I enclose below an email exchange I had yesterday with a professor of History at a top-rated US university about the Arab-Israeli conflict. I think it was instructive, and readers could learn a point or two from it. I do not know personally this professor.
First email: From Kardontchik to History Professor
Subject: NEA’s “Teach-Palestine-only”
Talk to the National Education Association (NEA). Request they withdraw their one-sided “Teach-Palestine-only” resolution (NBI 13) and replace it by a new resolution supporting the teaching of both perspectives of the Arab-Israeli conflict: The Jewish perspective must be heard and discussed in class too. “Teach-Palestine-only” to minors in K12 schools is not education. It is indoctrination of the worst kind: minors in K12 schools are a captive audience that depend on their teachers’ authority to pass the courses and graduate.
NEA’s New Business Item (NBI) 13 adopted last July 2022 states: “NEA will support members who educate students and other members about the history, geography, and current state of affairs of the Palestinian people. NEA will provide state affiliates with a clear protocol for members doing this work to utilize when they are under attack.”
What are they afraid of? No one would feel afraid if both perspectives were presented and discussed in class. Be inclusive!
The story of the systematic legal and social discrimination against the Jewish minorities in the Arab countries, the pogroms they endured and the ethnic cleansing of almost one million Jews from the Arab countries, must be taught too. Israel was born as a nation of refugees. It emerged from the ruins of the Jewish communities in Europe and the Arab countries. This story must be told too.
This balanced approach was explicitly adopted by the US Congress: The HR 185 Bill (year 2008) states that “Middle East refugee resolutions which include a reference to the Palestinian refugee issue must also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries”.
Proponents of “Teach-Palestine (only)”, or chanting slogans like “From the River to the Sea (Palestine will be free)”, as well as those pushing for the exclusion of “Zionists” from public spaces in university campuses – all have the same root: they all oppose the existence of the Jewish State, and they all expect from their naïve audiences in the US to believe that the Israeli Jews will just leave their homes and country and, on their own will, return to the Diaspora, to places in Europe and in the Arab countries from which they were ethnically cleansed in the first place. Or that they will commit national suicide and accept millions of Palestinians into Israel proper and become again a “tolerated” minority, now in their own country, as other “tolerated” minorities in the Muslim world (like the Christians and Yazidis, or like the Sunnis in Shia-dominated countries or the Shias in Sunni-dominated countries). Looking at the mass atrocities happening daily in the Arab countries – this alternative is not enticing either to the Israeli Jews.
The only ethical solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is the one that President Joe Biden lately reaffirmed, when he said: “Let us get something straight here. Until the region [Middle East countries] says unequivocally that they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace.” (Press conference, May 21, year 2021, responding to a reporter’s question, following the latest conflagration between Hamas and Israel)
If you are interested in getting more information about the Jewish perspective, check my book “Ethnic Studies in K12 schools: The Jewish module” (new March 2023 edition, which adds a variety of historical documents as Appendices to the different chapters of the book.) Share the book with your students. Discuss it in class. The book is available for free download at:
Teachers are free to distribute digital copies of my book or print as many copies of the book as they need for their class. To maximize accessibility, the book is also available at Amazon.
Jaime Kardontchik, PhD (Physics)
Silicon Valley, California
Second email: From History Professor to Kardontchik
Your argument is absurd.
Third email: From Kardontchik to History Professor
I will appreciate any substantive argument.
Fourth email: From History Professor to Kardontchik
NBI 13 does not argue for only teaching the history of Palestinians as you imply (just like the BLM movement’s argument that black lives matter is not an argument that whites lives don’t matter). You misrepresent the initiative by writing “only”.
Advocating the teaching of Palestinian history does not negate the importance of Jewish history and the history of the state of Israel.
The vast majority of historical anti-Jewish violence occurred in Christian Europe. It cannot be equated to Arab-Islamic anti-Jewish violence (although this should not be ignored). You equate the two.
BDS does not oppose the existence of the state of Israel – it opposes Israeli state illegal occupation, apartheid and discrimination….and has nothing to do with NBI 13.
Fifth email: From Kardontchik to History Professor
Thank you for your reply. Briefly, in response to your points:
You said: “NBI 13 does not argue for only teaching the history of Palestinians”
Well. In this case, you should support the simple amendment to NBI 13 that I proposed: “Also the Jewish perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be taught, side-by-side with the Palestinian perspective”. This will make moot and unnecessary the strange phrase in the present NBI 13: “NEA will provide state affiliates with a clear protocol for members doing this work to utilize when they are under attack.” No one will feel afraid if both perspectives are presented and discussed in class. Be inclusive, and both sides will be satisfied that their perspective is heard and taught.
