Sign up for our Email Newsletter: 

Letter from Nathan, a sixth grade student in southern California, to a textbook publisher about anti-Israel bias

December 2009

To whom it may concern:

I am writing you because of a page in my sixth grade Ancient Civilization class textbook that I think does not belong. My book is called Discovering Our Past, Ancient Civilizations, a part of the Glencoe California Series, 2006 Edition. The ISBN number is 007-868874-4.

I was very interested in my new history book this year so I decided to read ahead and look through it. That is when I saw a picture of Israel that did not make sense to me.

I was looking through the section linking the past and present and found a picture that I think does not belong in the book. For the Greek and Romans they put the ancient Olympics and the new Olympics of today and for China and India they put the Great Wall of China and the modern dams in China today, then for Mesopotamia and Israel they put a painting of people fighting from a long time ago, we donít know where or when and a modern photograph of three Israeli military jeeps in an Arab area, with what looks like Arabs running away from the jeeps. The title said, "Fighting today between Israelis and Palestinians." I donít understand why all the pictures of other places were positive and the one about Israel was negative. It only makes sense to also make the one about Mesopotamia and Israel about something positive too, like some of the great modern things that Israel has contributed to the world (there are many). One idea I have for you is how in the past the Jews from 2000 years ago did irrigation and now how they know how to take the salt out of sea water, or how they brought water from the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee] to the Negev desert. I have talked to my parents and others about this and they all agree with me that the picture and the caption on page 112 in the sixth grade textbook, called Ancient Civilizations is not right for the book and should be changed.

I went through the book page by page to see if your authors had included other examples of modern conflicts. I spent several hours of my free time, going through the book page by page looking for other photos of modern conflicts but I did not find any except this one. That is not fair. I am very upset because I feel that your authors have unfairly singled out Israel and that Israel is being treated differently than other countries. I think that because of the way it is presented those students who donít know as much (or anything at all) about Israel and its history as I do will not have a fair chance to learn about the region as it is presented in the book. If I were a boy or girl who did not know about Israel and then I read this page I would think that Israel is only a place of war and not the beautiful place that it really is.

On the same page they described the modern picture like this: ďToday one of the fiercest and longest conflicts has been between the Palestinian Arabs and Israelis.Ē I have researched this and found that this is factually wrong because the Palestinians are not related to the ancient enemies of Israel and this conflict is 100 years old at most, which makes it one of the newest and most modern national conflicts going on today. I feel strongly that this page needs to be changed because it is not fair to only show this modern conflict and not the 70 other conflicts (see http://www.crisisgroup.org/library/documents/crisiswatch/cw_2009/cw75.pdf) going on in the world today, which are much fiercer and longer than this one. This book is called Discovering Our Past, Ancient Civilizations and a modern conflict does not have anything to do with ancient times.

I donít know if you have ever been to Israel and seen how beautiful the land is and met the diverse groups of wonderful people that live there. It is very special in Israel, there are Jews, Muslims, Christians, Bedouins, and Druze and they all have equal Israeli citizenship. They vote and share the same flag. This summer when I was there I saw all of these people shopping together in the same shopping malls, and doing so with respect for each other.

I hope that you will respond to my letter. I also hope that you will change this picture, because I think it does not belong in the book. I believe that after you have read this letter and looked at my points that you will agree with me and change the picture and caption for future editions. Israel should be treated with the same respect that other countries receive and it should not be singled out but rather praised for its accomplishments that benefit humankind. It is not fair. I would like to offer to help you come up with a new and positive idea for that page. I have several ideas that I would be happy to share with you.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing your response.