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Against Balance: Thoughts on teaching Israel/Palestine

Israel/Palestine
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I gave this talk last month to a group of teachers and administrators at the Riverdale Country School, an independent school in the Bronx, N.Y., where I have long taught history, including a course on the Israel-Palestine conflict. The talk was delivered during the school’s Professional Development Day. It was a response to those, both in the culture at large and in my school in particular, who call (often I think disingenuously) for teaching that is politically “neutral.” It was also an effort on my part to reflect more-or-less systematically on my own teaching philosophy and practice.

History curricula are controversial. Because “history” (by which I mean what historians write and teach) is an important element in national invention and integration, national narratives (the ways in which nations come to understand themselves and seek to be understood by others) are frequently battlefields where contemporary political issues are fought out. In these often vitriolic debates  far more is usually at stake than simple questions about “what actually happened” in the past.

The more recent the events contained in historians’ national narratives, the more controversial such narratives become. For this reason, it is sometimes argued that relatively recent history should not be taught in the classroom, at least not in the high-school classroom.  The ostensible reason for such a prohibition is that teachers of history lack the “distance” or “objectivity” to consider such events in the putatively  “detached” manner they consider occurrences in the more distant past. The more determinative reason is that the teaching of such subjects involves injecting “politics” into the classroom and is therefore considered “divisive.”

When recent or contemporary history is, in fact, taught teachers are cautioned, sometimes explicitly but usually by implication, to remain “balanced” in their presentations.  According to a widely-held view, a “fair and balanced” curriculum, is one which scrupulously presents “all sides;”  and a “fair and balanced” teacher is one who keeps her own “views” out of the classrooms and acts as a “devil’s advocate” or a neutral mediator of disparate points of view, especially “controversial” ones. As David Bromwich has put it, there exists

a broad public concern in American public culture, especially among people who trust the schools to do almost all the educating of children . . .  that a proper way to bring the criteria of public judgment to bear on academic conduct is the monitoring and enforcement of a ‘balance of opinions.’  (1)

But, what, in fact, does; and what in fact can; “balance in the classroom” actually mean?

To begin with one should ask: Is “balance” a relevant purpose of education?  A satisfying answer, resoundingly in the negative, has been provided by the philosopher Akeel Belgrami:

[T]he point of pedagogy is to try and present the truth we have found by presenting evidence and argument for it. . . . [I]f balance has any role to play in all this, its role is entirely nested within this primary goal, not something independent of this goal. . . .[W]e need feel no unnecessary urge to display balance in the classroom if we have shown balance and scruple in our survey of the evidence on which our convictions are based, the only place where balance is relevant in the first place. (2)

Or as the former dean of studies at Columbia University, Jonathan Cole, has put it: “. . . [T]he proper goal of higher education is enlightenment – not some abstract ideal of ‘balance’ . . . ” (3)

Indeed, one should go on to ask: what is scholarly “balance” anyway? What could it possibly mean to teach “all sides” of a subject? For every important and contentious historical question there are obviously more than two “sides.” Must one teach every point of view, no matter how fatuous or implausible?

And then, even if “balance” was acknowledged to be both a desirable and a comprehendible classroom objective, is it an achievable, one?

The answer, again, is no. Every curriculum and every class is an elaborate act of interpretation. The creation of a syllabus; the choice of texts; the decision to focus on some subjects rather than others, to introduce some questions for discussion and not others; indeed, the very choice of a subject in the first place (why Israel/Palestine? why not Israel and the wider Arab world? why bother teaching about Israel at all when there are so many other important subjects?); all these decisions presuppose the instructor’s prior assessment of significance, coherence, and meaningfulness. They all, that is, presuppose the teacher’s prior interpretations, interpretations, moreover. in which the teacher’s ethical values are inevitably embedded.

As the historian Joan Wallach Scott has rightly observed:

[The critic] Stanley Fish has cautioned academics to ‘save the world on your own time,’ urging us to teach the facts or the texts in our chosen fields without taking a position on them. . . . [But] taking positions – on the quality of evidence used to support interpretations, on the reliability of certain methods of investigation, on the premises of the writers of texts and textbooks, on the ethical issues – is part of the scholar’s job, part of what makes her a compelling and inspiring teacher., Moreover, those positions are not neutrally arrived at by, say, balancing all sides until an objective emerges; rather they are the result of some kind of deeply held political or ethical commitment on the part of the professor. . . . (4)

And so: Should a teacher strive to be a blank slate? The answer, of course, is no, both because it is impossible (for the reasons already given) and because, since it is impossible, the pretense of neutrality is an act of dishonesty.

Indeed, even if it was NOT both impossible and dishonest to maintain a pretense of disinterestedness and/or agnosticism, it would still be undesirable to do so. For as the first “Declaration of Principles of the American Association of University Professors” (AAUP) in 1915 pointed out:

It is clear . . . that [the student’s] confidence [in the intellectual integrity of the teacher] will be impaired if there is suspicion on the part of the student that the teacher is not expressing himself fully or frankly, or that college and university teachers in general are a repressed and intimidated class who dare not speak with that candor and courage which youth always demands in those whom it is to esteem. . . . There must be in the mind of the teacher no mental reservations. He must give the student the best of what he has and what he is. (5)

Or, as one author recently put it:  ”The teacher who takes pride in never revealing his or her ‘opinions’ to students models for them moral apathy. . .”  (6)

Going further, I would insist that such a teacher is both manipulative and cynical.

So, O.K. If it is agreed that teachers must, willy-nilly, provide interpretations; and that they ought not perform a pretense of ‘neutrality;’ should they still avoid teaching “controversial” subjects, when such subjects are likely to make some of their students ‘uncomfortable?’

‘Controversial’ is a slippery and relative term. Do we mean by ‘controversial’ subjects those which are unsettled in the culture at large- or merely in the “culture” of the school in which they are taught?

Indeed, when and why does a subject become “controversial” and when and why does it cease being so? Do we consider a subject “controversial” when there are strong differences of opinion about it amongst the population at large or only amongst professional academics? Is, for example,  Darwinian evolution “controversial?” Global warming?  Transgender rights?

Because there is currently a “consensus” about the virtue of the prolonged struggle to abolish South African apartheid has this subject ceased being “controversial” and become incontrovertible? Should a teacher have refrained from professing admiration or “solidarity” with Nelson Mandela’s banned African National Congress in 1982 (when the Reagan administration was busy pursuing ‘constructive engagement’ with the apartheid regime and was actively supporting white South African forces in Angola, Mozambique and Namibia) but she may freely do so now, in the “enlightened” climate of 2016?

And, by the way, is making students “uncomfortable” necessarily a bad thing? “Great teachers,” writes Jonathan Cole,

challenge their students’ and colleagues’ biases and presuppositions. . . . In this process, students and professors may sometimes feel intimidated, overwhelmed and confused. But it is by working through this process that they learn to think better and more clearly for themselves. . . . For one student, a professor’s ideas may represent repugnant stereotypes or efforts at intimidation; for another, the same ideas may represent profound challenges to ostensibly settled issues. . . . (7)

By now some of you are wondering (perhaps with irritation):  If historical “objectivity” is a chimera and interpretation inevitable; if “balance” is meaningless and teacherly “neutrality” impossible, undesirable and unethical; what the heck ARE the academic responsibilities of teachers? Do they have any? Or may they just freely spout their prejudices and blithely seek to brainwash their students?

The answer is: Teachers do indeed have professional and ethical responsibilities. They are relatively simple and straightforward.

Here is my list of them:

(i) In making the interpretations that subsequently inform their syllabi history teachers are obliged to remain faithful to the evidence (such that it is) and strenuously resist the temptation to belittle or otherwise ignore evidence or arguments that contradict their own hypotheses and interpretations.

(ii) In orchestrating their classroom discussions teachers must never knowingly withhold evidence from students which might seriously undermine the teacher’s interpretations.

