Malignancy in California Ethnic Studies Curriculum

before Nasser cancelled our passport

A mandatory course in Ethnic Studies is being unveiled in California public high schools, forcing us to witness a new form of old-fashioned Anti-Semitism in “Progressive” dressing.  American Jews are not considered an ethnic minority group in this hefty curriculum. Jews are not a People, and Israel is an entity to be delegitimized and destroyed by pushing BDS.

I understand erasure. I fought against it every day for nine years as a Jewish child in Catholic convent schools in Japan (my parents, stateless Arabic Jews, had no choice but to send me there at the time). I frustrated the nuns who refused to understand how since Jesus was a Jew, why I stubbornly refused to accept Him as my Lord and Savior. I was nine when I answered back. “If Jesus was a Jew, why must Iconvert?

I was taught my people would never be free on earth or get to Heaven (even Hitler would have entry with enough time in Purgatory). Conversion, erasure, was the only solution to continuous persecution. Disappear the Jew.

California public high schools are planning to do just that, while teaching multi-culturalism, ripping off our very diversity. Rendering Jews invisible as an ethnic minority and fostering anti-Zionism to dismantle our Peoplehood and Homeland.

My first taste of this dangerous trend in my California education, was during my time in the School of Social Work at San Francisco State University in 1980. Ethnic Studies was a required course, and our task was to focus on an ethnic minority in the United States. The professor told us to choose between the Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Arab American, and African American experience. Surely, she left out Jews by mistake.

No Jews?

No.

But I am an Arabic Jew, and I want to write about Jews from Arab lands.

No Jews, did I have a hearing problem or was I just a trouble-maker?

My story would mess with her anti-Israel narrative.

Almost in tears, I went to my advisor who was Jewish. Not much help there, he didn’t want to make waves, and what did I mean my family came from Iraq and Egypt? “Did your parents move there from Russia or Poland?”

He had no knowledge of Jews living in Iraq since the Babylonian Exile, of the close to a million Jews who lived most of the time under Islamic rule all over the Middle East and North Africa as second-class citizens, victims of pogroms and survivors of harsh times.

He didn’t know that Israel was populated by Middle Eastern and North African Jews, that Mizrahim outnumbered Ashkenazi Jews in Israel.  He had no idea.

And neither will California high school students if the parade of Israel deniers featured as authors referenced in the new curriculum have their way.

We have enraged many a Jew resenter for a very long time for surviving as a People. From the ancient Babylonians and Romans who thought erasing Israel would disappear us, to the modern-day horror show of six million Jews hideously humiliated, tortured, and exterminated in the Holocaust. But the Arabs are not paying for Europe’s sins, they have plenty of their own to pay for particularly the expulsion of 850,000 pauperized, ripped off, traumatized Jews from all over the Middle East and North Africa.  Ancient Jewish communities predating Islam are gone, ethnically cleansed of us Jews in the past 70 years. Now the target is Israel where most of us live.

We no longer live in our ancient communities we inhabited for three thousand years, we are extinct there, but thrive in Israel, where we found home again. And survival.

To put it bluntly, passively or actively calling for the destruction of Israel is genocide. Pretending we are not an ethnic minority stillstruggling to be safe in American synagogues or Israel is a dangerous enterprise. Fourteen million Jews worldwide is not a huge number, we suffered and continue to suffer our losses. But we are here.

For Hitler and his gang of Nazis and their sympathizers it was going to be “The Final Solution.” In the Middle East and North Africa Nazi admirers were hopeful enough to make Mein Kamp a bestseller in Arabic. When the Third Reich did not achieve its goals, and Jews were allowed to return to Israel and make it a country, the Arab nations united (as they rarely do) and thought for sure Israel was done in. They never imagined the Jewish state would survive their onslaught any more than the Nazis imagined failure.

Erasing Jews as a distinct ethnic minority and singling out Israel for destruction by advocating for BDS is reminiscent of the Babylonian and Roman destruction of Israel. Attempts to destroy us a People is Biblical. Not new, not Progressive.

We have until August 15 to protest the offending pages erasing the Jewish experience as an ethnic minority group in the United States and to protect Israel from BDS propaganda.

Act now: This is why JIMENA, StandWithUs, AMCHA Initiative and a multitude of Jewish organizations are calling out this malignancy in a curriculum that should honestly portray diversity rather than pander to factions that be that resent Jews and want the destruction of Israel.

About the Author
Rachel Wahba is a San Francisco Bay Area based writer, psychotherapist and the co-founder of Olivia Travel. An Egyptian-Iraqi Jew, Rachel was born in India and grew up stateless in Japan. The many dimensions of her exile and displacement are a constant theme in her professional work as well as her activism as an advisory board member for JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).
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