Anti-Israel Curriculum Scandal in Newton, MA — Resurfacing

Even the most optimistic among us no longer deny the surging global epidemic of anti-Semitism, which today most often masquerades as anti-Israelism. History seems to be repeating itself before our very eyes. And the poison of anti-Israelism seeps ever closer.

Three years ago an acrimonious public controversy erupted in Newton, Mass. after it emerged that anti-Israel materials were being used as part of the high school curriculum. For two years controversy raged and simmered. Then it seemed that public debate all but dissipated after assurances were given to the community by school officials, Jewish organizations, and the media that the situation has been adequately dealt with. This perception is anything but true.

The fact is that the Newton political establishment has done nothing since 2011 to rectify this problem. Indeed, they have been actively stonewalling all efforts to expose the problem and remedy it. Newton officials have adamantly refused to post curricular materials online for all to see. They have ignored an unbiased academic analysis of their curricular materials by the independent subject experts at VERITY Educate, an 80 page analysis devastatingly critical of the schools’ curriculum. They have attempted to circumvent two public records requests for curricular materials, demanding exorbitant “production” fees, repeatedly violating deadlines, and producing wrong and unresponsive documents.

All these actions should alarm the most ardent of skeptics. Why is the Newton political establishment fighting so hard? What evidence are they trying to suppress? Why are they trying to convince us that the Newton textbook issue has been adequately dealt with and put to bed, because if that were true why all the stonewalling?

What we do know is that Newton School Superintendent David Fleishman assured all concerned that the one offending set of materials; namely, The Arab World Studies Notebook, was removed from circulation in 2011 — only to discover that it resurfaced a year later at one of the two high schools. By this time additional curricular materials were unearthed by parents and students who came forward, with more egregious and damming evidence than previously exposed. Among the materials uncovered were maps produced by the Palestine Liberation Organization purporting to show Israel allegedly “stealing” all of “Palestinian lands.”

Students were given these maps without being told they were produced by the “information” branch of the PLO. Ironically, the very same maps provoked the ire of Boston’s Jewish establishment when plastered on MBTA trains. Yet, when the identical maps were used in Newton classrooms as “teaching materials” they were blindly defended by the same establishment Jewish organizations.

In addition to the maps, students were given a falsified, doctored version of the Hamas charter, which expunged all its references to Hamas’s calling for the killing of all the world’s Jews and which inserted in its stead completely fabricated language that falsely implied that the terror organization’s problem was not with Jews but only with Zionism. The teachers’ notes for the “lesson” explained that the Arab/Israeli conflict is to be taught exclusively as a fight over borders, not a religious war. Newton students were purposely kept from learning that the Hamas charter invokes a jihad by Islam against the Jews, who will be fully exterminated on the “final day.”

As an exercise in “critical thinking,” Newton students prepared for and participated in a debate on the question of whether there should be a “one state” or a “two state” “solution” to the conflict. In other words they debated whether or not the Jews deserve the political liberation of self-rule. (Note: They did not debate whether or not the Germans or Sudanese or Russians deserve a state — but only the Jews.) To prepare to defend each position, they were given materials purporting to represent authoritative academic positions by “Middle-Eastern experts” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in fact while the pro-Israel “experts” were center-leftists, the pro-Palestinian “experts” were in every case virulent anti-Israel activists, many obscure, including an unhinged Somerville anarchist who calls for revolution against the US and the West on his website. The students were falsely told that the two sets of “experts” they were given to read were a fair representation of opinion across the spectrum.

VERITY’S critical review of the Newton curricular materials exposed the inherent biases in the materials themselves, ranging from lies, to dis-information, to doctored materials whose sources were unidentified. Rather than heeding the results of the report, the Newton establishment chose instead to unjustly discredit the author and sweep the report under the rug.

This seemed to many to have quieted the three-year conflict. Nothing could be further from the truth. Newton activists recently attracted two powerful national players to help publicize the problem and force the Newton schools to make all of the curricula public. Citizens for National Security (CFNS) and Judicial Watch (JW) have agreed to intercede.

Under the leadership of Dr. Saxton, CFNS was instrumental in the removal of seven (7) biased, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian textbooks from the Florida curriculum. CFNS monitors textbook publishers, and has to date compelled or convinced them to either reprint or remediate the 250 biased references uncovered in texts being used in Florida, the third largest textbook adoption state in the country. CFNS experts regularly testify before Congress, and are dedicated to eradicating extremism in K-12 school programs and in colleges.

Dr. Saxton brought Judicial Watch on board as a partner in the Newton case. Judicial Watch is a national powerhouse organization whose motto is: “Because no one is above the law.” According to its mission, “To this end, Judicial Watch uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.”

Judicial Watch has racked up an impressive number of legal victories against such bureaucratic behemoths as the IRS, the Justice Department, the State Department and other Federal agencies. On October 31, 2014, Judicial Watch initiated action against Newton schools in the form of a public records request. It is awaiting the final response. Newton’s initial reply continued its usual tactics: it demanded $4500 to process the documents, attempted to produce non-responsive documents, and claimed that many documents won’t be produced for another 5-6 months. JW fired back with a request for immediate production of documents, on a rolling basis, and a waiver of the fee. If Newton continues its usual foot dragging and stonewalling, legal action will follow. As Judicial Watch has proved in its battles against much more powerful government officials, Newton Superintendent David Fleishman might want to think more seriously about his duties to the public.

About the Author
Charles Jacobs, currently President of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, has founded and co-founded human rights and pro-Jewish organizations. He co-founded the Boston office of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America; As co-founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, Charles helped redeem thousands of black slaves from jihadi raiders in Sudan for which he was granted the Boston Freedom Award by Coretta Scot King, MLK's widow. He co-founded The David Project to help Jewish students who were harassed and intimidated on campuses across America. Charles has been published in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and the Encyclopedia Brittanica.