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Chicago-area school district withdraws ‘Teaching Palestine’ course and apologizes for ‘sense of exclusion’ it created

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Just eight days after an administrator offered public high school teachers in Skokie, Illinois, the opportunity to take a summer professional development course called “Teaching Palestine,” the school district retracted the offer in a statement from top administrators apologizing for the hurtful, “one-sided nature of this course.” They wrote:

We then heard from teachers and members of our community who were concerned about the one-sided nature of this course that addresses a very complex topic.  We recognize that without multiple perspectives surrounding this topic, we created a sense of exclusion by including this offering.  We should have noted this before including the course and apologize for this mistake.  Therefore, we are retracting the course from the list of offerings that were shared.

The district’s decision to silence any discourse about Palestinian history–with pressure from Zionist groups–isn’t surprising or new. But it’s important to call attention to public schools that continue to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism, especially when the opportunity to take the course was shut down by two district administrators along with the Director of Equity–an administrative position whose job description includes providing opportunities of social justice for its teachers.

That this retraction occurred in Niles Township, District 219 is significant, given the diversity of the student body–over 67 languages are spoken in the hallways of two schools that serve about 4,500 students from Skokie, Lincolnwood, and Morton Grove.

On May 22, 2019, Director of Equity La Wanna Wells sent an email to all faculty who teach in the district listing “equity offerings that occur over Summer 2019.”  In addition to a racial equity training facilitated by the organization Courageous Conversations, several opportunities were also sponsored by Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ).  According to its website, TSJ is an organization made up of educators who are deeply committed to social justice, and work “toward classrooms and schools that are anti-racist, multicultural / multilingual, and grounded in the experiences of our students.”  TSJ believes all “that all children should have an academically rigorous education that is both caring and critical,” the website states, “an education that helps students pose critical questions about society and ‘talk back’ to the world.”

The course offerings included in Well’s email to teachers cover a range of topics such as: “If We Don’t Who Will: Tools in Surviving and Thriving for Black Pre-Service Educators”; “US Imperialism Impact on Honduras”; “White Educators/Activists: Toward Anti-Racist Teaching-Learning-Organizing”; and “Teaching Palestine.”

Wells pasted the information from TSJ directly into the message she sent to faculty. The “Teaching Palestine” course “brings together critical educators who want to teach about Palestine and the Palestine liberation struggle.” The course objectives are to:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the history and current political context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the Palestine liberation struggle.
  • Examine and analyze existing curriculum on Palestine, the Palestinian liberation struggle, and Israel.
  • Discuss concrete strategies for how to respond to Zionist Professional Developments and curricula or when parents/staff/others object to anti-Zionist curriculum.
  • Collectively develop grade appropriate scope and sequence for teaching Palestine.
  • Generate grade appropriate and critical curriculum for teaching Palestine.
  • Make curriculum connections between Palestine and issues affecting our students, such as: state/police violence, the struggle for racial justice in the U.S., settler colonialism in Palestine and the U.S., access to education for historically marginalized youth.

The course “will draw particularly on the resources and knowledge of the US Palestine Community Network and Jewish Voice for Peace.”

Wells also stated that professional development credits would be offered by the organizations that are providing the courses.  Since teachers need to earn Continuing Professional Development Units (CPDU) or Continuing Education Units (CEU) to keep their teaching licenses active, they often take courses during the summer. Wells wrote that teachers can contact the organization for information on obtaining credit:

Read each description below as these are offering offered outside of D219. The organizations will have cost, Professional Development CPDU/CEU hour information, date/time information etc. in which to provide you if you have questions.

Wells then signed her email, “Have an Equitable Summer!”

A week later, after pressure from pro-Israel organizations, the District 219 did a Zionist switcharoo.  The May 30, 2019, statement from the district came from Wells and two other district administrators, Superintendent Steven Isoye and Director of Community Relations and Strategic Partnerships Jim Szczepaniak, and noted that people were worried about the “one-sided” nature of the course and apologized for not providing a more balanced view.

The statement denied that teachers could receive credit for taking the course on Palestine, though Wells had stated this in her original email.

On May 2, the district informed staff of several training opportunities outside of the district related to racial equity and social justice, including sessions offered by a group called Teachers for Social Justice.  These Summer Inquiry to Action Groups (ItAGs) meet on various topics identified and developed by educators throughout the Chicago area.  One of the listed ItAG sessions is titled “Teaching Palestine.”  The course was not developed by the district, and the district was never going to provide continuing education credits or lane advancement credit for the course.

