By Steven Stotsky/JNS.org
Controversy continues to simmer in the upscale Boston suburb of
Newton over the use of biased and substandard instructional materials to teach
students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recently, the town spared no
expense renovating one of its high schools at a cost of $200 million. But Newton’s
commitment to its schools has not translated into ensuring that factually
accurate material is used to teach students about the Middle East.
Click photo to download. The anti-Israel “Arab World Studies Notebook,” which has appeared in the public school curriculum of Newton, Mass. Credit: Amazon.
The controversy began two years ago when a parent, looking over
his daughter’s reading assignment, discovered a handout that accused Israeli
soldiers of abusing and murdering imprisoned Palestinian women. The selection
came from a textbook called The Arab
World Studies Notebook. This textbook had already been exposed for its
advocacy of Islam and for making ludicrous claims—for example, that Muslim
explorers discovered America and that Iroquois Indians had Muslim names. The
outcry that followed prompted the school administration to remove it.
But that turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. A more widespread problem
was revealed when it was learned that a leader in the Boycott, Divestment and
Sanctions movement against Israel had given a seminar to history teachers on
teaching about the Middle East. Soon, more evidence of inaccurate and
anti-Israel materials used in the schools came to light.
Last November, in an attempt to head off the controversy, the vice chairman of
the Newton School Committee published an op-ed in local papers offering
reassurance that anti-Israel materials were not systematically used in Newton
schools. He denounced town residents who had raised the issue for engaging
in “McCarthyesque” tactics, and added, “Does it really sound plausible that for
years virtually everyone has unknowingly been the victim of the teaching of
such horrible material?”
Sadly, the most recent batch of handouts used in the 10th-grade honors class
offers new evidence of a continuing problem. It contains a timeline titled “POV:
History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” that purports to cover both “An
Israeli Perspective” and “A Palestinian Perspective.” It was compiled in 2001
by a young intern with no apparent expertise on the subject.
The author thanked Professor Mark LeVine of University of California, Irvine
for reviewing the document. LeVine is an agitator against Israel who publishes
on the English website of Al Jazeera.
In a guest column in The Huffington Post
on Jan. 13, 2009, he likened Hamas’s fight against Israel in Gaza to “the
Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.” LeVine contended that Israelis have an “addiction”
to violence and suffer from “collective mental illness.”
The timeline ignores the religious and ideological component of Arab rejection
of the Jewish state. For example, the only reason given for the Arab rejection
of the United Nations partition resolution in November 1947 is that the Arabs “considered
the proposal unrepresentative of the demographic distribution of Jews and Arabs
living in Palestine.” There is no discussion of the religion-sanctioned
rejection of the Jewish state, or of Palestinian leader Haj Amin Al Husseini’s
use of religious and racial bigotry to inflame Arab sentiment against the Jews.