(iii) To quote David Bromwich:  “It is . . . an abuse of academic freedom for a teacher to mark down or rule out arguments that are well reasoned and supported by good evidence but that the teacher dislikes. To use the authority of the classroom in this way is to exercise a kind of censorship that weakens education. . . . “ (8)

(iv) Teachers are obliged to give a reasonably respectful hearing to their students’ interpretations and opinions (no matter how erroneous or objectionable they might be). This is, simply, to say that teachers should exercise the same degree of courtesy, sensitivity and empathy towards their students that they exhibit towards all those other people with whom they have entered into relationships of care and trust.

(v) History teachers are obliged to contextualize their subjects and to make sense of why people might have acted as they did and how such people justified their actions to themselves and to others. It is, thus, crucial that teachers help students see why people became Nazis; or how slavery and racist institutions were (and are) justified and/or tolerated in the United States; and why some Americans might be attracted to the candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

(vi) Teachers are obligated to clearly indicate which of their own interpretations have been, or still are, vigorously challenged by other reputable history teachers or scholars and to suggest reasons why such differences of opinion may have existed or may still exist.

But note: the point here is not to introduce other views simply for the sake or presenting them, or to provide ‘balance-for-balance’s sake. Rather, the reason is to enrich understanding by indicating what has been or still is “in serious dispute” (“seriousness” being a judgment made by the teacher) and to hazard interpretations about what these disputes have been or still are  “about,” especially since they are almost never about the “facts” themselves.  For as Keith Jenkins remarks, it is rarely

a matter of the facts per se, but the weight, position, combination and significance they carry vis-a-vis each each other in the construction of explanations that is at issue. . . . [A]ll facts to be meaningful need embedding in interpretive readings that obviously contain them but which do not simply somehow arise from them . . . . (9)

Lastly: (vii) The teacher of history has an obligation to respect complexity and eschew crude moralizing. History is not a collection of Aesop’s fables and it is not a comic book. Though I infinitely prefer left-wing comic books to right-wing ones, a comic book is still a comic book, and it is both intellectually and ethically irresponsible to reduce the past to a narrative of noble victims and cruel victimizers, of glorious heroes and snarling villains. While it thus may be emotionally satisfying for the teacher to replace George Washington with Crispus Attucks, Teddy Roosevelt with Geronimo, and Franklin Roosevelt with Rosie the Riveter on a newly-chiseled People’s Mount Rushmore, he or she should forego such satisfaction. Simple-minded history is bad history. Bad for students and, I believe, bad for the cause of human rights and social justice.

And so, finally:  How does all this apply to the way I teach Israel-Palestine at the Riverdale Country School?

To begin with some background.

Though my understandings have changed over the years with regard to particular aspects of this subject my overall orientation has remained more-or-less consistent: I am profoundly critical of the mainstream Israeli account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, indeed, of the Zionist project in Palestine as a whole. My thinking about the conflict has been shaped by the Jewish-Israeli school of so-called “New Historians” which emerged during the late 1980s and whose disciples are still going strong; by the small but courageous band of Israeli journalists who have fearlessly reported on the deceit and the brutality of the ongoing occupation and the steady drift to the right of the Jewish Israeli populace; by the writings of those brilliant and penetrating Palestinians who have eloquently and insightfully chronicled both their own lives and the experiences of the Palestinian people, in exile and under occupation; and by my own brief, but extraordinarily edifying, visits to East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

As for the way I teach my course:

From day one, I am completely up-front with the students about the fact that my treatment of the subject will be a relentlessly questioning and critical one; and that the way the subject will be formulated, the interpretations on offer, and the selection of readings and discussion topics will reflect my own considered understandings about relevance and significance. I additionally point out that my procedures in this regard are no different than in my other history courses.

I also make clear to my students, both at the beginning of the course and later on, that though I hold strong, even passionate,  views about some our subjects, I will make every effort to indicate what those views are, why I hold them and why, if they are “controversial,” other people do not.

I likewise make clear to my students that not only are they free to disagree or challenge my interpretations (or the conclusions reached by the various assigned authors), but that they are encouraged to do so, both because these challenges oblige me to re-consider my own conclusions and because their critical skepticism and scrutiny will more firmly ground their own ultimate conclusions.

I also, however, make clear to students on day one that if they are so invested in the dominant narrative of the State of Israel (a narrative often uncritically accepted by their parents, relatives and rabbis) that they cannot bear to hear this narrative interrogated and (sometimes harshly) critiqued, that they should consider dropping the course (which is, after all, an elective one).

In constructing the course syllabus I am guided, with as much self-awareness and self-criticism as I can muster, by a desire to provide accounts which are accurate, fair, persuasively argued and non-polemical. Which, of course, is not to say that they must be “moderate,” “centrist” or ethically vacuous.

On those (not infrequent) occasions when I am myself undecided as between differing understandings of significant events, I present a range of interpretations and encourage students to come to their own conclusions. The most obvious – and most important – such subject involves what the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba of 1948 (the “catastrophe”), when roughly 750,000 Palestinians left what was to become the State of Israel, took refuge in the adjacent states of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and an enlarged Jordan, and became refugees, a status they retain today, almost 68 years later. While the debate over why these people left their homes has, in recent years, mercifully entered a somewhat less vitriolic and contentious phase, there still exist important disagreements about whether the exodus (which in most instances involved moving only a few kilometers) was a consequence of a Zionist ‘master plan’ of ethnic cleansing or was a more complicated phenomenon. temporally, geographically, sociologically and psychologically.

On this subject I am content to provide students with a nuanced and multi-dimensional interpretation, though I am insistent on pointing out that whatever the various reasons for the Palestinians’ flight, the Israeli decision (already taken during 1948) to prohibit their return, in spite of UN urging and instruction, was the decisive turning point. I consequently require them to consider whether this decision was ethically justifiable and, relatedly, to consider whether the events and the outcomes of 1948 were arguably inherent in the logic of the mainstream Zionist project from the very beginning.

Among the many other subjects about which students are encouraged to sort out conflicting interpretations I might mention the following: (a) Does it make sense to call Israel a “colonial-settler state?”; (b) What were the British motives in issuing the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and in assuming the Mandate for Palestine in 1922?; (c) Was it reasonable to assume that the Palestinians would accept the partition of the British mandate in 1938 (as recommended by the Peel Commission) or in 1947 (as recommended by the United Nations General Assembly)? (d) What was (and is) the reason for the continual growth of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank? (e) Why did the Rabin government and the PLO leadership each accept the Oslo Accords of 1993?; (e) What happened at Camp David in 2000?; (f) How sensible, strategic and ethical has the Palestinian leadership been since 1967 – and what “responsibility,” if any, should it bear for the failure to secure a just resolution of the conflict?

And so on.

The experience of teaching the subject of Israel-Palestine at Riverdale is, in certain crucial respects, altogether different than the experience of teaching any other subject. This is not, I hasten to say, because the subject is any more complicated, or difficult to research, or more ethically elusive than other subjects.

It is, rather, because there exists at Riverdale, and in the culture at large, assertive, influential and highly emotional supporters of Israel and of pretty much everything it does and has done, who are hell-bent on stifling precisely the sort of academic investigation that is commonplace and unexceptional in pretty much every other academic-intellectual realm.

Examples of the heavy-handed (not to also say, thuggish) attempts by these people to create a special academic “exception” for Israel are legion. Many or most of these efforts are accompanied by accusations of anti-Semitism directed at the “unauthorized” critics of Israel (or, in the case of alleged Jewish malefactors, accusations of ‘self-hatred’). As the international relations scholar John Mearsheimer has noted with respect to universities:

Smearing outspoken professors is not merely designed to silence or marginalize them. It also has a powerful deterrent effect. Specifically, it sends a clear message to other scholars who might be inclined to criticize Israel of American policy toward Israel that if they speak out, the lobby will make a concerted effort to damage their reputations and marginalize them within and outside the academy.  (10)

My own experience at Riverdale has not been without incident.  When, some years ago, several particularly obnoxious parents (whose children, by the way, weren’t even in my class) harassed the school administration about my teaching, they received a mixed response. On the one hand, the then-headmaster did nothing to interfere with my teaching of the course; yet at the same time he leaned over backward to appease the malcontents by urging me to allow speakers – of their choosing – into my classroom.