To an outside observer–and certainly to the Zionist organizations who called out the district–the lack of “multiple perspectives surrounding this topic” that “created a sense of exclusion” might seem obvious.  It’s true that the “Teaching Palestine” class was not offered alongside a “Teaching Israel” class, for example.  But Zionist history is already taught in schools while Palestinian history is consistently and pointedly, left out.

This course specifically is designed to provide teachers with the skills to teach Palestinian history in schools where Israeli Zionist history remains the default.  The objective to discuss “concrete strategies for how to respond to Zionist Professional Developments and curricula or when parents/staff/others object to anti-Zionist curriculum” speaks to the pushback that often occurs when teachers teach about Palestine and designed to empower teachers. TSJ recognizes the imbalance that already exists in schools–Zionism remains the dominant standard. And it offered this course to provide a non-Zionist space for teachers to develop strategies for teaching Palestinian history.

The uproar from Zionist organizations also helps perpetuate the idea that the mere mention of Palestine is a threat to Israel’s existence–any discourse must be squashed.

On May 30, for example, the Jewish News Syndicate attacked the “Teaching Palestine” class. Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper criticized it by using the typical Zionist rhetoric that portrays Palestinians as terrorists and murderers:

It is to justify the anti-Semitic rhetoric from terrorist Hamas and the veneration of mass murderers of Jews by the Palestinian Authority. It is to demonize and delegitimize Zionism and supporters of the lone Jewish state, many of whose families reside in your school district.

Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO, also condemned the school district for “one-sided propaganda.”

School districts should encourage critical thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than promoting indoctrination like this course does. The Niles Township High School District 219 should replace Teaching Palestine with professional development that will offer genuine educational tools that encourage co-existence and allow student inquiry into the issue, rather than one-sided propaganda.

Of course, none of these organizations acknowledge the imbalance of Zionist history that already exists in public schools. Any mention of Palestine is considered “Indoctrination” that does not “encourage co-existence.”

Asaf Romirowsky, a historian at the University of Haifa and executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, also criticized the school for spreading bias:

We have long seen a Palestinianization of the academy this bias has been steadily spreading into high-schools and teacher trainings like the one in the Niles Township High School District 219.

Rather than acknowledging the “Zionizing” of curriculum that already happens, Romirowsky cleverly uses the term “Palestinianization of the academy” that spreads bias in schools.

Several Zionist organizations have also praised District 219’s decision to withdraw the course from its offerings, conflating criticism of Israel antisemitism.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center released a statement on May 31, commending the district for withdrawing the course from its original offerings:

Yesterday under pressure from the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), the Niles High School District cancelled the ‘Teaching Palestine’ course offered for teachers in the Niles Township High School District 219 that serves Lincolnwood and parts of Morton Grove, Niles, and Skokie in Cook County, Illinois…

Superintendent Isoye will be meeting with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Chicago-based office to discuss bringing the educational resources of the Center and their Museum of Tolerance to District 219. ‘We plan to offer the School District educational materials, films, and exhibitions that will help teachers and students alike better understand the complexities of the Middle East’, Ms. Pur-Slovin added.

Not only has the district canceled the course, but District 219 Superintendent Isoye has agreed to meet with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to “discuss bringing the educational resources of the Center and their Museum of Tolerance to District 219.”

(The Simon Wiesenthal Center, of course, is also the sponsor of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem that sits on the historic 600-year old Muslim Mamilla cemetery, yet its website states that the organization is a “global human rights organization” that “promotes human rights and dignity.”  Many of the tombs on the land have been destroyed.  In 2010, architect Frank Gehry withdrew from the project because it included destroying Muslim graves, yet the Wiesenthal Center maintains the importance of “building in Jerusalem because the Museum’s principal themes of universal respect, Jewish unity and coexistence are absolutely vital to Israel’s future.”)

The Times of Israel also reported on District 219’s decision to withdraw the course, again claiming that it was one-sided:

‘The course presented an extremely one-sided view of a very complex situation,’ said Rabbi Ari Hart of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue. By using the phrase ‘occupation of Palestine,’ he said, the course’s language implied ‘that a Jewish state in our ancestral homeland is illegitimate.’

Not surprisingly, none of these organizations mention the power imbalance that already exists in public schools–indeed, in the Israel/Palestine conflict itself.

But this isn’t new.  Retracting the course offering is also one more example of how Zionism remains the dominant standard in public schools while it simultaneously cries victim in order to justify ignoring Palestinian history.

