THINK-ISRAEL

THE NEWTON SCHOOL SCANDAL

Bernice Lipkin

How a Harvard school and local teachers helped disseminate Islamic anti-Jewish propaganda to Newton school children. Much of the community and the big Jewish organizations did nothing to stop this. In fact, they sided with the propagandizing teachers.

PART 1: A GOOD INTENTION GONE WRONG


classroom

This is the story of what happened when a high school in Newton, a classy city in the greater Boston area, was caught teaching its students a view of the Arab-Israeli conflict that could have come from a Hamas press release.

Altogether, some eighty local teachers, from elementary school through high school, were trained in workshops to teach about the Middle East using material from such texts as The Arab World Studies Notebook. The Notebook is 540 pages of anti-Israel and pro-Islam bias. It makes claims that would serve as hilarious satire, if the ways it is made acceptable weren't so dangerous. For example, the Notebook claims Muslim explorers discovered the New World and Native Americans had Muslim names. Altogether, the Notebook is a propaganda tract that could, by its descriptions of Islam, also serve to proselytize naive readers. The entire composition and similar hand-outs paint a distorted version of people and events in the Middle East. Children are taught to despise Israel and respect Islam, opinions that will last long after they graduate.

According to the Notebook, local Arabs in Israel and the Territories, rebranded since 1964 as Palestinians, have always been held back or held down by outside forces — colonialism, imperialism, the West, and most recently by Israel, which is said to devote an inordinate amount of time and energy to making Arabs miserable. Arabs are always the victims, no matter how many slaughters they initiate. Acts of terror — knifing, sniping, ramming cars and tanks into civilians, exploding bombs and molotov cocktails, hijacking planes and cars, kidnapping civilians and massacring children asleep in their beds — are their necessary ways of resisting the Jewish invaders; they are too poor and weak to have less bestial ways.

In traditional Islam, women are considered chattel and subject to routine beatings. They are not trusted to go outside the home by themselves. But, as Dr Richard Cravatts has written,[1] the Notebook finds some Muslim female behavior praiseworthy. (Bear in mind that 'Palestinian resistance' is Notebook whitewash for 'murder and other acts of terrorism'.)

"... one of the 'women active in the Palestinian resistance movement' that the text, The Arab World Studies Notebook, adoringly refers to, Ahlam Tamimi, was ... released from prison as part of the the grotesque exchange of some 1000 terrorists for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

"The Hamas-recruited, unrepentant, psychopathic Tamimi, who was responsible for the 2001 bombing of the Sbarrro pizzeria in Jerusalem in which fifteen 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. I do not regret what I did.'"


arab notebook

Over the years, websites such as Think-Israel have posted articles about the Notebook. See, e.g., Rafael Medoff's "Biased textbooks turning young Americans against Israel, research shows"[2] and Alyyssa Lappen's "Adopting Pro-Sharia Textbooks: When States Should Step In."[3] The Google search button at the top of Think-Israel's home page will bring up more such articles. The Parents for Excellence in Newton Schools has also put out a list of articles on the Notebook.[4]


NOTEBOOK 'HISTORY' MAY HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED BY TEACHERS and students because of the prestigious sources that disseminate its lies and distortions. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, the 'information' taught in Newton schools came from the Outreach Center at Harvard University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (HKS) at Harvard University. HKS is a long-time recipient of Saudi Arabian funding.[5] Qatar may have a larger program than Saudi Arabia to fund American schools and universities to think the right way, the Muslim way, about Islam.[6] But the Saudis are generous to many universities. Saudi Arabia also funded the writing of the Notebook.

Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia offer teacher training and written lesson plans as a way to infiltrate the American K-12 educational system and, ultimately, influence the next generations of American leaders. In fact, both use a secure way to get their message out to school children, a way that does this in a self-perpetuating manner. Stanley Kurtz described it in an article entitled "Saudi in the Classroom."[7]

"The United States government gives money — and a federal seal of approval — to a university Middle East Studies center. That center offers a government-approved K-12 Middle East studies curriculum to America's teachers. But in fact, that curriculum has been bought and paid for by the Saudis, who may even have trained the personnel who operate the university's outreach program. Meanwhile, the American government is asleep at the wheel — paying scant attention to how its federally mandated public outreach programs actually work. So without ever realizing it, America's taxpayers end up subsidizing — and providing official federal approval for — K-12 educational materials on the Middle East that have been created under Saudi auspices. Game, set, match: Saudis."

