The shocking news that an outspoken extreme anti-Israel advocate was asked by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) to present at their 101st Annual Conference in November 2021 is troubling. While educators have unfortunately heard ripples of anti-Israel sentiment before, the fact that an extremist has made an entrance into what is arguably the most respected council that sets the trends for social studies educators means that anti-Israel education has broken through its barrier of resistance and will begin to make its way into classrooms across America. The NEA and AFT do not need to adopt anti-Israel principles into their charter when the professional teacher organizations distributing materials and developing curriculum trends have already created and are spreading the content while meeting state standards. Even the highly popular, trending educator resources including Learning for Justice, Facing History and Ourselves, Zinn Education Project, and Rethinking Schools have listed numerous resources fully supporting Palestine and encouraging anti-Israel education. Though, of course, these resources claim to be presenting “both perspectives” in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a simple look into their content reveals that is not the case.
Featured in the first round of workshops at the NCSS conference, Munah Saleh, Assistant Professor at Concordia University of Edmonton, co-presented “Emotionally-Informed Approaches to Antiracist Teaching,” which the NCSS summarized as exploring “antiracist curricular content and pedagogical strategies designed to avoid triggering traumas in Black, Indigenous, and students of color, and also to invite White students to sit in with their discomfort.” Obvious issues with this particular workshop aside, looking into the background of one of the two people leading it revealed that education in America has greater problems than just those that have been excessively covered in the mainstream media.
Munah Saleh recently deleted her social media accounts, but before then, she expressed extreme anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian sentiment with repeated tweets including “F*** them” in reference to Israel. Due to the deletion of her social media accounts, evidence of Munah Saleh’s use of foul language has only been found thus far courtesy of RAD Educators Network who posted a screenshot of an old Twitter post from Saleh that read:
The same organization, RAD Educators Network, shares the anti-Israel sentiment of Saleh. Though they do not appear to have a significant following, they have shared a well-designed website which visually appeals to teachers and contextually appeals to those who want to teach anti-Israel sentiment. The website, DecolonizePalestine, is “a collection of resources for organizers and anyone who wants to learn more about Palestine.” On the website, they feature “myths” including what they refer to as Israeli “propaganda.” Some “myths” include that the United Nations created Israel instead of the “truth” that it was established through “sweeping ethnic cleansing campaigns” against Palestinians by the Israelis.
There is a very long list of resources available on Learning for Justice’s website, which can be found in an article from May 2021. Among these resources are Teaching About the Current Conflict in Gaza and Israel courtesy of The New York Times Learning Network. Noting the “escalating violence” in “occupied Palestinian territories,” this lesson suggests the students read “The Morning Newsletter” regarding the fighting in which writer David Leonhardt pulls at readers’ heartstrings to sympathize with Palestinians noting that a few hundred Palestinians had died in the conflict while there have only been ten Israeli deaths. In his “Palestinian case,” Leonhardt also notes that Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes while they suffer from “a version of imperialism,” adding that Palestinians also suffer from human rights violations along with an anecdote that a professor in Gaza has lost his brother, and the professor’s wife lost her grandfather, brother, sister, and sister’s three children from Israeli attacks. Leonhardt also details that Israel has bombed underground tunnels where the Hamas terrorists store their missiles to prevent further deaths, but glosses over the fact the Palestinian anger “occasionally explodes.” Reading this article, one takeaway is that Israel, backed by the United States, is an “imperialist” player who denies human rights at the cost of human lives. This resource is just one of many with similar perspectives that Learning for Justice promotes on their website.
Teach Palestine is another resource listed by Learning for Justice, and it is also connected with Rethinking Schools, a collaborator with Teaching for Change on the highly popular Zinn Education Project, which presents the lesson Independence or Catastrophe? Teaching Palestine Through Multiple Perspectives, also specifically promoted by Learning for Justice. Although writer Samia Shoman puts the widely accepted and often misleading stamp-of-approval on her own work that she “allows students the space and opportunity to decide what they think for themselves,” it is meaningless. As revealed through her public Twitter platform, Shoman shares countless “tweets” demonizing Israel and supporting Palestine. Some include retweets of reports of Israel announcing a bombing on “Hamas assets,” Israelis driving their cars into Palestinians, incidents of tear gas being used on Palestinians, Palestinian cities burning, Israel’s selfish acquisition of COVID-19 vaccinations, a special from Democracy Now on how “Israel’s crimes are ‘Infinitely Worse’ Than in Apartheid South Africa,” the torture of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli military, and how she agrees that friendship with Israel is sickening. It appears that Shoman only writes about violence towards Palestinians, but none towards Israelis on behalf of Palestinians.
Although one’s public Twitter account may not necessarily reflect what they teach in the classroom, a look over her lesson shows that her bias is revealed through her selection of texts, evidence-based questions, and prompts. It appears that her “decide for themselves” approach resulted in some students acknowledging Jewish history, but each revealed student response ended with sympathy for Palestine. Shoman shared one former student’s note to her that read, “I quickly came to realize that there was more to being Jewish than I knew. Through our Palestine-Israel unit, I was exposed to perspectives that made clear that Jews share responsibility for the conflict in the Middle East…” One is left wondering how some students may have responded in full if Shoman included reporting the violence against Israelis and the actions of terrorist organizations operating against Israel such as Hamas.
Though Facing History and Ourselves also attempts to appear unbiased, they too promote an anti-Israel perspective through their selected resources. While they provide general content that could be useful for classes engaging in such discussions, their content-specific sources guide students in one very particular direction.
Anti-Israel advocacy efforts are already in place and are continuing to grow. According to CBN News, a new education initiative “under the facade of accountability and human rights,” threatens American foreign policy towards Israel. CBN News reports, “critics of the initiative claim the competition will attract organizations that support campaigns to boycott Israel or label it an apartheid state, even though the Biden administration has repeatedly condemned these anti-Israel efforts.”
Anti-Israel advocacy is not limited to the educational field, it has been prevalent within the government for some time. In Michigan, a proud anti-Israel extremist activist is running for Congress, according to The Leo Terrell. After serving on legal teams in defense of terrorists, Huwaida Arraf, who is an avid supporter of Palestinian violence, now has her sights set on elevating her anti-Israel activism on a governmental level.
It is crucial for teachers to remain objective, but for many, they seem to have a different definition of what it means to be objective. If in the same exact conflict, one only chooses to show violence coming from one side but does not acknowledge that it also comes from the other, objectivity is absent. Still, when highly respected resources, who falsely claim to be objective, release their own lessons and a suggested list of resources, teachers are not likely to question the credibility of the sources they are being guided towards; this leads to corruption in curricular topics, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where all perspectives must be represented fully and accurately or students will find themselves subliminally forced into taking one side over the other. In response to this specific growing trend in education, The Locke Society will develop heavily researched lessons on the Israel-Palestine conflict that teachers can use in the classroom.