Palestinians have long been writing about the disparity that exists when it comes to talking about Israel/Palestine.  Take, for example, author Mourid Barghouti, who’s become more well known since novelist Chimamanda Adichie mentioned him in her 2009 TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, a video about multiple perspectives and power imbalances that has been viewed more than 18 million times, and–a funny irony–is used often in  public schools with students and teachers.  A few years ago, I was at a racial equity training with some teachers, earning my CPDUs in the summer, and the facilitator showed the video.  During our discussion afterwards, I asked if we could talk about Adichie’s mention of Barghouti.  “That’s not why we watched it,” the facilitator promptly told me, as she went on to discuss power imbalances that exist in public schools.

Adichie quotes Barghouti, who writes in his 2003 autobiography, I Saw Ramallah, of a linguistic trick to “turn the world upside down” in terms of who is the oppressed and who the oppressor:

It is easy to blur the truth with a simple linguistic trick: start your story from ‘Secondly.’ Yes, this is what [Yitzhak] Rabin did. He simply neglected to speak of what happened first. Start your story with ‘Secondly,’ and the world will be turned upside-down. Start your story with ‘Secondly,’ and the arrows of the Red Indians are the original criminals and the guns of the white men are entirely the victims. It is enough to start with ‘Secondly,’ for the anger of the black man against the white to be barbarous. Start with ‘Secondly,’ and Gandhi becomes responsible for the tragedies of the British.’

And so it is the same–once again–this time with District 219’s decision to backpedal under pressure and retract the course on Palestine.  Start with “Secondly,” and Teachers for Social Justice becomes responsible for offending Zionists.  Start with “Secondly,” and District 219 apologizes to Zionists for not providing balance.

Start with “Secondly,” and public schools become bullied into ignoring Palestinian history.  Start with “Secondly,” and Palestinian students at public schools shouldn’t feel marginalized or silenced.

Simply neglect to speak of what happened first: That in 1948 Palestine was colonized and ethnically cleansed and it continues today.  Start with “Secondly,” and be sure to, as Director of Equity Wells wrote in her original email offering the course on Palestine, “Have an Equitable Summer!”

Liz
About Liz Rose

Liz Rose is a Chicago teacher.

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32 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay on June 4, 2019, 12:51 pm

    It’s funny how quickly and vociferously defensive (pro-)Jewish supremacists (Zionists) become whenever they and/or their deliberately and unapologetically colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” construct are shown to be as hateful and immoral as they actually are.

    … ‘The course presented an extremely one-sided view of a very complex situation,’ said Rabbi Ari Hart of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue. By using the phrase ‘occupation of Palestine,’ he said, the course’s language implied ‘that a Jewish state in our ancestral homeland is illegitimate.’ …

    Of course it is, because:
    – “Jewish State” is a religion-supremacist construct and no state has a right to exist as a supremacist state of any kind; and
    – geographic Palestine is not the homeland (ancestral, ancient, eternal, one true, lost or otherwise) of every person in the world – of every citizen of every homeland throughout the world – who has chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso on June 5, 2019, 8:56 am

      @eljay, et al

      Not precisely on topic, but relevant:

      Just received from a Canadian friend: Former Liberal government’s Justice Minister and ardent Zionist, Irwin Cotler, taken to task by Palestinian solidarity activists at Concordia University on June 3/19.

      Check out these two short videos of the encounter:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62AsRksrPPM

  2. Ronald Johnson
    Ronald Johnson on June 4, 2019, 1:45 pm

    I can report on two suburbs of Rochester NY, having close connections to Israel in their school systems, Brighton and Pittsford, with an assembly of web references, to follow. As near as I can tell, these associations are going smoothly, without complaint from the staff or townspeople:

    https://www.bcsd.org/Page/3353

    https://www.pittsfordschools.org/domain/1791

    https://www.jewishrochester.org/aboutus/federation-faces/federation-faces-kevin-mcgowan

    https://www.bcsd.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=8&ModuleInstanceID=19574&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316- 3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=53610&PageID=9

    https://www.pittsfordschools.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=46134&ViewID=7b97f7ed-8e5e-4120-848f-a8b4987d588f&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=94933&PageID=22653

    Pittsford Central School District has a connection to Modi’in, Israel:

    https://www.wxxinews.org/post/pittsford-israel-education-connection

  3. JoeSmack
    JoeSmack on June 4, 2019, 4:16 pm

    School District is a public one, might be worth a lawsuit.

  4. Rob Roy
    Rob Roy on June 5, 2019, 8:42 am

    Ronald Johnson, thanks for the information and JoeSmack, I agree.