As an aside, Kurtz's article has information on how and why teachers got such training in the first place. Ironically, it was set in motion because of 9/11. Using information supplied by Sandra Stotsky, a former senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, Kurtz writes:

"After 9/11, Massachusetts Department of Education (MDE) tried to respond to the challenge of 9/11 by organizing special seminars in Islamic history for K-12 teachers. The department accepted a proposal with participation from Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies — which, as a prestigious university and a federally subsidized Title VI 'National Resource Center,' seemed an obvious choice.

"The MDE commissioned a teacher-training seminar designed to cover Islamic history and touch on key contemporary questions, such as the nature of Islamic Fundamentalism and terrorism, the lack of democracy in the Middle East, and the challenge of gaining basic legal and political rights for women in much of the Muslim world. It quickly became apparent, however, that Harvard's outreach program had little interest in tackling these issues, or in representing a broad range of views on contemporary Middle Eastern culture.

"Stotsky came to feel that the MDE's efforts to achieve balance in its teacher training seminars were giving way to Harvard's 'distorted' and 'manipulative' political agenda."

In sum, HKS had (and has) an Islamic view of the Middle East conflict and it was the only one HKS would be disseminating. It would not be providing a factual view of the Middle East. It had an Islam-oriented political agenda to sell to trusting teachers who would pass on these 'facts' to their students.

In discussing an anti-Israel conference hosted by Harvard back in in 2012, Andrea Levin, Executive Director and President of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, characterized the Harvard school this way:[8]

"The Kennedy School of Government, with its sharply skewed Middle East Initiative program; the university's stridently anti-Israel Center for Middle Eastern Studies and biased Outreach Center; the various anti-Israel events and personalities at the Weatherhead Center, at the Carr Center for Human Rights and in other departments — all have in recent years promoted biased attacks against the Jewish state. A conference advocating the dissolution of Israel in this environment is a logical continuation of classroom teaching, public lectures, educational 'outreach' and extreme anti-Israel activism by numerous professors and staff."

She goes on to provide sufficient information about members of the Kennedy School of Government and other schools at Harvard for us to figure out the distorted training the teachers received was not an accident, not a one-off deal. Here is what she writes about two of the speakers at the conference:

"Duncan Kennedy is a radical professor of law at Harvard Law School who has leveled extreme, factually distorted charges against Israel. He teaches a course heavily reliant on fringe anti-Israel voices, some of whom, such as Illan Pappé, are also appearing at the conference. Kennedy has called for boycott and divestment from Israel."

"Naor Ben-Yahoyada is a visiting lecturer and Assistant Director of of Undergraduate Studies in Harvard's Anthropology Department, Director of Undergraduate Programs at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and a visiting post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. In 2007 he was part of a campaign that distributed 'Wanted' posters targeting Israel's then-chief of General Staff, Dan Halutz, calling him a war criminal, and in 2009 he spoke at an Israel Apartheid Week event in Rhode Island."


k-12 infiltration

Teachers trained by HKS didn't just teach Islam by the book. As Stanley Kurtz writes:[9]

"Harvard's outreach training prompted K-12 teachers to design celebratory treatments of the life and teachings of Mohammad and the 'revelation' and spread of Islam, with exercises calling on students to 'appoint imams,' memorize Islamic principles, and act out prayer at a Mosque. According to Stotsky, if Harvard's outreach personnel had designed similar classroom exercises based on Christian or Jewish models, 'People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the A.C.L.U. would descend upon them like furies.'"


Part 2: THE SMIRKY RESPONSES WHEN THE ANTI-ISRAEL PLOT IS UNCOVERED

The Tablet has posted a must-read article by Leil Leibovitz entitled "Teaching High School Students to Demonize Israel." It begins by retelling the accidental start of learning what the Newton school children were being taught about the Middle East.[10] Unless attributed, quotes in Part 2 are taken from the Tablet article.

"Shortly after Rosh Hashanah 2011, Shiri Pagliuso, a Jewish ninth grader at the Newton South High School (often called Newton South), came home with an awkward question for her father. She had learned some things about Israel in school, she said, and she wanted to know if they were true. For example, she asked if it was true that Israel was systematically torturing and killing Palestinian women.

"Her father, Tony Pagliuso, pressed her for more information, so the young woman produced the handout she was given at school, titled the Arab World Studies Notebook. In it, Pagliuso found the following line: "Over the past four decades, women have been active in the Palestinian resistance movement. Several hundred have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed by Israeli occupation forces."

"Pagliuso, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, was alarmed that such claims had somehow found their way into the curriculum of a public school. He called his daughter's teacher, Jessica Engel.