The problem, of course, is that, as Mearsheimer suggests, the constant specter of harassment or public smearing does, in fact, have a ‘chilling effect’ on teaching. What teacher, after all, wants to take on the Israel Lobby and its local minions?In particular, what non-Jewish Riverdale teacher would want to wade into this hornet’s nest, knowing that unless he teaches the Zionist party line about Israel they may very well be accused of anti-Semitism?

Switching gears, I want to pose one final question before concluding. It is: How should a teacher reconcile out-of-school activism with classroom professionalism? How ought she ethically navigate the borders between these two separate spheres?

It is obvious to me that I should never require students to join me in an out-of-school political demonstration (e.g., on a picket line). It is likewise obvious that I should never require students to attend out of school meetings, lectures or performances where only one emphatic point of view is on offer, though I have not thought it inappropriate to suggest they attend (as I did last year when several students joined me at Columbia University to listen to the Israeli-Palestinian firebrand MK Haneen Zoabi, or when a number of them accompanied me to an off-off Broadway production of the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie). When, however,  a range of viewpoints, albeit most falling on the ostensibly ‘liberal‘ side of the Israeli political spectrum, was on offer, as it was in December at the all-day conference sponsored by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, I felt confident about “strongly urging” my students to attend (as they did). And when an individual student expressed interest in participating in a partisan out-of-school activity, I privately invited her to attend a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions meeting, sponsored by the Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization I enthusiastically support.

Parsing the distinctions between these various activities is a manifestly difficult matter and so, therefore, is reconciling the relationship between the teacher-in-the-classroom and the teacher-as-social activist.. Whenever I ponder this subject, however, I am reminded that, long-long ago, my own first political actions – picketing a Woolworth store to protest the company’s policy of segregation in the South and committing civil disobedience by refusing to take shelter during a compulsory city-wide air-raid alert in order to protest the government-promoted idea that nuclear war was survivable-  were encouraged and actively supported by certain of my high school teachers. Decades later, I continue vividly to recall those occasions and those teachers. I am proud to have known them and am grateful to my high school for permitting them to “cross the line” between the classroom and the wider world. The actions they sanctioned and the principles they embodied were an important, indeed an indispensable, part of my education. They helped put me on a path I still seek to follow.

Notes

  1. David Bromwich, “Academic Freedom and Its Opponents,” in Akeel Bilgrami & Jonathan R. Cole, eds., Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom? New York: Columbia University Press, 2015, p.30.
  2. Akeel Bilgrami, “Truth, Balance, and Freedom,” in ibid., pp.16, 23.
  3. Jonathan Cole, “Academic Freedom Under Fire,” in ibid., p.53.
  4. Joan W. Scott, “Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom,” in ibid., p.78.
  5. Quoted in ibid., p.63.
  6. M. Knopf-Newman, The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans: Addressing Pedagogical Strategies. London: Palgrave Macmillan; 2011 edition, p. 10.
  7. Cole, op. cit., pp. 50, 54.
  8. Bromwich, op. cit., p.29.
  9. Keith Jenkins, Re-Thinking History.  London: Routledge, 1991, p.33.
  10. John Mearsheimer, “Israel and Academic Freedom,” in Bilgrami & Cole, op. cit., p.320.
About Joel Doerfler

Joel Doerfler teaches history (including a course on Israel-Palestine) at the Riverdale Country School, an independent school in the Bronx, N.Y.

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74 Responses

  1. jon s
    April 12, 2016, 5:17 pm

    Compliments to Joel Doerfler -and to Mondoweiss- for one of the most thoughtful essays I’ve ever read here.
    As a high school History teacher, in Israel, there’s a lot I can relate to and agree with, particularly in regard to teaching the conflict and other topics in which I have my own strong opinions. I’ve found that it’s best to be honest with the students whenever I see fit to express my personal opinion. I’ll usually say that in this point I’m expressing my opinion, and it’s ok to disagree, if you do so respectfully and base your argument on the historic record. There are some teachers who pride themselves in being “balanced” and “objective” , who boast that the kids have no idea as to the teacher’s views. I think that such teachers are not doing their job properly, they are not even setting a good example.
    There are some moral dilemmas: when the Min. of Ed.’s guidelines are in conflict with my personal opinions and with my professional judgement; when students express extremist and racist standpoints; where is the line between teaching and indoctrination…and more.

    • Mooser
      April 12, 2016, 5:50 pm

      ” I’ve found that it’s best to be honest with the students whenever I see fit to express my personal opinion.”

      “Whenever I see fit to express my own opinion?” But normally you hew to the party line?

      So tell us, “Jon s” all that stuff about the “historic homeland” is that the party line or your “personal opinion”? But that’s right, there’s no facts, only competing narratives?

      And if kids end up doing criminal or atrocious things because of the absurdities you fill them with, is that a problem?

    • Mooser
      April 12, 2016, 5:54 pm

      ” when students express extremist and racist standpoints; where is the line between teaching and indoctrination”

      Oh please, “Jon s” you know exactly where that line is. It’s drawn, thick and red, exactly at the point where you might have to disabuse them of their extremist and racist standpoints

      At that point, you would be “indoctrinating” them, according to the perverted Israeli educational ethic. You’re trying to hide that with fancy double-talk.

    • talknic
      April 13, 2016, 12:33 pm

      @ jon s April 12, 2016, 5:17 pm

      “As a high school History teacher, in Israel”

      When and by what legal means did Be’er Sheba become Israeli territory? Link to a copy of the agreement please ….thx … I’ll wait

      • talknic
        April 19, 2016, 6:27 pm

        And wait …..

    • jon s
      April 13, 2016, 3:22 pm

      An additional note: I also teach a course on the 2nd temple period, in which I can clearly illustrate the danger of messianic extremism. Sometimes it may be easier for a teacher to make that kind of point when teaching a course which is ostensibly far removed from today’s realities.

      • oldgeezer
        April 17, 2016, 3:08 pm

        @jon s

        I personally don’t believe you will ever enjoy any significant degree of peace without some measure of justice and accountability.

        It is merely a theoretical debate in any event as zionists have shown thru the years and their government that they do not desire peace as much as they desire territorial acquisition and the removal of those they deem to be non Jewish. It is a criminal racist endeavour and it is not about to change it’s spots. Regardless of whether that is in relation to the West Bank, Gaza, Golan and within the next few years Southern Lebanon.

      • hophmi
        April 18, 2016, 9:44 am

        Yes, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who was a religious Jew, said Judaism “practically died” 200 years ago. OK. Avnery loves to use that quote (and white supremacists love to repeat it). It’s hearsay from a man with a fantastic imagination, but if it is accurate, it’s interesting coming from a Jew who lived in Israel as a religious Jew, along with millions of other religious Jews. It’s also incredibly silly. There’s a great deal that unites Jews other than the Holocaust; culture, ritual, history – but of course, the white supremacist community is obsessed with the Holocaust, and thinks that Jews use the Holocaust to keep them down, so they actually take hyperbolic alleged statement like this for their literal meaning.

      • MHughes976
        April 19, 2016, 4:57 am

        The argument 1. ‘Every person,, for instance a Turk or a Japanese, has the right to insist on living in a sovereign state where the relevant group is the majority, but only at limited and bearable cost to others’ 2. Jews are persons 3. Therefore Jews have the right…’ Is a valid argument, though I consider the first premise, even with its modest wording, mistaken and dangerous. However, it is not at all clear that it legitimises the actual behaviour of Israel, which has imposed so many costs on others – and there are serious questions about Turkey and Japan as well. Not that Western nations are all that righteous.
        If you modified premise 1. to say ‘even at unlimited cost to others’ the proposition might justify Israeli behaviour but would be even more horrible and absurd. Why do we keep on hearing this stuff?

