New Reform curriculum: Anti-Israel course entitled “Reframing Israel” supports Arab terrorists
“The main author and the majority of contributors to Reframing Israel are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.”
A new curriculum for Reform Hebrew schools in the United States, already being used by more than 10 such schools, is threatening to alienate young Jews further from Israel than they already are.
Produced by Reform Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, the new Kindergarten-12th grade course of study is entitled “Reframing Israel.” Assuming that the default approach to Israel among Jews is positive and sympathetic, the title does not bode well for supporters of Israel.
And in fact, the stated goal of the new curriculum is “teaching Jewish kids to think critically about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
In an article in the recent edition of Tower Magazine, StandWithUs researchers Max Samarov and Amanda Botfeld state that with the advent of the new course, “the next phase in anti-Israel academic indoctrination is already here – at Hebrew schools across the country.”
Their article is entitled, “Framing Israel: The Distortions of the New Boycott-Driven School Curriculum.” They write that “the main author and the majority of contributors to Reframing Israel are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This includes the writer of the curriculum’s ‘historical overview of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’”
Samarov and Botfeld give numerous examples of one-sided presentations of the Israeli-Arab conflict in the Holy Land, which are often not only historically inaccurate, but also do not “encourage critical thinking about the conflict.”
Below is a short summary of these examples by which the new Reform curriculum attempts to “reframe Israel” in the minds and hearts of young, relatively-uninformed Jews:
- The historical relationship between the Jewish people and Israel is downplayed. It is never comprehensively stated that Jews are indigenous to Israel; that Israel is the birthplace of their identity, language, religion, and culture; that Jews maintained a continuous presence in Israel for over 3,000 years; and that exiled Jews maintained their unique connection to the land throughout their history.
- The overview whitewashes the centuries of the institutionalized oppression, discriminatory taxation, and violence that Jews faced under Muslim rule across the Middle East, including in the Holy Land. Anti-Semitism is mentioned only in relation to Europe, and not the Middle East.
- In “teaching” about Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the new course states that the Arabs who originally attacked the Jews were “no match for the well-trained and equipped Haganah” – ignoring that these Arab forces were British-equipped and supported, and were able to besiege Jerusalem for weeks at a time. It might be added, too, that the Jewish yishuv did not see great success in repelling the Arab offensives, and only when the British left and the Arab nations attacked did the Jewish side begin, slowly, to emerge victorious.
- The controversial account of the Deir Yassin “massacre” is covered uncritically, while the numerous accounts of Jewish civilians being killed by Arabs during the war are never mentioned. Deir Yassin is where Arabs shot at Israeli food-transports bringing food to besieged Jerusalem. In addition, it is by now well-known that not 250 villagers were “massacred,” but rather between 100-120 were killed in bitter, house-to-house fighting.
- Israel is blamed for the Palestinian refugee issue, but Arab leaders are not held responsible for the simultaneous dispossession and plight of 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab states.
- The curriculum’s overview states that “neither side embraced” the 1937 Peel Report, which called for the establishment of a tiny Jewish state and a much larger Arab state. It does not point out, however, the differences between the parties’ respective “lack of embrace”: The Arab leadership unequivocally rejected any possibility of Jewish statehood, while Zionist leaders signaled that they were interested in negotiating.
- Regarding the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan, the overview states that the Jews celebrated it, while the Arabs rejected it. It explains the Arabs’ objections – yet does not explain why many Jews did not accept it. For instance, it notes that the “recently-arrived” Jews made up 30% of the population yet were awarded 56% of the area – but does not mention that 70% of the Jewish land was arid desert, or that Jerusalem was to be an internationalized city, or that many of the Arabs were just as recently-arrived as some of the Jews.
- Yasser Arafat’s rejection of a far-reaching Israeli peace offer in 2000 is presented as an Israeli “claim,” rather than a known fact. Similarly ignored is an Israeli offer in 2008 to give up almost all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza for peace, and its rejection by Mahmoud Abbas.
- The BDS movement – which calls for the “right of return” for “Palestinian refugees and their descendants” – is presented entirely uncritically: BDS is described as having “attracted significant global support,” with opposition coming only from “Jewish organizations” – when in fact Western political leaders, major American academic institutions, and the mainstream Jewish community oppose BDS.
- “Most egregious,” write Samarov and Botfeld, “is how the violent racism of prominent Palestinian leaders and organizations is whitewashed or ignored.”
Part Two will present the proposal by Samarov and Botfeld as to how the Palestinian narrative could be incorporated more accurately and constructively into a course of study for young Jewish students in the United States.