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CA Department of Education Prepares Mandatory Anti-Israel Curriculum

News Image By Jackson Richman/JNS.org August 07, 2019
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Hostility towards Israel and its supporters across college campuses throughout the United States and beyond--well-documented for years--has been the focus of pro-Israel groups. Now the anti-Israel movement may be officially trickling down into the high school system of the largest state in America.

A new ethnic-studies curriculum under proposal by the California Department of Education is being widely condemned by pro-Israel and Jewish groups, California lawmakers and activists for its "blatant bias against Israel."


"The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum is deeply troubling--not only for its shocking omission of any mention of Jewish Americans or anti-Semitism or its blatant anti-Israel bias and praise of BDS, but for its clear attempt to politically indoctrinate students to adopt the view that Israel and its Jewish supporters are part of 'interlocking systems of oppression and privilege' that must be fought with 'direct action' and 'resistance,' " Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder and director of the California-based AMCHA Initiative, told JNS.

California lawmakers have begun to raise alarms over the proposed curriculum, the result of a 2016 law calling for the creation of a model ethnic-studies curriculum by the state's board of education.

The proposed curriculum is currently going through public comment and is expected to go through revisions, followed by being approved next year by the board.

From anti-Israel rhetoric to provocative songs to troubling legislation

The proposed curriculum section on "Arab American Studies Course Outline" contains a number of passages concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as "Direct Action Front for Palestine and Black Lives Matter," "Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel" and "Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico." 

It also includes studying national figures such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the late Columbia University professor Edward Said, Women's March leader Linda Sarsour, the late radio personality Casey Kasem, actress Alia Shawkat and the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas--all of whom are associated with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, and in the case of the congresswomen, a push to enact legislation punishing Israel.


According to the sample course models, students also are introduced to concepts like the nakba, defined from Arabic as "the catastrophe," which is used to describe the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel in May 1948 and the displacement of Arabs that occurred.

The curriculum also includes songs and poems containing questionable lyrics in relation to the Middle East.

One is a rap son by Iraqi-Canadian rapper Narcy: "The Real Arab Money." Lyrics include, "In Palestine, kids can't shop at these malls. ... My nation on my back, look how proud we are. ... America bustin' nuts on Saudi Riyals."

Another song, by Shadia Mansour, reads: "Get out Yankees from Latin America, French, English and Dutch, I love you Free Palestine."

"This is nothing more than an attempt by fringe activists to highjack the model ethnic-studies curriculum for California high schools in the service of radical political goals."

The course goes over Arab stereotypes, including one that views Palestinians as "terrorists" who "blow up airlines," try to "destroy Israel" and attempt to "drive the Jews into the sea." It also has a song with the lyrics, "I love you, Free Palestine," and "As the saying goes, 'The situation must be threatened, but in reality, the situation must stop'; For every free political prisoner, an Israeli colony is expanded."

The song also implicitly refers to Jews in saying that Israelis, most of whom are Jews, "use the press so they can manufacture," a classic anti-Semitic trope that Jews control the media.

Currently, the curriculum is in a public comment period until Aug. 15, where residents can voice concerns.

At the same time, California is set to enact resolution AB-331, which will require all California high school students to take at least a one-semester course in an ethnic-studies-based model curriculum, which consists of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel content, in order to graduate, effective from the 2024-25 academic year.

"If AB 331 is approved by the California state legislature in the coming days, every high school student in California will be required to take an ethnic-studies course based on such a model curriculum before graduating," said Rossman-Benjamin. 



"It's not hard to see how California college and university campuses, already reeling from the alarming number of anti-Zionist-motivated acts of aggression perpetrated against Jewish and pro-Israel students, could begin to see even more dramatic increases in these anti-Semitic acts."

'A disaster for all Jews in California'

"This is nothing more than an attempt by fringe activists to highjack the model ethnic-studies curriculum for California high schools in the service of radical political goals," Seth Brysk, the Anti-Defamation League's central pacific regional director.

Observers see the situation in the ethnic-studies curriculum as a result of anti-Israel bias that is "trickling down" from college campuses to high schools.

The Endowment for Middle East Truth has been studying the problem and trying to utilize the legislative process to make changes in the teaching of Middle Eastern Studies at the college level for a decade, its founder and president, Sarah Stern, told JNS.

"This one-sided, rigid dogma has trickled down from the university classroom to teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade in many ways--some subtle and some not quite so subtle," she said. "Unfortunately, there is a rot that has taken firm root, heavily biased against Israel in most university classrooms."

Indeed, other communities across the North America have been dealing with anti-Israel bias found in its curriculum.

Syracuse University political-science professor Miriam Elman described this phenomenon as a "negative feedback loop."

"Not only does anti-Israel hostility on college campuses influence the next generation of high school teachers, but these high school teachers are in turn sending kids up to college with a misinformed view of Israel," she said at a talk earlier this year, discussing the biased curriculum and textbook use in Newton, Mass., hosted by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

"Exposure of this radical educational initiative is vital so that it does not spread to other states," Steve Stotsky, senior research analyst with CAMERA, told JNS. "The curriculum politicizes the education of America's children. 

Particularly insidious are efforts to inject anti-Israel indoctrination, including support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement. The material is prejudicial, devoid of factual content and has no place in public-school education."




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