"I fully expected when I called that I would be told, 'Jeez we didn't catch this and this shouldn't be in the curriculum,'" he told an interviewer shortly thereafter. "This was my full expectation. I was very wrong." [...]

"In October of 2011, Pagliuso shared his frustration with a local newspaper, sparking the interest of a 93-year-old Newton resident named Margot Einstein. Together with a handful of other parents, they started looking into what the town's schools were teaching."

Even scraping the top surface revealed major problems in what the children were being taught.

"The ninth graders, [the parents] found, were learning about the ancient world, which included a unit on Islam, a subject taught largely via the Arab World Studies Notebook, which the school district had purchased for use in the 1990s. In addition to the claim that Israel was murdering and torturing Palestinian women, the Notebook included a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, containing the following lines, directed at Israel: 'The usurper's flesh will be my food/Beware—beware—of my hunger.'"

Pagliuso, Einstein and the other parents discovered that 10th grade students, using the same malicious and fallacious source, were learning that Tel Aviv was the capital of Israel and Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. The Notebook was just as flawed when it came to ancient history. The Notebook called the Old City's Jewish Quarter a settlement! We're talking about a city where Jews have lived continuously since 1000 BCE when King David's conquered Jerusalem. In fact, the Old City was all of Jerusalem until 1865, when people began living beyond the Old City's borders. There was a 19-year period when the Jews possessed Jerusalem but not the Old City. Israel's Arab neighbors invaded the newborn state of Israel in 1948 and Jordan grabbed the Old City as well as Judea and Samaria (AKA the West Bank). She expelled or killed all the Jewish residents and burned their synagogues. The Jews were able to take back their land when Jordan invaded Israel again in 1967. Pro-Arab propagandists have put the 19-year absence of Jews to good use. As they tell it, the Jews didn't return to their land in 1967; they begain occupying it in 1967 in a military sense. It is perfectly true that when the Jews redeemed the land, there were no Jews living there. Most of the rest of the 'history' is pure invention. Not pinned down by actual history, they have made up some very fanciful and sympathy-arousing tales, some of which had found their way into American schools.

Other grades were also involved. In sum, "... class materials contained anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, racist, and false information, and pointed specifically to passages from 'A Muslim Primer,' 'The Arab World Studies Notebook,' and a website called Flashpoints."[11]

Starting in October 2011 and over time, The Frustrated Parents (I'll call them TFP from here on) learned much about the text material used to malign Israel, and still more about the fanciful variety of excuses people create to fend off having to take appropriate action. There was in time another parents group, calling itself PENS (Parents for Excellence in Newton Schools), that also inquired into the curriculum.


FIGURE 1: Responses to the charge the Newton School System was demonizing Israel and propaganding for Islam

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    These are the responses the parent groups (TFP and PENS) received:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • They were told the curriculum is appropriate by Jessica Engel, Pagliuso's daughter's teacher and by Jennifer Morrell, the head of Social Studies.
  • Matt Hills, the Newton School Committee's vice chair, attacked the parents: TFP were a tiny number of people.
  • Matt Hills again: TFP has an unidentified bias. The curriculum was fine.
  • When things got sticky, Hills dragged out a big gun: the parents were threatening to curtail the teachers' freedom of speech. It's not clear whether he actually believed the teachers had the freedom to teach lies. — maybe only if these lies come from a prestigious source.
  • They told Mr Stembridge, the principal, they wanted to inspect the curriculum. He hit them in the pocketbook, telling them they'd have to pay the cost of searching all the material on the curriculum. 17 teachers would need to spend 85 hours of reading documents at an hourly rate of $42.86 per hour, which came to $3,643.10 plus the cost of copying out the pages of pertinent material at 20 cents a page.
  • Matt Hills again. They couldn't acquire curriculum information, not even for ready money. As Hills put it, "We do not feel there is any policy issue involved (i.e., a systemically biased curriculum) and will not start down a path that could politicize curriculum decisions." Now that's superior virtue signaling.
  • PENS in July 2012 met with Ann Frederick, the town's deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, who allegedly said that "assigning material with incorrect information, even if the purpose [of] using that material is to present supposedly factual information to students, could be beneficial because it would sharpen students' critical thinking skills."

    There is a video where Margot Einstein described the entire encounter with Frederick, who defends teaching material known to be incorrect. (See it here.)[12] What awesome imbecility!

