Anti-Israel Curriculum Being Peddled To Puget Sound Schools

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Your child is sitting in his High School classroom, the instructor explains that this week they will be focusing on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Soon your child will be told that most Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East, that Zionism is a movement of ethnic cleansing and that anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Jews.

Click to view sample page from the PTT curriculum.

Click to view sample page from the PTT curriculum.

Far fetched?  Linda Bevis, Ed Mast and their cohorts at the BDS supporting Seattle Palestine Information Project are trying to peddle just that to Puget Sound schools with an anti-Israel curriculum they call the Palestine Teaching Trunk (PTT).

Claiming that the program meets all Washington state educational standards for  balance and scholarship the PTT website extends the following greeting to visiting instructors:

“Welcome to the Palestine Teaching Trunk! The educators who put this together are mainly classroom teachers with human rights interests. Many of us have particular experience in Palestine and Israel, and we want to provide you with comprehensive, high quality materials that work in real classrooms.”-Excerpt From the PTT

Anticipating pushback from concerned parents, the PTT  creators provide an ameliorating letter for instructors to send home to concerned moms and dads.

“This series of lessons attempts to show students multiple perspectives on the conflict and to let students draw their own conclusions. This also helps students become critical thinkers, especially where the media and textbooks are concerned. This ability to analyze information (“information literacy”) is extremely important in our information-saturated society” Excerpt From the PTT

The letter home explains that fear of appearing anti-Jewish has prevented a balanced approach to teaching about the Israeli-Arab conflict, but that the PTT will provide a “more balanced” lesson, presenting ” both the Israeli and Palestinian sides”.

 “In public dialogue there exists the sense that giving attention to the Palestinian side of the issue will be interpreted as anti-Semitic, and as a result we rarely see that side. In our more balanced lessons, both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, as well as positions that don’t fit simply on one or the other, will be explored in an effort to develop knowledge and analysis of the many questions that arise with regard to this issue.”-Excerpt From the PTT

Linda Bevis peddling the Palestine Teaching Trunk at last year's NW Conference on Teaching for Social Justice. Photo: Palestine Information

Linda Bevis peddling the Palestine Teaching Trunk at last year’s NW Conference on Teaching for Social Justice. Photo: Palestine Information Project.

To find out how balanced the PTT  is The Mike Report reached out to Professor Michael Weingrad, Academic Director of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at Portland State University. A tenured professor, Weingrad has been teaching at PSU for over a decade.

Professor Weingrad was kind enough to review the PTT curriculum and we asked him for his unvarnished opinion.

Weingrad’s first observation was that the creators of the lesson went to great pains to put forth “a patina of seeming objectivity”. Says Weingrad “they claim repeatedly and in many ways that they are presenting a balanced talk about differing national narratives, but the actual lesson plans are hideously anti-Israel.” Is there no attempt at balance at all? I asked. “There are minute traces of scholarly objectivity” said the professor,  “I can’t say that there isn’t an iota of accurate information, there are little bits mixed in here and there. For example in their list of about 50 informational sources, two or three might be mainstream, the rest are brazenly anti-Israel”. Sources like Electronic Intifada and Walt & Mearsheimer’s anti Semitic treatise are the norm rather than the exception.

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Professor Weingrad was incredulous that such a collection could be masquerading as scholarship and be foisted on impressionable young minds. The Palestine Teaching Trunk, said Weingrad “paints Israel as a criminal, racist, genocidal, apartheid regime”. There is no attempt at context notes Weingrad. “They do not provide any information regarding wars of aggression against Israel or the endless stream of terrorist attacks that Israel has endured”. “They present Zionism as little more than a Colonialist ethnic cleansing project”

After viewing the accompanying video provided to classrooms, Weingrad concluded “The video defines Zionism as a movement of ethnic cleansing, anyone who studies Zionism would know that this was never the intent of the Zionist movement. The video itself pretends to a moderate tone but the questions asked of the students afterwards are of the “why do you beat your wife” variety.”

Especially concerning to Weingrad is the cynical attempt at emotional manipulation of young students. “The students are made to role play being a Palestinian child and engage in activities to dramatize the Palestinian narrative, there is no such role playing of being an Israeli”.

High school students in Washington play "The Occupation Game" in the Palestine Teaching Trunk. Photo Credit: PTT

High school students in Washington play “The Occupation Game” from the Palestine Teaching Trunk. “[Jewish] Settlers Attack Roll the dice to see how many of your family and neighbors are killed.” Photo: Palestine Information Project.

One of the activities featured in the Palestine Teaching Trunk is “The Occupation Game”. Students are provided with varying scenarios on laminated game cards, some of the outcomes being impacted by a roll of the dice. The playing cards  put forth vignettes such as  “occupation soldiers” accosting a student’s sister; occupation F-16’s bombing the student’s house; being assaulted for no reason by occupation forces at a “non-violent” demonstration; and being shot to death by an occupation soldier . One playing card posits that at the hands of occupation forces “you are beaten on your face, back, arms, legs and groin”  another tells the student “Your head is held in a toilet and flushed repeatedly“.   To view the entire set of “Occupation Game playing cards click HERE.

The authors of the curriculum provide a straw man argument for Israel’s existence. explains the professor, pinning it to the suffering of Jews in the holocaust. In an aura of mock empathy notes Weingrad they intonate that “we feel bad about the Shoah but add that this is no excuse to persecute Palestinians”. “They assert that only the Palestinian Arabs are indigenous and that Jews have no historic claim”.

Children subjected to the PTT will never be told that more than half of Israel’s Jewish population lived for centuries in the Middle East and fled to Israel after being ethnically cleansed from neighboring Arab countries. Explains Weingrad “The PTT curriculum asserts that Jews were well treated under Arab and Ottoman rule. Weingrad believes this supposition is absurd “the true record of any Arab majority population being benevolent to their non-Arab minority is nil”.

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No less offensive though is the cynical manipulation of the PTT authors of the term anti-Semitism. “The curriculum defines anti-Semitism as persecution of peoples from the Middle East” shared Weingrad “They make the absurd claim that being anti-Israel can’t be considered anti-Semitic because Semites are people of the Middle East. They seem completely ignorant that the word anti-Semitism was created in the 1870’s specifically to describe hostility to Jews.”

“It is just a tidal wave of ridiculousness” lamented Professor Weingrad “it is all so distorted”.

The activists at the Seattle Palestine Information Project are working hard to assure that your child will be on the receiving end of the Palestine Teaching Trunk. It is only through your vigilance and initiative that a balanced, honest curriculum can be presented in its stead.

The Palestine Teaching Trunk.

Concludes Professor Weingrad.

 “If the goal of the curriculum is to push an extreme and unsavory political agenda by convincing students to detest Israel and have contempt for Jews, then the “Palestine Teaching Trunk” should be a success.  As a pedagogical tool for fostering accurate historical understanding of the Middle East or developing a thoughtful ethical engagement with the peoples therein, it is worse than useless.”

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