You said: “The vast majority of historical anti-Jewish violence occurred in Christian Europe. It cannot be equated to Arab-Islamic anti-Jewish violence (although this should not be ignored.) You equate the two.”
I do not equate the two. The Holocaust is unique in History. In my book “Ethnic Studies in K12 schools: The Jewish module” I do not refer to and not even mention the Holocaust.
The political Zionism emerged at the end of the XIX century, well before the Holocaust. At the end of the XIX century the situation of the Jews, the discrimination, persecutions and pogroms they suffered in Europe and in the Arab-Muslim countries were of similar intensity. In some respects, the situation of the Jews in some Arab countries was much worse, because their discrimination was institutionalized, legalized, and socially accepted and internalized by all, including both the Muslims and the Jews. If you like, you can get a more accurate description of the situation of the Jews in Europe and the Arab countries [including accompanying historical documents] in my book “Ethnic Studies in K12-schools: The Jewish module”.
I will add here only a few words of the French historian George Bensoussan, from his book “Jews in Arab countries: The great uprooting” (published by Indiana University Press in year 2019):
“… This picture [the situation of the Jews in the Muslim countries at the end of the XIX century] can only be understood by accepting that it is the culmination of the long practice of dhimma, the protected status accorded to Jewish and Christian infidels, that was developed during Islam’s first century. This long experience of submission fashioned a form of alienation difficult to render clearly discernable to those very people who internalized it. It became necessary to learn to survive within the tight confines of a domination that was neither the Hell some claimed, nor the Paradise that others said it was. It was an ordinary world in which codified violence kept everyone in his place, at the risk, otherwise, of bloodshed.”
“… Mistreated, chased like wild beasts, and systematically subjected to exceptionally harsh conditions, they have ended up resigned to their sad fate and they now find their situation entirely natural; they have become accustomed to lowering their heads while the storm rages. Thus, any pride or dignity has disappeared, and ignorance has done the rest.” [from a report about the situation of the Jews in Iran in 1903]
[Extracts from George Bensoussan’s book]
This alienation of the Jew in the Muslim world, this internalization of the subjugation, was a unique experience of the Jews in the Muslim countries, not shared by the Jews in Europe. It was the colonization of their minds. In this sense, it was similar to the centuries-long experience of the Black people in the Southern states of the US. I categorize it as one of the worst forms of oppression. [*]
You said: “BDS does not oppose the existence of the State of Israel …”
I did not talk about BDS in my email, nor do I talk about BDS in in my textbook “Ethnic Studies in K12 schools: The Jewish module”, where I describe the Jewish perspective.
BDS is not clear cut, but as the saying goes: one can tell when a specific BDS is anti-Semitic, if one looks at the specific framework and circumstances in which it is being employed. But I do not want you to feel that I am ignoring your challenge: Go to my other book, “Boycott of Israel is Wrong: How to fight it” and you will find some concrete answers. Check the chapter titled “Selective boycott applied to Israel = Plain Anti-Semitism”, pages 14-16. The book is available at Amazon, but everyone can read and download the book for free at:
In a similar vein, I believe you are not familiar with the recent history of “Ethnic Studies” curricula in California. “Teach-Palestine-only” is being promoted by the “Liberated Ethnic Studies” movement. It was introduced in the 2019 “Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum” (ESMC) for high-schools in California. This led the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, to veto this curriculum, due to its biased and anti-Jewish content. After being vetoed in California, the Liberated Ethnic Studies movement managed to introduce it again in the last annual meeting of the NEA, last July 2022, through the seemingly innocuous NBI 13, with two big differences: First, “Teach-Palestine-only” will now be applied to all the 50 states and second, whereas in California it was limited to being taught at high-schools within the framework of an “Ethnic Studies” course, NBI 13 applies to all grades and courses from kindergarten to high-school.
If you want to familiarize yourself with the activities and platform of the “Liberated “Ethnic Studies” movement, I refer you again to my other book: “Boycott of Israel is Wrong: How to fight it”.
[*] I shared a glimpse of this oppression, “the colonization of the mind”, in an article I published years ago. Here it is:
“… In 1981 I moved to Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina: I had gotten a job at the Physics Department of North Carolina State University. I still remember today the eerie feeling of sadness I felt when I first came to Raleigh and saw the rows of empty houses and a few black people walking with seemingly no purpose in the abandoned streets of the city …” [“In memory of Sandra Bland – A young black woman”, published in the Jerusalem Post, July 27, 2015]