  • Ann Frederick also told PENS that they should find another school if they were unhappy with the curriculum. Presumably they would still be financially responsible for the school they didn't appreciate.
  • They were told by Superintendent David Fleishman that the Notebook would no longer be used. It was used again at the start of the next school year.
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Statements made by Temple Emanuel, responding for the Hills family to an APT ad:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • "Standing totally with Israel, we are here to tell you that there is no basis to the claim of bias in the ads. The ad is not only baseless. It is scurrilous."
  • "The Newton School Committee and its leadership have been responsive, and have addressed the questions posed to them in a thoughtful, constructive way."
  • "We trust that this is reassuring to members of our community and that claims made against members of the Newton School Committee can now be put to rest."
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Reasons for non-action by the Jewish organizations, when APT appealed for action:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • In October, 2013, the Jewish defense organizations argued that "the problem wasn't as bad as Jacobs made it out to be."
  • From a November 6, 2013 letter: "Based on a careful review of the materials at issue by ADL and JCRC, "there is substantial reason to believe that the allegations made in the ad are without merit. The ad misinterprets certain elements of the materials and lacks reasonable context."
  • From a June 6, 2014 letter attacking APT: "there has been a campaign of criticism—dominated by unfortunate innuendo and accusations that proved unsubstantiated by actual evidence."
  • From the same June 6, 2014 email: [APT had questioned] "not only the content of the Newton curriculum, but the integrity of several prominent leaders in the Jewish community."
  • From a Dec 2017 letter in which Charles Jacobs and APT are accused of of being "the true face of extremism in our community" and "purveyors of hatred and division" who "engage in outrageous attacks on communal institutions and individuals involved in the important work of building relationships among Boston-area Muslims and Jews."

What the school administrators and teachers did not do was allow parents to see the information being taught. They didn't claim the information was confidential. A few hours clarification would have made the issue go away or clearly indicate reform was needed. But the school, the teachers, and the school administration held firm in not allowing the curriculum to be viewed. When pinned down, they promised to remove the offending material from the curriculum. But they always reinstalled it and/or added other texts just as baseless and malicious. They used sneers, pejorative language and virtue signaling to avoid responding to the central issue: is this Newton school and others teaching a bigoted and racist view of Israel?

The most bizarre aspect of the entire history of introducing false and hate-inciting material against Israel in the public schools is how the various groups in Newton and Boston reacted. I wouldn't be taking any risk betting that just some vague rumor of bias against blacks or Muslims in school material would lead immediately to an investigation and almost instant reprisal. In the present case, an enormous amount of accurate and detailed information was collected on what was taught, where it came from and how it was taught. Miriam Elman writes of a CAMERA monograph that is "[d]ivided into an introduction and 5 parts [including] 15 attachments and an impressive total of 271 footnotes containing citations to literally hundreds of sources—scholarly books, journal articles, school committee meetings, media coverage of the case and more.[13] The only conclusion possible is that the internet sources substituted opinions for "historical, factually-accurate scholarship" and the textbooks and handouts were "'riddled with factual errors', and omitted key historical and contextual information, or 'glossed over' controversial topics." And yet, so many involved groups managed to stay clear of condemning how the Newton schools taught history. How they managed this is the substance of Part 3.


PART 3: WHAT JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS, PRIVATE CITIZENS, THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION AND SCHOOL BOARD DID: DENY, IGNORE, WHITEWASH, SIDESTEP AND REDIRECT CRITICISM

In 2013, Charles Jacobs, a resident of Newton and president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) joined the TFP. The circle of involved groups widened. The Tablet article takes up the story. (Again, all unattributed quotes are from the Tablet.)

"Jacobs initially hoped, he said, that the school system would apologize for this error in judgment, remove the offensive material, and move on. When it refused to do so, he decided to turn to the heavy guns: the community's battery of official Jewish organizations," namely, ADL, JCRC and AJC. These organizations were afraid people might think the Jewish community were stifling academic freedom. Sounding like the Newton school system personnel, they argued that "the problem wasn't as bad as Jacobs made it out to be."

"In October of 2013, APT published an ad in the local Jewish newspapers that asked, 'What are Newton Students Really Learning?'" The ad included Hills' phone number, which was listed on the City of Newton's open and public website.

Temple Emanuel, Hills' synagogue, made a huge todo on behalf of the Hills' family, claiming the family was being severely harassed with phone calls at all hours night and day because of the ad. The issue for the members of the synagogue was not that Israel was being demonized. It was "character assassination" of school personnel. The accusations by APT and TFP, they said indignantly, were baseless. The synagogue urged APT to become tolerant, without stating what APT was to become tolerant about. It would hardly do to say outright that APT should tolerate the demonization of Israel. What they did accomplish was to cleverly shift the focus well away from the uncomfortable possibility that Newton high school teachers were acting as if they were Islamic propagandists.