    My question is why did they cave in? By all they said in advance of the program, they would have held their position without batting an eyelash. I don’t understand this kind of weakness from a group such as the one proposing such a program. A mystery that’s baffling to me. Not only did they give in, they apologized. WHY? What’s wrong here?

  5. bcg
    bcg on June 5, 2019, 9:27 am

    I think it’s important to understand the mentality in Skokie – not only does Skokie have a large Jewish population, it has a lot of Holocaust survivors –

    https://www.momentmag.com/the-life-and-times-of-skokie/

    “If Skokie was an escape from urban decay for a kid from Chicago, it was something close to paradise for my parents and an estimated 8,000 Holocaust survivors like them who poured into the Chicago suburb in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. “

    • eljay
      eljay on June 5, 2019, 10:35 am

      || bcg: I think it’s important to understand the mentality in Skokie – not only does Skokie have a large Jewish population, it has a lot of Holocaust survivors … ||

      Jewish Americans and American Holocaust survivors should not be disturbed by a course on Palestine, Israel and Zionism.

      They should, however, be very disturbed by anti-Semitic conflation of Zionism and Israel with all Jews and all Jews with Zionism and Israel – something Zionists routinely do.

    • LiberatePalestine
      LiberatePalestine on June 7, 2019, 8:57 am

      As if allegedly being Jewish—or anything else—entitled one to demand a certain uniform political perspective in the schools.

  6. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block on June 5, 2019, 10:19 am

    At Toronto Quaker meeting house, which often rents out space to groups holding events, there is scheduled to be an event by an anti-Zionist group. Demands have come in that it be cancelled, probably by Zionists who make it their business to attack any event critical of Israel. I don’t think the Quakers will cave.

  7. Misterioso
    Misterioso on June 5, 2019, 10:22 am

    Another crack in the U.S. media’s relationship with Zionism:

    https://ca.yahoo.com/news/last-week-tonight-john-oliver-043341006.html

    ‘Last Week Tonight’: John Oliver Addresses Jared Kushner’s Israel Visit,” June 2/19

    “[He] did spend some time unpacking the Jared Kushner’s visit to Israel and his bizarre gift to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the texting scandal between Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada and his former aide Cade Cothren. Both stories are so funny that you will cry or so sad that they will make you laugh.

    “Kushner, who Oliver referred to as a ‘man who constantly looks like was just reset to factory settings,’ is hard at work on his Middle East plan and recently a visit to Israel where he gave Netanyahu a map of Israel signed by Donald Trump. The map includes the Golan Heights, which Oliver points out is occupied Syrian territory, according to the international community. He said that the map is a huge symbolic gesture and a provocative move — and the fact that Trump wrote ‘nice’ next to Golan Heights makes it even provocative.”

    “’All else aside, a map is a sh*tty gift,” said Oliver. ‘And getting it from Jared Kushner is the sh*ttiest way to receive it.’

    “He continued, ‘It would be like getting a bouquet of dead fish for your birthday delivered by Matt Lauer.'”

  8. James Canning
    James Canning on June 5, 2019, 11:44 am

    Fanatical elements of the Israel lobby continue their efforts to suppress open discussion of Palestine in the US. What a surprise.

  9. Steve Grover
    Steve Grover on June 5, 2019, 12:27 pm

    Once the word got out District 219 was inundated by emails from people in the community and phone calls from parents. Once District 219 was informed that JVP has zero standing in the Jewish Community they reacted very fast. I am very proud of my Jewish Community!

    • James North
      James North on June 5, 2019, 12:52 pm

      Mooser: Congratulations! You re-activated your sock puppet! Setting him in the Midwest is a masterstroke. My favorite trope is that you have Grover saying “my Jewish community.” Who’s in it? Who isn’t? What happened to Tribal Unity?

      • Mooser
        Mooser on June 5, 2019, 5:50 pm

        “What happened to Tribal Unity?”

        I think she grew up and married into a Methodist family.

    • Sulphurdunn
      Sulphurdunn on June 5, 2019, 1:36 pm

      Stifling free speech and public discourse is nothing to be proud of. It is something to be afraid of.

      • Steve Grover
        Steve Grover on June 5, 2019, 5:01 pm

        I find the racism, anti-Semitism and outright hatred spewed by BDSholes stifling.

      • James North
        James North on June 5, 2019, 5:27 pm

        Mooser: Terrific! You order your sock puppet to post vulgar comments, thus undermining his case. You are a genius!

