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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Biased Textbooks Turning Young Americans Against Israel

Anti-Israel bias in the textbooks used by many American high schools may be to blame for the decrease in sympathy for Israel among young adults.
 
According to the Brand Israel Group, only 54 percent of U.S. college students lean more toward Israel than the Palestinians, down from 73 percent in 2010. The decrease was even sharper among Jewish college students, dropping from 84 percent to 57 percent.
 
"The problem starts in high school," Dr. Sandra Alfonsi, founder of Hadassah's "Curriculum Watch" division, told JNS.org. "There's no doubt the lack of sympathy for Israel on college campuses today is at least partly the result of several generations of teenagers being educated with textbooks that are slanted against Israel."
'Unabashed propagandizing'
 
One of the most controversial texts used in high schools around the country is the "Arab World Studies Notebook," a 540-page volume authored by Audrey Parks Shabbas. She heads Arab World and Islamic Resources and School Services, a curriculum publisher that seeks to promote a positive image of Arabs and Muslims in U.S. schools. 
 
After parents in Anchorage, Alaska, complained to their local board of education in 2004 about the book's slant against Israel, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) prepared a 30-page analysis of the Notebook. 
 
The AJC found it to be riddled with "overt bias and unabashed propagandizing," such as depicting Israel as the aggressor in every Arab-Israeli war and praising Muslim conquerors throughout the ages for their "gentle treatment of civilian populations."
 
As a result, the Anchorage Board of Education removed the Notebook from the local high school curriculum. School authorities in Tulsa, Okla., have also withdrawn the text.
 
Shabbas has claimed the Notebook has been distributed to more than 10,000 teachers, and "if each notebook teaches 250 students a year over 10 years, then you've reached 25 million students." 
 
"The most important statistic is the number of workshops that Shabbas has given to instruct teachers in how to use the book," Curriculum Watch's Alfonsi said. "She has conducted hundreds of such three-day teacher-training sessions." Shabbas's website names 211 schools where she ran teacher workshops from 2000-2006. Other years are not listed.
Dispute in Massachusetts
 
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) recently published a 108-page monograph, "Indoctrinating Our Youth," which describes how high schools in the Boston suburb of Newton have been using biased texts such as the Arab World Studies Notebook and inviting anti-Israel speakers to address their students.
 
The controversy began in 2011, when a Newton South High School parent complained about a passage from the Notebook accusing Israel of torturing and murdering hundreds of Palestinian women. Other parents soon joined the protests. Matt Hills, vice chair of the Newton School Committee, dismissed the critics as "McCarthyesque."
 
In early 2012, Newton Superintendent of Schools David Fleishman said the Notebook had been removed from the curriculum because it was "outdated." But an investigation by Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), a Boston-based activist group, found that the Notebook was still being used in Newton as late as the 2013-2014 school year.
As a result, the Anchorage Board of Education removed the Notebook from the local high school curriculum. School authorities in Tulsa, Okla., have also withdrawn the text.
 
Shabbas has claimed the Notebook has been distributed to more than 10,000 teachers, and "if each notebook teaches 250 students a year over 10 years, then you've reached 25 million students." 
"The most important statistic is the number of workshops that Shabbas has given to instruct teachers in how to use the book," Curriculum Watch's Alfonsi said. "She has conducted hundreds of such three-day teacher-training sessions." Shabbas's website names 211 schools where she ran teacher workshops from 2000-2006. Other years are not listed.