    • amigo
      April 13, 2016, 4:13 pm

      ” I’ve found that it’s best to be honest with the students whenever I see fit to express my personal opinion. I’ll usually say that in this point I’m expressing my opinion, and it’s ok to disagree, if you do so respectfully and base your argument on the historic record.”Jon s

      Whose historic record.

      • Mooser
        April 13, 2016, 4:29 pm

        “amigo” this is amazing.
        I’ve never before seen a teacher brag about using sophistry on young minds to advance the illegal interests of the Israeli state.
        He is bragging about deliberately confusing them and evading issues, and oh yes, history.

        And we’re supposed to count “Jon s” freely admitted cowardice as a pedagogical plus? Because he isn’t expressing his own “personal opinion” and “indoctrinating” the students?

        Now, where else have we seen teachers and professors reason like that?

      • jon s
        April 13, 2016, 4:30 pm

        amigo, What I meant is that the student should make his point based on the historic facts and his or her interpretation of those facts.

      • Mooser
        April 13, 2016, 4:37 pm

        “Whose historic record.”

        “amigo”, our “Jon s” is a history teacher. He knows there is only one “historic record” the rest are only “competing narratives”.

        “As an Israeli I’ve made an effort to see and hear and listen to the Palestinian narrative, to try to understand “the other side”. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/jon-s/?keyword=narrative%25#sthash.Nb1Pppnx.dpuf

        No Palestinian “historical record”, of course, just Palestinian “narrative”.

        “I’m the one in line with mainstream , conventional, historical accounts. If anyone has some “alternative” narrative – they need to provide proof.” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/jon-/?keyword=narrative%25#sthash.Nb1Pppnx.dpuf

        He uses a very crude sophistry. But it adds up to teaching what he’s told too. And it’s pretty much conventional right-wing Zionism and its historiography.

      • amigo
        April 13, 2016, 5:17 pm

        “amigo, What I meant is that the student should make his point based on the historic facts and his or her interpretation of those facts.” Jon s

        You just used different words to repeat yourself.

        Now let me repeat myself.

        What historic facts.It is a pretty simple question.Why are you struggling to come up with an answer.

      • amigo
        April 13, 2016, 5:26 pm

        “amigo” this is amazing.” Mooser

        You have to give Jon s , full marks for tenacity .

      • Mooser
        April 13, 2016, 5:58 pm

        “You have to give Jon s , full marks for tenacity” .

        Even in the face of terrorist attack-ack-ack, “Jon s” knows the duties of a historian:

        “Terrorist attack in Beersheva this evening.
        My family and I are ok, thank God.”
        – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/jon-s/?keyword=terrorist+attack#sthash.K5jswheP.dpuf

      • Mooser
        April 13, 2016, 6:13 pm

        “What I meant is that the student should make his point based on the historic facts and his or her interpretation of those facts”

        Sure, “Jon s”, that’s just what every young person growing up in an illegal settlement or in “Israel” has the time and resources to do. And it’s not as if religious figures will have any influence, either, facts or no? And it’s not like Jewish state propaganda will influence them. Or their parents.

        But I understand, “Jon s”, can’t have these kids becoming refuseniks can we? Who would protect Beershava from “terrorist attack”?

        (Uh, “Jon s” BTW, don’t you need to explain the special Zionist capacity for objectivity and disinterestedness in the face of overwhelming self-interest [not to even mention fear and the rest]?
        Unless people understand our superhuman capabilities in that area, you can sound a little ridiculous, you know?)

      • eljay
        April 13, 2016, 7:02 pm

        || amigo: … Now let me repeat myself.

        What historic facts.It is a pretty simple question. … ||

        In much the same way that jon s has avoided the notion of peace in I-P being founded on justice, accountability and equality by arguing that there’s no such thing as “perfect justice” (an approach one or two of his co-collectivists have also used), my money is on jon s dodging your question by asserting that there’s no such thing as “perfect historical facts” or a “perfect historical record”.

      • jon s
        April 14, 2016, 10:44 am

        amigo,
        I generally don’t go for any conspiracy-theory-type alternatives . I mean the conventional historical facts that can be found in any mainstream history textbook and historical atlas.
        For example : if I pose a question like this: “Should we consider Herod to have been King over the Jews or a Jewish king? ” Obviously, there’s no “correct” answer but I would like to see the students base their answers on the record: Herod’s background, status, actions, and how he was seen by his contemporaries.

      • jon s
        April 14, 2016, 10:53 am

        eljay,
        I stand by my position that both sides should focus on the goal of achieving peace, a fair, realistic, reasonable , agreement that both sides can live with, rather than striving for some abstract concept of “justice”.

      • eljay
        April 14, 2016, 11:03 am

        || jon s: eljay, I stand by my position that both sides should focus on the goal of achieving peace, a fair, realistic, reasonable , agreement that both sides can live with, rather than striving for some abstract concept of “justice”. ||

        No need to strive for an “abstract concept” of justice. Take existing international laws, apply them to the I-P situation, hold all criminals accountable for their past and on-going (war) crimes and uphold equality in a one- or two-state solution.

        You Zio-supremacists despise the idea of justice, accountability and equality in I-P because:
        – you will rightly lose both your ill-gotten gains and your supremacist standing; and
        – your (war) criminals will rightly lose their freedom.

      • talknic
        April 14, 2016, 11:56 am

        @ jon s April 14, 2016, 10:53 am

        “I stand by my position that both sides should focus on the goal of achieving peace, a fair, realistic, reasonable , agreement that both sides can live with”

        Interesting. How do you suggest they reach such a goal when one side steadfastly refuses to adhere to the law and the agreements it has made?

      • Mooser
        April 14, 2016, 4:46 pm

        “I stand by my position…”

        Your position that you can be as intransigent as you want until you step on a plane for the good ol’ US of A? You aren’t even a sabra are you?

      • jon s
        April 15, 2016, 3:42 am

        eljay,
        Do you realize that the “accountability” that you’re talking about would also entail the prosecution of much of the Palestinian leadership (the entire Hamas leadership and, possibly part of the PA authorities) for war crimes and terrorism?
        Much as history is important to me, I really think that our focus should be on the present and the future and not on settling past accounts.

      • tod77
        April 15, 2016, 6:11 am

        I might be missing the history you all have together here as I’m not as active as you, but Jon’s comment was complimenting the article and agreeing with the major points.
        What’s all the comment-bickering about?

        I don’t think there’s a dispute about most historic facts. I think the narratives on both sides simply emphasize different facts and differ on the interpretation or importance of those facts.
        (for example, there is no dispute that the bible says that the Israel was promised to the jews – some will claim this gives zionists a right to live in the land. others will claim this does not).

        Mooser \ amigo – I have the feeling you and Jon agree on the same historic facts.

      • eljay
        April 15, 2016, 7:12 am

        || jon s: eljay, Do you realize that the “accountability” that you’re talking about would also entail the prosecution of much of the Palestinian leadership … for war crimes and terrorism? … ||

        No sh*t, Sherlock. I don’t recall ever saying that Palestinians should be exempt from the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality.

        || … Much as history is important to me, I really think that our focus should be on the present and the future and not on settling past accounts. ||

        Given that you, your fellow Zio-supremacists and your colonialist and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” project have the most to lose, it’s no surprise at all that you want to avoid resolving I-P by means of justice, accountability and equality.

      • talknic
        April 15, 2016, 7:19 am

        @ jon s April 15, 2016, 3:42 am

        “Do you realize that the “accountability” that you’re talking about would also entail the prosecution of much of the Palestinian leadership (the entire Hamas leadership and, possibly part of the PA authorities) for war crimes and terrorism?”

        What’s stopping Israel from pursuing that avenue now?