      • Mooser
        Mooser on June 5, 2019, 5:42 pm

        “You are a genius!”

        No, I’m a very disturbed person, who promotes cheap stereotypes about Jewish people.

      • RoHa
        RoHa on June 5, 2019, 7:46 pm

        Mooser, you can do better than that. Upgrade. Start promoting expensive stereotypes about Jewish people.

      • just
        just on June 5, 2019, 10:09 pm

        Since you brought up BDS, Iet me share this with you from Gideon Levy:

        “Thanks McDonald’s for Reminding Israel There Is a Green Line, and Even a Red Line …

        McDonald’s presents: a model hamburger. It doesn’t appear on the menu and the company obscures its ingredients, but it’s clearly the flagship item – a boycott of the settlements. There are no Big Macs in Ariel and there will be no McRoyales in Efrat.

        The right is now demanding that this traitorous company be barred from opening a branch at Ben-Gurion Airport. A group called the Disabled Veterans’ Forum for Israel’s Security posted warning signs this week at the entrance to the company’s restaurants in Tel Aviv, modeled after the warning signs that tell Israelis not to enter the Palestinian Authority. It terms the McDonald’s boycott of the settlements “a disgraceful decision” and is urging a boycott of the company.

        That’s what happens to a hamburger that seeks to raise its head and do more than just sell an extra-large portion, that chooses to heed its conscience and not just be a hamburger.

        McDonald’s is a senior partner in the crimes of the meat industry and the holocaust of animals. It’s a symbol of globalization and capitalism. Its products are harmful to people’s health and the environment, and it doesn’t let its workers unionize.

        Nevertheless, we must now applaud its policy, which dates back to 2013, when its Israeli franchisee, Omri Padan, opposed opening a branch in Ariel. People of morality must therefore contemptuously cross through the warning signs that the right has posted at the chain’s branches and demonstratively buy a green salad with corn sticks as an act of support for the company’s courage and determination. It must not suffer because it took a step very few companies are willing to take, but that all companies should have taken long ago.

        The company’s official explanation may seem evasive, but it goes to the heart of the matter: “Alonyal [the franchisee] never had a license to open branches in the West Bank.” Boom. There is a Green Line. There’s even a red line.

        It’s true this separation is artificial, and it’s been dead for a long time already. It’s ridiculous to boycott the settlement of Itamar but not Tel Aviv, which funds it, guards it and legalizes its crimes.

        Nevertheless, McDonald’s has issued a resounding statement: The West Bank and Gaza aren’t here. It has said yes to Israel, no to the occupation, which counts for more than 1,000 protest signs at a demonstration. The franchisee never had a license in a piece of land to which Israel also never had a license.

        Thomas Friedman once wrote that there will never be a war between two countries which both have McDonald’s branches – a thesis that was destroyed by the Second Lebanon War of 2006. But this company is now breaking boundaries, and above all setting boundaries.

        Hamburger joints aren’t moral leaders. McDonald’s merely said what should have been self-evident to every commercial company: The franchisee for Israel isn’t necessarily the franchisee for the colonies of the occupation. Many Israeli and international companies ought to follow in its footsteps. Just as every law-abiding company has an obligation not to traffic in stolen property, so too it must not operate on stolen land.

        Decent companies don’t operate in crime-ridden areas. They don’t invest, they don’t buy, they don’t rent and they don’t sell. It’s dangerous there, and illegal. …

        … Sad experience shows that in the end, the Jewish and Israeli lobbies will extort a victory. They forced Airbnb to capitulate, and they may also defeat McDonald’s.

        But until the McDonald’s Drive-Thru opens in Ma’aleh Mikhmash – and we hope it never will – we can suggest that the settlers eat at McDonald’s inside Israel, or set up an alternative fast-food chain: McDavid’s. In the 1980s, when McDonald’s hadn’t yet come to Israel, a chain by that name operated here. It got sued by the American company over the misleading similarity of its name. The food tasted horrible, and the chain closed, leaving ruin behind it, and only one branch.”

        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-thanks-mcdonald-s-for-reminding-israel-there-is-a-green-line-and-even-a-red-line-1.7336517?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

        And here’s the link about Airbnb:

        “Florida Removes Airbnb From Blacklist After Company Rolls Back Ban on West Bank

        Airbnb lifted their previous ban on listing properties in Israeli settlements after being sued by two groups of U.S. Jewish plaintiffs …”

        https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/florida-removes-airbnb-from-blacklist-after-company-rolls-back-ban-on-west-bank-1.7336193?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

      • Mooser
        Mooser on June 6, 2019, 6:36 pm

        “Start promoting expensive stereotypes”

        Funny, I was going to excise the word “cheap” but the edit period passed.