"Five days later, every major Jewish organization in Boston joined in, taking issue not with the school system's behavior but with Jacobs and his colleagues." Their excuses as well as those of Temple Emanuel have been added to Figure 1. above. The organizations asserted they had conducted a careful review, but they had not contacted the people who questioned what Newton was teaching. They never asked to see the curriculum. It is unlikely they examined the Notebook. They put the burden of initiating action on those affected rather than actively digging into the evidence themselves; and then they ignored what was told them. Altogether, it's unclear on what they were basing their conclusions.

On June 6, 2014, the ADL and the JCRC again attacked APT directly. They wrote that "there has been a campaign of criticism—dominated by unfortunate innuendo and accusations that proved unsubstantiated by actual evidence—directed at the Newton School Committee over its supposed anti-Israelism, or embrace of anti-Semitism". In all, they used much time and space to malign APT for bringing up issues that they preferred not to tackle. It is no wonder that Jon Bassett,[14] who chaired the History and Social Sciences Department could write his colleagues at North HS, "You should not change a thing in your teaching. ... Keep doing what you do, and ignore the noise. We continue to enjoy the full confidence and support of our Superintendent, School Committee, City Council, and public." Superintendent Jennifer Morrill at Newton South, sent an email of her own, vowing to continue to teach the same "thoughtfully chosen materials."

The reluctance of these large Jewish defense groups is more of the same inaction we see on college campuses. They may mouth condemnations when response is unavoidable, but there's not a lot of effective action. Stirring things up could involve them in accusations they'd rather avoid, like being taken to task for restricting freedom of speech. For the Jewish groups in Boston, opening this can of worms obviously could have other unforeseen and awkward consequences. It may be cowardly to make a pusillanimous response, but it's more frequently done than the Jewish organizations would like to admit.

We do get a glimmer of what the actual reasons might be — at one point, Jeremy Burton, CEO of Boston's JCRC, said that his board would not let him proceed and take issue with the school system's behavior. While we can only speculate why this was, experience has taught us that when Jewish organizations need to act for Jews, inertia is quite likely; vigorous activity is much more frequent when non-Jewish groups are under attack.

Another reason is suggested in a letter published in December 2017 by JCRC and the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, in which Charles Jacobs and APT are accused of of being "the true face of extremism in our community" and "purveyors of hatred and division" who "engage in outrageous attacks on communal institutions and individuals involved in the important work of building relationships among Boston-area Muslims and Jews." Do they seriously believe that building a rickety relationship with Muslims, many of whom are intent on destroying Israel, is more important than protecting Israel's reputation from those who maliciously and fallaciously malign it? Clearly, American Jews have yet to realize that they are under the Islamist gun as Jews and as Americans.

The Jewish organizations were not the only ones to side directly or indirectly with the teachers accused of teaching bias. A large number of Newton residents stood stoutly for the teachers 'under attack.'


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A rally to celebrate that Newton HS could continue teaching about the Middle East using The Arab World Studies Notebook. This group, ignoring what is being taught, sees the main issue as free speech for teachers.

It is not clear that the lies and distortions taught in the Newton high school were even acknowledged by the folks rooting for the teachers teaching from the The Arab World Studies Notebook. For most of them, the issue was that the teachers' freedom of speech was being threatened. If they thought about the larger picture at all, I would guess their reasoning would go this way: the superintendent and some teachers are Jewish. Many of the parents who sided with the school board are Jewish. The Jewish defense organizations are certainly Jewish. It's ridiculous to think that Jews would let Jews be placed in danger because their enemies paint them as evil people.

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Newton public school teachers protested during a public meeting at Newton South High School in support of their colleagues, who have been accused of teaching pro-Muslim curriculum (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

Many of Newton's teachers and students have also defended the history curriculum. As one example, in November 2018, the Newton South High School heard a petition[15] to fire Superintendent Fleishman, he who over the years broke promises to remove the Notebook from the classroom. Writing about this meeting, Laura Crimaldi[16] notes that ''hundreds of teachers came out to support the administration and its curriculum," adding their voices to the opinion of the Board, which unanimously supported the Superintendent and rejected any overhaul of the curriculum.

Many students were as supportive as the colleagues of the teachers involved in teaching a biased view of Israel and her neighbors. One, Finn Flaherty, a recent Newton North graduate "said he was disappointed the hearing was even taking place. 'We are a de facto segregated city with real problems, and here we are indulging in attempts to punish our teachers for taking a risk to provide a quality education to their students."[17]

Perhaps most curious is the behavior of the school's administrators. There is a large and expensive tree of administrators, some of whom are responsible for supervising teaching practices. By and large, these administrators have supported continuing to teaching about the Middle East as before, with perhaps some trifling changes. Their commitment appears to be seconded by the Newton School Board, an elected group, which in theory, should be overseeing the School Administration, not "me-too"-ing it.