        “Much as history is important to me, I really think that our focus should be on the present and the future and not on settling past accounts”

        Hypothetical – Thief steal jon’s home. Jon his wife and children are homeless. Jon’s focus is on, along with his family, making life as comfortable as possible living under a tarpaulin. Thief has a home, jon’s home. Jon’s is happy with this outcome.

        Meanwhile back in the real world, in the ‘present’ Israel continues stealing territory and bulldozing the homes of non-Jews leaving their ‘future’ rather bleak. Jon’s has a home in non-Israeli territory. Jon’s is happy with this.

      • Sibiriak
        April 15, 2016, 7:42 am

        tod77 I don’t think there’s a dispute about most historic facts.
        ——————–

        You’ve got to be joking.

        …for example, there is no dispute that the bible says that the Israel was promised to the jews

        Even that is highly disputed. First, what do mean “Israel” was promised? What are the supposed boundaries of Promised Land? Must “the Promised Land’ even be interpreted in a physical sense?

        Second, what was the nature of the promise? If the land could be lost to Jews in the past, and be held by non-Jews for centuries, what does the “promise” actually guarantee?

        Wikipedia:

        Commentators have noted several problems with this promise and related ones:

        {…]2. There is nothing in the promise to indicate God intended it be applied to Abraham’s physical descendants unconditionally, exclusively (to nobody but these descendants), exhaustively (to all of them) or in perpetuity.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promised_Land

        Third, who are the beneficiaries of the promise?

        Wikipedia

        Mainstream Jewish tradition regards the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as having been given to all Jews, including proselytes and in turn their descendants,[18] with the traditional view being that a convert becomes a child of Abraham, as in the term “ben Avraham.”

        Christian interpretation

        In the New Testament, the descent and promise is reinterpreted along religious lines.[19] In the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul the Apostle draws attention to the formulation of the promise, avoiding the term “seeds” in plural (meaning many people), choosing instead “seed,” meaning one person, who, he understands to be Jesus (and those united with him). For example, in Galatians 3:16 he notes:

        “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.”

        In Galatians 3:28-29 Paul goes further, noting that the expansion of the promise from singular to the plural is not based on genetic/physical association, but a spiritual/religious one:

        “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” [2]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promised_Land

        So, in many cases . the line between “facts” and “interpretation of facts” may not be so clear and obvious as you suggest.

        (And no, I don’t give any weight whatsoever –legal or moral– to Biblical promises.)

      • eljay
        April 15, 2016, 7:44 am

        || talknic: … Jon’s is happy with this. ||

        jon s says he doesn’t believe in justice, accountability and equality, which he derisively dismisses as an “abstract concept”, “perfect justice” (whatever that means) and a “settling of accounts”.

        So, if someone were to steal his house, set his children on fire and rape and kill his wife, he’d shrug his shoulders and “focus on the future”. Good for him.

        But his willingness to live with injustice doesn’t absolve Zio-supremacists like him of the (war) crimes they’ve been committing intentionally and with impunity against non-Jews for decades.

      • Mooser
        April 15, 2016, 1:14 pm

        “Do you realize that the…”

        ..discussion started out concerning teaching. But you have pretty much exposed your pedagogical method, and I must say, it sounds like a formula for successful fungiculture.

      • Mooser
        April 15, 2016, 1:23 pm

        “Much as history is important to me, I really think that our focus should be on the present and the future and not on settling past accounts.” “Jon s”

        As much as I would love to ask “Jon s” if something about being Jewish exempts us from “settling past accounts”, but, since it is a common antisemitic trope that Jews cheat and don’t pay debts, I can’t bring it up. So I won’t.

        (Once again, in the strange delusions of grandeur that afflict Zionists, “Jon s” confuses the prerogatives of an amoral power with religious tolerance, or something.)

      • tod77
        April 15, 2016, 2:44 pm

        sibiriac – “even that is highly disputed”.
        You gave proof to the exact point I was trying to make.
        the fact is that there is a verse in the bible that says:”bla bla bla jews…bla bla bla… promised land” (forgive me – can’t be bothered to look it up)
        that is a fact.
        You gave super examples as to how that fact can be interpreted.
        A similar example could be the ethnic cleansing of palestinian arabs during 1948. It is an undisputed fact that many were expelled from their villages. What is disputed is the importance of this and the interpretation of the events.
        2 teachers can each tell their students about these expulsions and describe the historically indisputed events that took place. A zionist teacher might downplay the importance of those events and focus on other events that happened during 1948.
        Others might focus on these as being a crucial part of the negative aspects of zionism.

        I personally think that history teachers should be very clear on what are the indisputed facts, what are opinions and what the opposing opinions are. I agree with the article that teachers should not hide their own personal opinions.

      • jon s
        April 16, 2016, 4:16 pm

        tod77,
        Regarding the “promise” which you didn’t want to bother to look up, there are several such promises and prophesies. One of the best known is in Genesis (15:18):

        “On that day, the Lord formed a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt until the great river, the Euphrates river…”

        What right-wing religious fudamentalists tend to ignore is the implication that if the land can be given by God, it can also be taken away.

      • jon s
        April 16, 2016, 4:35 pm

        eljay,
        In your second-to-last comment you seemed to agree that “accountability” should be applied to the Palestinians as well. Yet in your last comment you once again refer only to those you call “zio-supremacists”.

        In any case, I’m convinced that the road to such “accountability” and “justice” would be paved with graves. Accountability will be nothing but a cycle of retribution and vengeance , more bloodshed and tears, on both sides. Much better to pursue peace.

      • Mooser
        April 16, 2016, 5:06 pm

        “One of the best known is in Genesis (15:18):”

        But nothing has happened between the Jews and God since Genesis.

        I always get a kick when a Zionist reads the Bible like certain Christians do, as if each line is inerrant. As far as I know, things were pretty good between God and us during Genesis, but changed later. Didn’t they?

        I know, “Jons” we were ‘crucified’ by the Holocaust and now we are resurrected by Israel ? Wanna try that one?

      • Mooser
        April 16, 2016, 5:11 pm

        “In your second…/…pursue peace.

        Shorter “Jon s”: ‘If the Palestinians try to take anything back, we will do something really horrible. You just better leave well enough alone’

      • eljay
        April 16, 2016, 5:53 pm

        || jon s: eljay,
        In your second-to-last comment you seemed to agree that “accountability” should be applied to the Palestinians as well. Yet in your last comment you once again refer only to those you call “zio-supremacists”. … ||

        I don’t know if you’re just playing dumb again, but I’ve stated numerous times that justice, accountability and equality – and not just accountability – should be applied both universally and consistently. That means to everyone, everywhere, all the time.

        || … In any case, I’m convinced that the road to such “accountability” and “justice” would be paved with graves. … ||

        I’m not convinced that it will be “paved with graves”. Unless, of course, you’re going to do your best to make it so.

        || … Accountability will be nothing but a cycle of retribution and vengeance , more bloodshed and tears, on both sides. … ||

        Except that it doesn’t have to be. Unless, of course, you’re going to do your best to make it so.

        || … Much better to pursue peace. ||

        Much better for you Zio-supremacists, no doubt, because:
        – you get to keep most of what you’ve stolen;
        – you get absolution for most (if not all) of your (war) crimes and your responsibilities under international law (including RoR of refugees); and
        – Israel gets to remain a religion-supremacist state.

      • Keith
        April 17, 2016, 12:06 am

        MOOSER- “I know, “Jons” we were ‘crucified’ by the Holocaust and now we are resurrected by Israel ?”

        Was it Jon S that said that? At the time, I stayed out of the exchange, however, now I want to express support for that analogy. Hate me if you will (a lot do ) but I tend to agree with the analogy. It accurately encapsulates the essence of the Holocaust religion which underpins Zionism. Seriously. If you think about it, for many (most?) Zionists, Israel represents salvation/heaven, and as such takes on a metaphysical dimension. For most American Jews, Israel is a symbol totally divorced from the reality of actual Israel. They simply can’t conceive of Israel as an oppressive, militaristic, racist society. Zionists neither doubt nor denigrate heaven.

