour advocates BDS against Israel, among other extreme positions.
Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi spoke to a third-grade public school classroom in Ithaca, New York as part of a 2015 program ostensibly to promote understanding of the suffering of Palestinian children.
Reports that Qatar is funding Arabic language instruction in American schools are also notable. The wealthy Gulf State is a promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood (and Hamas) and the anti-Israel Al Jazeera network. Many analysts have noted that such Arabic language instruction often includes texts and activities that project partisan pro-Islam themes.
Undoubtedly, the phenomenon of anti-Israel bias is far more widespread than the public knows. And growing. But assessing what’s actually happening in schools is a great challenge. Young students are likely to be unaware that what they’re hearing or reading is inappropriate and inaccurate. Even older students may not detect bias, unless it’s blatant. As the Newton example underscores, were it not for one student alerting her parent to an inflammatory passage in an assignment, the much larger problem of distorted teaching materials in the classroom might never have come to light.
Individuals all over America need also to investigate their own schools to assure our young people are provided essential, accurate information about the world around them – the one they’ll inherit.
DONATE to CAMERA’s Campaign to End School Bias!