Unfettered demonstrations[18] against the High School curricula have attracted hundreds of residents, many of whom spoke with open anger and at length. But the School Board in its formal hearings has suppressed negative comments as much as possible and made no attempt to answer criticism. Charles Jacobs, writing of a hearing June 11, 2018 to examine specific charges against what was being taught, provides us with a clear cut picture of the protective instincts of the supervisory School Board for the current Administration. In this case, the Board was confronted by a hostile group of parents. Jacobs[19] described the turmoil, noting that [t]he audience was particularly infuriated by a May 2, 2018 event at Newton North, when Newton's students were subjected to anti-Semitic films. "One film, Ismail, grotesquely aped the gruesome scenes of Nazi barbarism in Schindler's List, except with actors playing Jewish soldiers as the Nazis, and Palestinians as the Jews. 'This blood libel,' said Jacobs, 'the 'Jew-as-Nazi' lie is the 'narrative' that drives Jew-hatred around the world and here you are teaching this to our children.'"


board meeting
Concerned Newton citizens gather to express disgust at the willful negligence of the Newton School Committee, June 11, 2018

It didn't calm the situation that School Superintendent David Fleishman had more than once promised to remove the Arab World Studies Notebook from the curriculum but broke his promise and "continued to use material that was pro-Arab, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic."

Only a few people were permitted to talk against the demonizing of Israel in Newton's public schools. One of these speakers, Jacob writes, "Tom Mountain, Chairman of the Newton Republican Committee and father of a student in the Newton school system, thundered his disgust at the School Committee's betrayal of the schools' Jewish students, and the Jewish community in general. He directly demanded the dismissal of Superintendent Fleishman and asked, rather loudly, what sort of Jew could stonewall efforts to protect teenagers, mostly Jewish, from being taught rabid anti-Jewish propaganda." Another speaker, "Aaron Shneider, a new college graduate and alumnus of the Newton school system himself, railed at the committee, spoke of how the system had betrayed him, and that if everyone wants to speak of 'balance,' then pro-Muslim and anti-Israel is hardly 'balance' in educational presentation."

All in all, the Board acted as it had been doing for some seven years. It downplayed Muslim infiltration in the educational system. Ruth Goldman, Chair of the school committee, only allowed seven people to testify. She didn't call for comments or make any herself. When the speakers were done, she called for the next topic.

Miriam Elman has also written about this June 2018 meeting.[20] In a telling anecdote, Elman wrote that the final speaker "just asked the committee members a few simple questions: 'Do you understand the concerns of the community? Why won't you engage in a discussion with us?' He offered 'to transfer his allotted 3 minutes to the committee itself.' Unbelievably, they all sat in stone-faced silence, refusing to address these queries."

Part 4: What's missing?

What's missing in all of this is why the teachers doing the actual teaching were so determined to continue teaching this incendiary material. Why were the teachers digging in their heels?

Curricula change all the time, often eliciting disagreement from teachers, who soon settle down to teaching the new curriculum. But this was a sustained effort by many in the school system to continue teaching what many others had time and again demonstrated were lies that demonized Israel. Did they honestly believe Israel was solely responsible for the intifada and that the Arabs were blameless? Did they just accept the Notebook without checking out arguments that sounded fishy? Even if they weren't initially suspicious, why didn't they check out the veracity of the material after it was challenged?

It is possible our emphasis on content is incorrect. True, many in and out of the school system made virtuous statement on free speech for teachers. But in actual fact, there are guidelines and most teachers don't often stray outside of them. Not in a sustained and systematic fashion. So perhaps the teachers were adamant because they believed the basic issue was who dictated what a teacher taught, not what was taught. Negating this position, the entire Newton administration and the teachers appear to be of one mind: there is nothing wrong with the curriculum itself. Period. How this unity of position came about is not known.