      • Mooser
        April 17, 2016, 11:01 am

        “Was it Jon S that said that?”

        No, I don’t think so.

        “Hate me if you will (a lot do ) but I tend to agree with the analogy.”

        You can think of it that way. It’s no rhinoplasty to me.

      • jon s
        April 17, 2016, 2:37 pm

        eljay,
        I didn’t mention “equality” in my comments because I don’t think it’s in dispute between us that all people should enjoy equal rights.
        As to “justice” and “accountability” -that’s where we differ, since I think that the priority should be pursuing peace.

      • jon s
        April 17, 2016, 2:42 pm

        Keith,
        “Crucified…resurrected…” – I never wrote any such thing.

        One of the problems with your comment is that Zionism pre-dates the Holocaust.

      • Mooser
        April 17, 2016, 3:00 pm

        “As to “justice” and “accountability” -that’s where we differ, since I think that the priority should be pursuing peace. “

        Well than “Jon s” if “justice” and “accountability” are out all you have to do is kill or drive away all the Palestinians, and you will have your “peace”

        That is what you, in your typically phoney way, are threatening. If the Palestinians demand “justice” and “accountability” you’ll give them peace, all right.

        And yup, “Jon s” this is just what Jewish people all over the world have been waiting for, a chance to do, support a genocide, on behalf on “Jon s”.

        And if that is unsuccessful, and you can’t live in an exclusive ghettoed community, you’ll jump on a plane back to the US.

        I’m tired of not saying it directly. Zionists are enemies of the Jews. Zionism must be destroyed if Judaism is to survive.

        If there’s no achievable “justice” or “accountability” where do the “equal rights come from”? Why do you think you are fooling anyone, “Jon s”?

      • eljay
        April 17, 2016, 6:52 pm

        || jon s: eljay,
        I didn’t mention “equality” in my comments because I don’t think it’s in dispute between us that all people should enjoy equal rights. … ||

        I believe that all states should be the secular and democratic states of and for all of their respective citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally.

        You may agree with me in some or perhaps even most cases, but when it comes to Israel you have made it clear that you believe it should be a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” – a state primarily of and for Israelis and non-Israelis who:
        – have undergone a religious conversion to Judaism; or
        – are descended from someone who underwent a religious conversion to Judaism.

        So, yes, it is in dispute.

        || … As to “justice” and “accountability” -that’s where we differ, since I think that the priority should be pursuing peace. ||

        I know you do, because it means:
        – you get to keep most of what you’ve stolen;
        – you get absolution for most (if not all) of your (war) crimes and your responsibilities under international law (including RoR of refugees); and
        – Israel gets to remain a religion-supremacist state.

      • Keith
        April 17, 2016, 7:42 pm

        JON S- “One of the problems with your comment is that Zionism pre-dates the Holocaust.”

        Yes, but Zionism has changed over time as it abandoned its secular roots to become increasingly Jewish. Part of the change involved the strong emphasis on the Holocaust and eternal and irrational Gentile anti-Semitism which was strongly promoted by the Holocaust Industry (Finkelstein) following the 1967 Six Day War. A quote for you.

        “Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago, and that the only thing that unites all Jews now is the Holocaust.” (Uri Avnery).

      • Mooser
        April 17, 2016, 8:29 pm

        “Much better for you Zio-supremacists, no doubt, because:
        – you get to keep most of what you’ve stolen;
        – you get absolution for most (if not all) of your (war) crimes and your responsibilities under international law (including RoR of refugees); and
        – Israel gets to remain a religion-supremacist state.”

        And the most hysterical thing is that “Jon s” keeps on insisting that he is some kind of disinterested, objective analyst, with (ROTFLMSJAO!) everybody’s best interests in mind! Sure, “Jon s” your conclusions are never, ever self-serving.

        And if “Jon s” doesn’t express any violent antipathy to the Palestinians, that obviates responsibility for all the Zionists have done up til now, and are doing now. What a farce. Like something designed to fool children.

      • jon s
        April 18, 2016, 2:52 pm

        eljay,
        “Equality” also means that Jews have equal rights, including the right to maintain a nation-state, same as other nations. .

      • jon s
        April 18, 2016, 3:15 pm

        eljay,(continuing previous comment, I got interrupted…)

        If the Japanese can have a Japanese state, and the Turks can have a Turkish state, and so forth, why can’t the Jews have a Jewish state?
        As to your preference for secular states, the reality here in the region is that all the states, not just Israel have a marked religious identity, The Palestinians themselves intend to establish an Islamic state. Yet it seems to me that it’s only the one Jewish state that bothers you.

      • eljay
        April 18, 2016, 3:15 pm

        || jon s: eljay, “Equality” also means that Jews have equal rights, including the right to maintain a nation-state, same as other nations. ||

        Citizens of countries around the world – be they straight, gay, white, Jewish, Wiccans, Muslims, Toronto Maple Leafs fans, etc. – have the same rights as every other citizen of their respective countries. If they don’t, they should.

        That right of equality does not entitle any of those groups (“nations”) to any kind of supremacist state (“Gay State”, “White State”, “Jewish State”, “Islamic State”, etc.).

        || … If the Japanese can have a Japanese state, and the Turks can have a Turkish state, and so forth, why can’t the Jews have a Jewish state? … ||

        Not this old bit of whining again? You want a “Jewish State”, make “Jewish” the bureaucratic nationality of “Jewish State” and grant it to every citizen of, immigrant to and expat and refugee from “Jewish State”.

        There. Now you’ve got a “Jewish State” with complete equality. And you can repatriate all refugees from Jewish state with no fear of “threatening demographics” because they’ll all be Jewish!

        || … As to your preference for secular states, the reality here in the region is that all the states, not just Israel have a marked religious identity … ||

        So what? Every state everywhere should be a secular and democratic state of and for all of its citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally. The fact that states “in the region” have religious identities is no excuse for a self-proclaimed “moral beacon” state to follow suit, any more than living in a crime-ridden neighbourhood is an excuse for a self-proclaimed law-abiding citizen to go out and rape women.

        || … Yet it seems to me that it’s only the one Jewish state that bothers you. ||

        It seems that way to you because you’re a Zio-supremacist idiot.

      • eljay
        April 18, 2016, 3:37 pm

        jon s, here’s a little test you can try out on me: Name ten states other than Israel and ask me if I think they should be the secular and democratic states of and for all of their respective citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally.

        I’m willing to bet that I will say yes in every case.

      • Mooser
        April 18, 2016, 5:17 pm

        “including the right to maintain a nation-state, same as other nations.”

        Uh, “Jon s” I don’t know who told you different, but the “right to maintain a nation state” is a prerogative of power, not a requirement of religious tolerance.

        Hey, but do it your way, keep telling people Judaism gives you the right to kill, steal and “not settle accounts”. And the right to pacify, to get that big “peace” you want. I am sure people will believe you. Oh yeah, and whatever you do, don’t stop telling people we are a separate nation-state.

      • Mooser
        April 18, 2016, 5:31 pm

        “If the Japanese can have a Japanese state, and the Turks can have a Turkish state, and so forth, why can’t the Jews have a Jewish state?”

        You must think you are talking to nine-year-olds.

      • eljay
        April 18, 2016, 8:56 pm

        || jon s: … Yet it seems to me that it’s only the one Jewish state that bothers you. ||

        || eljay: … It seems that way to you because you’re a Zio-supremacist idiot. ||

        I apologize for using the word ‘idiot’. It was unnecessary.

      • talknic
        April 18, 2016, 9:18 pm

        @ jon s ” If the Japanese can have a Japanese state, and the Turks can have a Turkish state, and so forth, why can’t the Jews have a Jewish state?”

