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(Written by KAREN HURVITZ  for JNS)

The recent hostage-taking of a rabbi and congregants in a Texas synagogue by a jihadist should be a wake-up call to finally push the Jewish community into an honest discussion about anti-Semitism in America. Mainstream Jewish organizations—the Anti-Defamation League, Federations, community relations councils and most rabbis—have focused almost exclusively on the anti-Semitism coming from right-wing white supremacists. But Jews are beaten in the streets of New York by blacks, physically threatened by Arabs in Los Angeles, cursed by imams preaching Jew-hatred in American mosques and caught on campuses in a firestorm of such organized animus that, according to an ADL-Hillel joint study, more than half of America’s Jewish students hide their Jewish identity.


As the Texas incident makes clear, if the problem of anti-Semitism is to be effectively addressed, there needs to be an honest conversation about uncomfortable truths. Will America’s Jewish leaders—for whom it has been all too easy to avoid controversy by focusing only on the right-wing supremacists—now be emboldened by the shock in Texas? Sadly, it seems that my own community’s Jewish leaders are choosing to remain in their bunkers.

Mainstream Jewish leaders have failed to confront the leading driver of Jew-hatred today: the defamation of the Jewish state. Starting with bias in the media and leftist professors in academia, anti-Israel bias has now reached American public schools. Radical curriculum mills, often funded by anti-Semitic sources in the Middle East, design and distribute free lesson plans that smear Israel. A multi-year grass-roots battle in Newton, Mass., to expose and eliminate anti-Israel lesson plans from the public high schools saw Boston’s mainstream Jewish leaders stay on the sidelines or worse. One might have hoped that the current surge in Jew-hatred would change their behavior. But it looks like we are going to be disappointed.

I have recently sent documentation to the heads of all mainstream Jewish organizations in Boston—the ADL, CJP, AJC and the JCRC—showing that anti-Israel curricula are now mandated by Massachusetts educational guidelines and are being taught statewide:

First, four years ago, there was an astonishing change in the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidelines for teaching about Israel, a change that clearly tilts the curriculum towards what seems an exclusively pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel viewpoint. In 2013, the guidelines were:

Explain the background for the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948, and the subsequent military and political conflicts between Israel and the Arab world:

    1. the growth of Zionism, and 19th- and early 20th-century immigration by Eastern European Jews to Palestine.
    2. anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
    3. the U.N. vote in 1947 to partition the western part of the Palestine Mandate into two independent countries.
    4. the rejection of surrounding Arab countries of the U.N. decision and the invasion of Israel by Arab countries.
    5. the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and neighboring Arab states.
    6. the attempts to secure peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

In 2018, the guidelines’ sub-topics were revised:

    1. the growth of Zionism, and 19th- and early 20th-century immigration by Eastern European Jews to Palestine.
    2. anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
    3. the U.N. vote in 1947 to partition the western part of the Palestine Mandate into two independent countries.
    4. Palestinian loss of land and the creation of refugees by Israeli military action (emphasis supplied).
    5. the rejection of surrounding Arab countries of the U.N. decision and the invasion of Israel by Arab countries.
    6. the various wars between Israel and neighboring Arab states since 1947 (e.g., the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War).
    7. the diverse mix of cultures (e.g. Jews, Palestinians, and Arabs of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze backgrounds) in the region in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (emphasis supplied).
    8. the attempts to secure peace between Palestinians and Israelis, including the proposal of a two-state solution (emphasis supplied).

Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews have two decidedly different views about their conflict. They disagree about almost everything, including what happened in the war of 1948, the creation of refugees (Arabs in Israel and Jews in the surrounding Arab world) and even the dates when Jews and Muslims began living in the land. The changed guidelines essentially omit the mainstream Jewish viewpoint and ensure that the Palestinian view prevails. Students are now falsely being taught that the Jews were outsiders who stole the land of an indigent, indigenous, darker-skinned population.

Second, and perhaps even more shocking, is that some curriculum in Massachusetts has been subcontracted by DESE to Primary Source, an organization whose curriculum for the Middle East is sponsored by Qatar Foundation International, an arm of the Qatari government, and has a distinctly anti-Israel point of view.

The books used in Primary Source’s unit on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict include two books that present an objective viewpoint (Waging Peace: Israel and the Arabs and A History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict) and seven that are heavily biased (The Arab-Israeli Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East ConflictTasting the SkyA History of Modern Palestine: One LandTwo Peoples, Nineteen Varieties of GazelleWhere the Streets Had a Name and A Little Piece of Ground). None of these seven provides an accurate, historical account of the history of ancient Israel; the expulsions and exiles of the Jews from Israel and the destruction of their Temple by the Babylonians and then by the Romans; the continuing presence of the Jews in Israel throughout the Roman occupation and then the Ottoman occupation; the British mandate; or the establishment of Israel in 1948. Each of these books portrays Israel as a colonialist enterprise cruelly “occupying” the land of others. Several provide emotional accounts of children suffering from the “brutal treatment” of Israeli Jews. These emotional portrayals can only incite hatred towards the Jewish people. Two suggested films portray hopeful encounters between Palestinian and Israeli children.

Primary Source has contracts with more than 50 Massachusetts school districts. Its GuideStar page claims that they reach 2,500-plus teachers a year, impacting some 200,000 students annually. Whether these school children learn objective facts will depend on which texts their teachers choose to use. But they will not learn that the conflict in Israel gets disproportional attention worldwide—or that their school is guilty of replicating that distortion. They will not learn key facts that should inform their judgment: They will not learn to compare the “cruelty” of the Israelis with the sad fact that Arabs still own hundreds of thousands of black slaves across AlgeriaLibyaMauritania and Sudan. They will not learn to evaluate Israel’s “apartheid wall,” erected to stop terrorists in context: as of now, there are 29 places in the world where barriers or walls separate conflicting populations but are not labeled “apartheid walls.” They will not learn that there was no intifada or terror when Palestinians were occupied and governed by Egyptians and/or Jordanians between 1948 and 1967. They will not hear about the daily terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli citizens by Palestinians who have been taught the lie that Jews lack any connection with their Holy Land and who receive “pay for slay” stipends. They surely will not learn that the Hamas charter calls for the total annihilation of Israel by jihad.

The revised DESE standards, along with the Qatar-funded Middle East courses, present an ahistorical and dangerously biased perspective that stokes the fires of the already alarming rise in Jew-hatred and hatred of Israel.

In addition to funding by DESE, Primary Source receives grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). The MCC has recently adopted a “racial equity” plan based on its commitment to honor a variety of perspectives. However, when I, as a member of the council, presented the lopsided perspective of Primary Source’s Middle East curriculum in detail to them, without discussion they voted to re-fund Primary Source, reenforcing the very bias they had just committed to dismantling.

Although I have sent documentation of all of this to the heads of all mainstream Jewish organizations in Boston, so far I have heard nothing back. How many more attacks on Jews will it take to get them out of their comfortable bunkers?


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