Yet another possibility is that the teachers were dedicated to communicating not a specific message, but an overarching point of view. This actually has some strong factual support. David Bedar is a teacher often mentioned in the controversy. He introduced a Newton North's senior-level course in 2017 on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that fits right in with the school's bias. He also helped run the May 2, 2018 debacle, where several anti-Semitic films were shown. As Leil Leibovitz writes,[21] "he invited Ali Abunimah's Boston Palestine Film Festival to screen a movie [not a documentary] portraying Israeli soldiers brutally beating Palestinians while forcing them on endless marches. Abunimah is a vociferous critic of Israel's right to exist who has tweeted that 'supporting Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.'" The film was so blatantly wrong and offensive that even JCRC and ADL expressed concern in a letter to Superintendent Fleishman over the 'quality and credibility' of the resources used.[22]

Bedar has declared, "The goal is not to advocate for any particular position, but rather to get students to move past simplistic arguments and one-sided narratives."[23]

This sounds reasonable, but does not actually reflect Bedar's point of view. Some of his less public statements in emails indicate he prefers strong-arm tactics to further socialism, globalism and other nodes in the far-Left ideology.

Shortly after President Trump's inauguration, the Newton schools issued guidelines for talking about politics in history classes.[24] Ilya Feoktistov writes[25] that these guidelines

"asked teachers to remain objective while teaching about historical and current events; and to treat all students, regardless of political opinion, with respect. Teachers were told: 'For current controversial issues (health care, immigration, environmental policies, gun laws), teach students that there are different perspectives and present the reasoning of those who hold those different perspectives. [...] Newton North guidelines explicitly tell teachers to teach about the reasoning behind different perspectives on immigration.

"Yet, in remarkable language, Bedar demanded that the school allow him to propagandize against it, and to do so without any professional consequences: 'I have an obligation to teach civic duty and teach kids right and wrong, and about social justice. . . . This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I don't actually think we should have the option of not discussing [social justice] issues. I feel responsible for doing so. . . . We can help kids interpret the lessons of the past better than anybody. I feel like a phony when I'm not doing that. . . . But ...this is hard. I don't want to get fired for being a liberal propagandist.' (emphasis added).

"[Bedar's colleague,] Isongesit Ibokette vented: 'I am concerned that the call for 'objectivity' may just inadvertently become the most effective destructive weapon against social justice.'"

So much for allowing an even-handed presentation of conflicting points of view. But these social justice activists may just have clued us into the real reason for the stubborn promotion of anti-Semitism in Newton. In identity politics, Jews are not one of the respected minorities. They are the 'other' against whom intolerance is permitted. Jew-hate, hidden or overt depending on circumstances, is part and parcel of the far left agenda, just as it is in Islamic theology. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidential election in 2016, I suspect Newton school children would by now be presented with rants against nationalism and the Constitution. It would be their lot to study the glories of socialism.

Feoktistov comes from the Soviet Union. Given his familiarity with the beliefs promulgated by the Communists and the failure of the society they constructed based on these principles, he has the insight to write:

"Undaunted by the failures of their comrades in the Soviet Union and other socialist hell-holes, left-wing activists are dug in[26] at all stages of the American educational process from preschool[27] to graduate[28] school, where they seek to replicate the Soviet Union's abuse of its children's minds with lurid lies.

"Even science education is facing a hostile takeover by progressive luddites with scientific degrees who insist, as one biology PhD student did recently,[29] that 'to think there are universal truths perpetuates a particular kind of able bodied white cisgender male logic.' The result of all this left-wing obscurantism is a brainwashed[30] Generation Z that inhabits a false reality colored in stylized black and white by leftist dogma—the same false reality that Soviet school and preschool battered into me as a child."

The Far Left socialists of the Democratic Party and the Fundamentalist Muslims are seemingly an odd couple. Islam doesn't allow sexual freedom, homosexuality or gender transformation whereas the Left, rejecting the authority of the nuclear family, divides society into co-dependent groups, socializing by age-dependent strata. Both believe in some sort of globalism. The Democrats strive for social justice, which will be achieved by distributing money equitably and undoing the injustices done to select minorities. It will take strong centralized control to achieve this because individuals might not on their own be cooperative. The Muslims on the other hand aim at instilling sharia universally and would install a political theologian, a caliph, over all. They agree that Israel is the enemy. They agree that capitalism is the enemy. For either group to accomplish their dreams, Israel and capitalist USA must go. For now, they can work together to reconstruct the world. Of course, some day they will need to sort out which one of them is in charge.

Infiltrating the educational system is an obvious necessity and has been quietly ongoing for many years. Socialists have moved into positions where they can control what is taught. Muslim money brings cooperation from educational institutions. They can work to wean students away from focusing on their own individual goals to working toward goals set by the leaders of their particular identity group. They foment hostility towards Israel to weaken it so that it can't operate as a strong ally of American nationalism in the front lines against the advance of sharia law.