        Japanese state = Japanese citizenship includes Buddhists, Shinto, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, atheist etc

        Turkish state = Turkish citizenship including Islam, Christianity, Judaism etc

        Jewish state = Jewish citizenship includes … uh … er … uhm .. Jews

        jon s says he is a teacher? Sheeeeeeeeesh! I say he’s full of Ziopoop!

        ” The Palestinians themselves intend to establish an Islamic state.” With citizenship that does NOT depend on any particular religion, race, ethnicity, guaranteeing freedom of religion.

      • jon s
        April 19, 2016, 4:36 pm

        eljay,
        Apology accepted.

        In your view, is Japan Japanese-supremacist?
        Is Portugal Portuguese-supremacist?
        Is Russia Russian-supremacist?

        The world is full of nation-states, states in which there is a dominant culture, a dominant language and in some cases a significant religious component. If those states are fortunate enough to be democratic, the minorities are respected and enjoy equal rights as citizens.

        That’s why I asked whether you object to all nation-states , or just to the Jewish one.

        talknic,
        You are aware of the fact that around 25% of Israel’s citizens are non-Jewish?

      • Mooser
        April 19, 2016, 5:22 pm

        “in your view, is Japan Japanese-supremacist?”

        Why not ask those in the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”

        “Russia?

        Ask Poland about it.

        Spain

        Ask the indigenous people of South America about it.

        So gee, doesn’t matter how much of that historical-homeland nation-right you’ve got, you can still do the wrong thing.

      • talknic
        April 19, 2016, 6:35 pm

        @ jon s April 19, 2016, 4:36 pm

        ” is Japan Japanese-supremacist?”

        All of its citizens are Japanese regardless of their being Shinto, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, atheist etc

        “Is Portugal Portuguese-supremacist?”

        All of its citizens are Portuguese regardless of their being Shinto, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, atheist etc

        “Is Russia Russian-supremacist?”

        All of its citizens are Russian regardless of their being Christian, Islamic, Jewish, atheist etc

        “You are aware of the fact that around 25% of Israel’s citizens are non-Jewish?”

        Uh huh. Suddenly “Israel” pops in there. Are you aware you’re undermining your own stupid f*cked up “Jewish state” Ziocrap argument?

      • eljay
        April 19, 2016, 6:58 pm

        || jon s: … In your view, is Japan Japanese-supremacist?
        Is Portugal Portuguese-supremacist?
        Is Russia Russian-supremacist? … ||

        If they are states…
        – of and for all of their respective citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally; and
        – with corresponding bureaucratic nationalities applicable to all of their respective citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees,
        …then IMO they are not supremacist.

        If Israel were a state…
        – of and for all of its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally; and
        – with a corresponding bureaucratic nationality applicable to all of its citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees,
        …then IMO it would not be supremacist.

        But, as you very well know, Israel was established and exists as a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” – a state primarily of and for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews, and with different / special rights for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews.

        || … The world is full of nation-states, states in which there is a dominant culture, a dominant language and in some cases a significant religious component. If those states are fortunate enough to be democratic, the minorities are respected and enjoy equal rights as citizens. … ||

        So what you’re saying, then, is that Israel is not fortunate enough to be democratic. If it were, there wouldn’t be different / special rights for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews. Thanks for confirming that.

        || … That’s why I asked whether you object to all nation-states , or just to the Jewish one. ||

        No, you asked because you Zio-supremacists enjoy playing little games.

      • eljay
        April 19, 2016, 7:16 pm

        || jon s: … You are aware of the fact that around 25% of Israel’s citizens are non-Jewish? ||

        What percentage of “Jewish State’s” citizens who…
        – have not undergone a religious conversion to Judaism; and
        – are not descended from someone who underwent a religious conversion to Judaism,
        …hold the bureaucratic nationality of “Jewish”?

      • bryan
        April 20, 2016, 5:12 am

        jon s: ““Equality” also means that Jews have equal rights, including the right to maintain a nation-state, same as other nations.”

        For a history teacher you come up with some strange ideas (in fairness to you that is probably inevitable when you teach not international history, nor European history, nor even national history [Israel has none] but simply the history of the Jews.

        Nation states generally developed in one of three ways:
        (1) the state existed first, and then a national culture emerged later. Classic examples are England, France and Spain, but others are USA, Canada, China, Iran, Belgium, Switzerland though with the later two a full-national identity has still not developed. Even as national cultures developed, regions have retained strong local identities (e.g. Catalans, Bretons, etc.)

        (2) sometimes the development of the state and the nation more closely coincided, as in the late 19th century creation of Italy and Germany, where national consciousness preceded unification, though much still needed to be done to integrate Rhinelanders, Bavarians, Prussians and also Piedmontese, Tuscans, Napolitans, etc. after their states were formed.

        (3) much of the world was dominated by multi-national empires (more correctly multi-ethnic empires) such as the Russian, Ottoman, Austrian, Spanish and British Empires, which broke down into smaller component units, under a number of pressures: (a) as the role of government increased beyond simply conscripting armies and collecting taxes, the imperial bureaucracies were incapable of meeting new needs; (b) the march of education needed to be conducted in the everyday language of the region, which facilitated the development of national press, national history, and national cultures which undermined imperial control; (c) with the advance of the enlightenment into distant corners of the world people questioned the divine-right rule of ancient dynasties and wanted direct control of their affairs in their emerging national sub-units.

        These processes are not mutually exclusive: for instance the collapse of the British Empire in India left multi-ethnic states (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) which had not yet developed a high level of national consciousness, so that these are to some extent states still nation-building. The situation is even more anarchic elsewhere in Asia and Africa, where the collapse of Western colonial rule has left states based on arbitrary borders and a patchwork of tribes and ethnicities, struggling to build national consciousness.

        If this model works, where does Israel fit in? Basically it doesn’t fit at all into the classical nation state model. We have to adopt the colonist state model, (South Africa, Australia, USA, Canada), driven primarily by Christianity (pursuit of religious freedom, utter contempt for primitive and savage indigenous peoples) and Greed (desire for cheap and even slave labour, easy confiscation of resources of land and mineral wealth). In each of these, and we can include Israel, Europeans, who already had states, often nation states, forsook their ancestral homelands for the opportunities and freedoms available outside the zone of heavily populated ancient civilisations.

        But note that Zionism did not adopt the colonist model until it was in the process of becoming discredited and that at the time its state was created the world had already turned its back on ethnic cleansing, the suppression of the rights of others and conquest by war.

        Note too, that Israel like the other colonist states, can evolve into a nation state, but this has required making restitution for the sins of colonisation. In order to emerge as fully fledged nations, the USA had to abolish slavery and grant civil rights to its ex-slaves, South Africa abolished apartheid, and Australia and Canada made some restitution to its aboriginal populations and granted them equality in civil rights.

        The utter absurdity of your claim that Jews too have a right to maintain nation states is that Israel is doing its utmost to avoid becoming a nation state. It does its utmost to negate the concept of Israeli “citizenship”, it refuses to be a nation state of all its citizens, and it continues to promote the ethnic colonisation of its dominant “ethnic group”, whilst refusing to recognise that this ethnic group is composed of many individual ethnic groups with very different levels of power and influence within society.

      • jon s
        April 21, 2016, 5:34 pm

        With Passover upon us, I’m extremely busy, and will keep this brief, not answering all the points raised :

        eljay,
        Essentially, I believe that the Jewish people have the right to establish and maintain a Jewish state in part of our historic homeland, same as other nations have nation-states in their homelands, and that the state must be a democracy , in which non-Jews enjoy equal rights, and must strive for peace with the Palestinian people and with the entire Arab world.

        As to whether or not Israel is a democracy, the “Democracy Index ” lists Israel as a “flawed democracy”, and I can agree with that:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

        In this report Israel receives a fairly high score:

        https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/israel

        bryan,
        I’d just like to point out that Jewish history can’t be taught detached from world history, as if the Jews were on a different planet. So Zionism can’t be studied without the rise of Nationalism in the 19th century, the Holocaust has to be studied in the context of the rise of fascism and WW2, and so forth. Even the 2nd Temple period should be approached in the context of the Hellenistic world and the Roman empire. So you’re incorrect in saying that I only teach Jewish history.

