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Jude With a Star of David in flames

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At Newton South High, a lesson in propaganda

By Richard L. Cravatts, The Jewish Advocate,
October 20, 2011

The news that a Newton South High School student was alarmed when she received what appeared to her to be blatant anti-Israel propaganda from her World History teacher brings to the forefront once again the reality that, even at the precollege level, the narrative of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is frequently contorted to reflect ideology rather than history, scholarship, and fact.

The teacher had given the student a section on Palestinian women from the “Arab World Studies Notebook,” which described the fact that “Over the past four decades, women have been active in the Palestinian resistance movement.” What was their treatment at the hands of the brutal Jewish state, for doing nothing more than “resisting”? “Several hundred have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed by Israeli occupation forces since the latest uprising, ‘Intifada,’ in the Israeli occupied territories.”

The problem with this type of simplistic analysis as part of a history curriculum is that it presents a highly biased view of Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. It ignores critical aspects of the conflict, namely that “resistance” is a euphemism for terrorism and that when Palestinian women are detained and arrested by Israeli Defense Forces, it is a result of their actions as part of a campaign to murder Jews and extirpate Israel.

The American Jewish Committee assailed the “Arab World Studies Notebook” in a 2005 report called “Propaganda, Proselytizing, and Public Education.” The AJC found that while the purported intent of the publication was to create “sympathetic views of the Arabs and Muslim religion in the American classroom,” it presented “historical distortion as well as uncritical praise, whitewashing, and practically proselytizing.” The AJC report concludes: “While the ‘Notebook’ pays lips service to presenting ‘different points of view,’ it provides only an Arab perspective … on Jerusalem, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the conflict between Western and traditional Muslim values.”

Teaching history with a political or ideological agenda fails to put issues into context, distorts movements and ideologies, and uses events and facts selectively to insure that one interpretation of history, and only one, is taught to impressionable students.

For instance, one of those “women active in the Palestinian resistance movement” that the “Notebook” refers to, Ahlam Tamimi, is about to be released from prison as part of the grotesque exchange of some 1,000 terrorists for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The Hamas-recruited Tamimi, who was responsible for the 2001 bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem – in which 15 Israeli men, women and children were killed and 107 wounded – recently appeared on TV and was asked whether she felt regret for having murdered innocent civilians while they ate pizza. “No,” she boasted, “Why should I feel sorry?”

Asked in the interview if she would repeat her murderous actions again, she unhesitatingly asserted, “Yes.”

The AJC report also found that the “Notebook” “consistently distorts facts, applies the inappropriate and invidious paradigm of ‘colonialism,’ and brings emotion-laden poetry and short stories of victimization as the predominant voice of Palestinian culture.”

One of the writers critiqued in the report is the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, whose poem “Identity Card” is included in the “Notebook” and ends with the lines: “The usurper’s flesh will be my food/Beware – beware – of my hunger/and my anger!” Whether Darwish’s cannibalistic references to consuming Israeli flesh – that is, murdering Jews – is appropriate, or even relevant, content for a history class may be debated, but it certainly suggests how history can be inverted to suit the ambitions of ideologues promoting the view that Palestinians are guiltless victims who passively “resist” an unjust occupation by an insidious Zionist regime eager to spill Arab blood.

North American college campuses are also infected with this same radical anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, promulgated by the identical strain of propaganda that animates “The Arab World Studies Notebook.” One would hope that the next generation of journalists, politicians, diplomats and professors is not poisoned during their education with distortions about Israel and its history – and leave school despising, distrusting and vilifying a nation for no other reason than it happens to be lived in by Jews.

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