STOPPING THE INACCURATE, HIGHLY PROPAGANDIZED TEACHING at Newton and many other schools and colleges is yet to be done. In Newton, many liberals subscribe to the Far-Left ideology of the Democratic Party. Some of them simply ignore or minimize the Jew-hate activities; others subscribe to them wholeheartedly. Other Newton residents, as parents and neighbors, ignore content and focus on 'freedom of speech' or believe a flagrant even ludicrous inaccuracy favoring the Muslims can be balanced by a tepid statement of support for Israel. The major Jewish organization provide only flabby responses, in part because some of their leaders subscribe to the same 'progressive' ideology. Some teachers teach what the curriculum tells them to teach, without questioning the material and without comment. Others have themselves become committed (but often unlabeled) socialists thanks to their training in biased workshops at Harvard and other universities that are funded by Muslims and taught by committed Marxists, who are so lacking in academic integrity they are willing to use shamefully biased and even completely fraudulent material. Taken together, school children receive a pitifully misbegotten view of the Arab-Israel conflict, one that they in turn will transmit to others. Moreover, an unknown number of administrators and teachers from kindergarten to the 12th grade, some of whom are themselves Jewish, inculcate 'Jew-hate' as part of what they describe as their mission to promote social justice. In doing so, they help advance the Muslim jihadist goals to replace our constitutional rights and responsibilities with sharia law.

Footnotes

[1]  http://www.Israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/10909

[2]  http://www.think-Israel.org/medoff.biasedtextbooks.html

[3]  http://www.think-Israel.org/lappen.islaminschools.html

[4] https://sites.google.com/site/newtonparentsforexcellence/arab-world-studies-notebook/reviews-of-arab-world-studies-notebook

[5]  https://www.nationalreview.com/2007/07/saudi-classroom-stanley-kurtz/

[6] https://clarionproject.org/qatars-vision-shapes-american-classrooms/

[7] https://www.nationalreview.com/2007/07/saudi-classroom-stanley-kurtz/

[8]  https://blogs.timesofIsrael.com/harvards-anti-Israel-conference/

[9]  https://www.nationalreview.com/2007/07/saudi-classroom-stanley-kurtz/

[10]  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/287733/teaching-high-school-students-to-demonize-Israel

[11] https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/11/27/newton-teachers-students-defend-history-curriculum/Esv14PURxJXFaD9MKcl9UI/story.html

[12] https://www.youtube.com/embed/eqO4dfvbCAE

[13] https://legalinsurrection.com/2017/07/case-study-biased-curriculum-on-israel-and-islam-in-a-massachusetts-school-system/

[14] https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/teaching-high-school-students-to-demonize-israel

[15]  http://www.newtonma.gov/civicax/filebank/documents/92607

[16]  https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/11/27/newton-teachers-students-defend-history-curriculum/Esv14PURxJXFaD9MKcl9UI/story.html

[17]  https://www.wbur.org/edify/2018/11/30/israel-curriculum-newton

[18] http://newton.wickedlocal.com/news/20180212/protesters-rally-against-newton-superintendent-middle-east-curriculum

[19]  https://www.peaceandtolerance.org/2018/06/13/jewish-parents-outraged-at-anti-semitic-all-day-event-at-newton-north-high-turmoil-at-school-board-meeting/

[20]  https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/07/newton-ma-public-school-officials-backtrack-on-pledge-to-rid-curriculum-of-anti-israel-bias/

[21]  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/287733/teaching-high-school-students-to-demonize-Israel

[22]  https://6250a1f74gj43kod3cp2krxm-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/Letter-re-Newton-Schools-Joint-with-JCRC-Final.pdf

[23]  https://www.wbur.org/edify/2018/11/30/israel-curriculum-newton

[24] https://thefederalist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/GuidelinesForTalkingAboutPolitics.docx

[25] https://thefederalist.com/2018/08/07/emails-reveal-high-school-teachers-plotting-hide-political-bias-parents/.

[26] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-next-great-education-debate/2015/09/11/f726ceca-5881-11e5-b8c9-944725fcd3b9_story.html?utm_term=.50ab2ac688ed

[27]  http://abc7news.com/society/preschool-bans-kids-from-saying-best-friend/3367251/

[28]  http://www.lexingtoninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/RadicalizationOfTeacherEducationPrograms.pdf

[29] https://www.thecut.com/2017/04/the-science-march-sparked-a-big-argument-about-objectivity.html

[30] https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/how-generation-z-became-americas-most-intolerant-generation


Bernice Lipkin is managing editor of Think-Isael.

This article was published December 21, 2019 by Think-Israel and is archived at
http://www.think-Israel.org/lipkin.thenewtonscandal.html



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