        A happy and kosher Passover to all who celebrate!

      • eljay
        April 21, 2016, 6:25 pm

        || jon s: … eljay,
        Essentially, I believe that the Jewish people have the right to establish and maintain a Jewish state in part of our historic homeland … ||

        Of course you do: You’re a Zio-supremacist. But your belief is irrelevant. The geographic region of (Mandate) Palestine is not the “historic homeland” or “ancient homeland” or “one true homeland” of every person in the world who:
        – has undergone a religious conversion to Judaism; or
        – is descended from someone who underwent a religious conversion to Judaism.

        And a “Jewish State” as you Zio-supremacists currently define it is a religion-supremacist construct.

        || … same as other nations have nation-states in their homelands … ||

        Alright, let’s pretend that “Jewish State” is like every other state. When is Jewish going to become the bureaucratic nationality of “Jewish State”, applicable to all of its citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally?

        || … and that the state must be a democracy , in which non-Jews enjoy equal rights … ||

        Equal rights except for the special / different rights set aside for Jews.

        || … and must strive for peace with the Palestinian people and with the entire Arab world. ||

        Always “peace”, but never justice, accountability and equality (real equality, not supremacist “Jewish State” “equality”).

        You are a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist, but at least you’re consistent.

      • Mooser
        April 21, 2016, 7:32 pm

        “Jon s” a never ending font of hypocrisy and sanctimony, always ready to pimp Judaism and Jewishness for a criminal cause.

    • Robert Brooks
      April 13, 2016, 11:51 pm

      I agree, one of the best pieces in MondoW..and I will source it in my own efforts to speak on the conflict

  2. George Smith
    April 12, 2016, 5:34 pm

    A thoughtful and inspiring guidebook and meditation. I suggest a benchmark for responsible teaching in a highly contentious area of inquiry: Will a student opposed to the teacher’s viewpoint be a more effective advocate for his/her opinion as a result of taking the course?

  3. Dan Walsh
    April 12, 2016, 6:09 pm

    Israel, Palestine and the Teaching of History

    by David Moshman – Professor of Educational Psychology

    During a 1996 visit to Rwanda, two years after the 1994 genocide, Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani asked to be taken to a school so he could speak with a history teacher. He was told that Rwandan schools no longer taught history due to unresolvable disputes over the curriculum.

    “History in Rwanda,” Mamdani found, “comes in two versions: Hutu and Tutsi.”

    History in Israel and Palestine also comes in two versions: Jewish Israeli and Palestinian. Four excellent new books, in four different ways, address the implications of this dichotomization for youth, education, justice and peace.

    … Education about Israel and Palestine in the United States is equally ideological. In The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans: Addressing Pedagogical Strategies, Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman, a teacher and writer raised in a Zionist Jewish family in Los Angeles, provides a thorough analysis of the Jewish Israeli narrative Americans are taught.

    What students need, Knopf-Newman concludes, is to hear the voices of Palestinians. She suggests a variety of novels, stories, poems, songs, films, websites and other resources appropriate for students of various ages. Options range from Mornings in Jenin, a deeply moving multigenerational novel of a Palestinian family from the 1940s through the early 21st century, to Palestinian rap and hip hop.

    Whole article here:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-moshman/israel-palestine-and-the-_1_b_1659731.html

    • Marnie
      April 12, 2016, 11:28 pm

      I’d also add that educating in the US historically has been mostly colonial/supremacist history. Next to nothing about the indigenous peoples of the land and next to nothing about all the free labor that went into ‘making america great’. There’s no mystery why there’s no daylight between israel and the united states.

      • Citizen
        April 13, 2016, 9:23 am

        @ Marnie
        Yes, historically, it was so. How about now? My impression is things have changed a lot re the content of American history taught in grade & high school,

      • Marnie
        April 13, 2016, 12:35 pm

        Really? Well, I’ve been out of school for a long time and away for a long time, but it seems to me that american education hasn’t improved all that much. I might be very wrong.

  4. Liz18
    April 13, 2016, 9:01 am

    What a refreshing and thoughtful essay; thank you. As a high school English teacher, I am up against many of the same things you mention. It’s a bit different being in a public school in Illinois where there is no budget, and so much classroom time is spent satisfying the demands of the state. This makes it hard to teach what is right and true, when we are all doing a dance to meet the state’s demands–all of which are unethical and bad for students and teachers. I therefore try to talk about this very issue with my students, to explain to them how they are being used by the state, to try to teach them about systemic issues that they are directly a part of. It is demoralizing to teach in a place when you feel like you’ve become part of the problem–perpetuating the very things you stand against. I love the 1915 quote from the AAUP. I plan to print it and put it in my classroom. So few, though, in public schools, truly believe what it says. I never thought I’d end up in a profession that punishes those who are devoted to the full narrative of things, and rewards those who perpetuate single-system narratives. Five minutes with my students spent talking about institutional and systemic issues–in between implementing unrealistic standards and being unfairly evaluated–has become a truly subversive act.

  5. bryan
    April 13, 2016, 2:17 pm

    A wonderful essay, full of precious insights – but the argument possibly needs to be widened out. I was also trained in the discipline of history, and whilst the lessons are invaluable, especially the absolute respect given to texts and other forms of evidence, and their appropriate textual and contextual interpretation, historians often fail to draw meaningful conclusions if they are not also well-versed in related disciplines such as politics, anthropology, archaeology, sociology and economics. Thus history is a pretty complex discipline and its conclusions may be parochial unless also informed by a wider humanism, such as that asserted by Renaissance geniuses such as, for instance, Chomsky.

    Or go with E.M.Forster: “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”

    And if you do connect, you may well find that so many issues of the modern world – political corruption, global warming, the power of corporations, neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism, the social control exercised by elites representing far less than 1%, the outrageous influence of media, think-tanks, academia, government and their supporting lobbies, including the patent injustice for many societies, including Palestine but more especially the US and UK and many other societies throughout the world are all inter-related. Go Bernie, go Corbyn, go Chomsky, go the younger generation – your approach and solutions may be far from perfect, but they represent a step in the right direction (or as my grand-daughter would say the One Direction).

    • Mooser
      July 20, 2018, 12:25 pm

      It’s gonna cost you $52,050 a year to drop your kids off at the Riverdale School. Same price a year, K-12, but $…050? What’s the fifty bucks for, a subway pass?

  6. Mooser
    April 13, 2016, 5:49 pm

    I see what I used to call “private schools” have now become “independent schools”? Oh, okay. Heavy freight, too.

  7. ehsth
    July 20, 2018, 8:12 am

    Doerfler is a phony and a fraud. His diatribe about what an open, encouraging “teacher” he was is utter nonsense. He was a dreadful “teacher” who bullied, publicly humiliated, and ridiculed any student who dared to disagree with him. He was the antithesis of what he delusionally or dishonestly claims to be in his (iv) above. He mocked his students publicly about politics, their families (you know – the ones who paid his salary and provided him with a platform he didn’t deserve), the school of which he was a member, efforts to curb cheating in school – you name it and he attacked and embarrassed them – in front of their peers. Over and over and over again. That was his well-known style, and it’s incredible to many of us that he was not fired 20 years ago, as he should have been. He did enormous damage to many of his students over the years, diminishing their own self-confidence and willingness to express their opinions. He should never have been permitted to “teach” and it is excellent that he is no longer there.

    • Mooser
      July 20, 2018, 12:21 pm

      “Doerfler is a phony and a fraud, and etc.” “Riverdale parent, lawyer”

      He did enormous damage to many of his students over the years, diminishing their own self-confidence and willingness to express their opinions.”

      Some of them still thank him for teaching them to avoid being ‘known as a fool’, not just thought a fool, and others still think gratefully of all the libel and slander he’s helped them avoid spewing.

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