  10. Mooser
    Mooser on June 5, 2019, 4:15 pm

    And note, the offending course was an optional course,(“offered public high-school teachers the opportunity to take a summer professional development”) for teachers.

    Not students.

  11. just
    just on June 5, 2019, 9:37 pm

    Apparently, “P is for Palestine” is allowed to be read by the author in NJ. I have tried many times to post the article from EI to no avail.

    You can read it here:

    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/anti-palestinian-groups-fail-censor-childrens-book-event

  12. wdr
    wdr on June 6, 2019, 3:54 am

    This school district was absolutely correct to cancel this outrageously biased course put on by what Paul Johnson once termed the “fascist left.” Liz Rose , the poster of this article, claims that school courses on the Middle East are “Zionized,” or words to that effect. Name one. Name one course in the Chicago or Illinois public schools that present pro-Israel propaganda in the naked way this course was going to do for its anti-Israel defamations. They don’t exist, except in the fantasies of the Israel-bashing brigade on this site, and among antisemites. The Weisenthal Center should be congratulated for preventing the hijacking of publicly funded education by extremists.

  13. Arby
    Arby on June 7, 2019, 6:32 am

    I scour the internet, focussing on alt/progressive media, for material to use on my blog. One of the series I do is titled “The Avanache.” It refers to instances when those with power – Consider how those with power today get it (hint: lawlessness) – kill communication that they don’t like. This powerful report is one that I will use. I have the idea to also use it in a blog post (that could evolve into an essay, for that is how it goes when I’m passionate about something) about when the powerful, and influential (who can be the good guys, relatively speaking), do things to further inequality.

    I woke up this morning, rinsed my mouth with water and sat down at my computer with the intention to start a new Avalanche blog post. I’ve assembled all of the article bookmarks, including a bookmark with a link to this article, and am ready to go. On my way home yesterday, I stopped into the bookstore to see whether my book had been remembered. It seemed to be taking a long time for them to get it, but they had just called me about it (my cell was off for a movie I had gone to) and the book, “Israel: A Beachhead In The Middle East – From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform,” was there. The author is Stephen Gowans whose writing I find to be enormously enlightening and useful. I’ve also read his books on Syria and North Korea.

    When I sat down this morning to do my blog post, I thought I’d glance at my new book. I only read part of the Introduction. I stopped reading because I didn’t intend to do more than glance at this book and because I was floored by the line I stopped at:

    “Zionism, today, is concretely expressed in the state of Israel, the recreation of an antique Jewish state on land that Old Testament mythology defines as promised to the Jews by their deity.”

    I’m a Christian, but I am not out of Christendom. Christendom is the assemblage of religious organizations that call themselves Christian but are not. They also work with the State (either the State they reside in or a more powerful State) and in effect share rulership over the people with it. The deal is: The State favors the church and the church in turns favors the State and delivers its flock to the State.

    It would have been kind (to the very, very small minority of true – not perfect or all-knowing or always correct – Christians for Stephen to state clearly that he was looking solely at mainstream Christianity’s bias (and darkness and sin) when he wrote that short, but very hurtful line.

    The “Old Testament” (‘Hebrew Aramaic scriptures’ would have been a more accurate label, since the Christian [Old and New Testaments] Bible includes more than two covenants, or testaments. But, the labels aren’t bad either, since there are, indeed, two main covenants in the Bible and they sort of make a natural division of the book, which is ‘not’ mythology. The Christian Bible is preeminently a historical book. That it uses symbols and figurative language in places doesn’t change that fact. That mainstream Christians (wittingly and unwittingly) make a mess of reporting to others what that colorful language, and the message of the Bible generally, means, doesn’t change that fact. I have been disappeared by Stephen Gowans.

    The Left, generally, is hostile to religion, even while some leftists get human rights and keep their personal feelings of hostility in check. (‘Feelings of hostility’ sort of seems contradictory. If you feel a certain way but are careful to act out of a strong sense of fairness, of right and wrong, and a pro human rights position, I’m not sure that you have any hostility. It’s like prejuduce vs discrimination. The law [used to anyway] looks at what people ‘do’ when harming, in word or deed, others because of their religious views. That speaks to discrimination. Prejudice, alone, isn’t addressed in the same way.)

    But when it comes to the very, very small number of Christians who are outside of Christendom and not allied with the State (Corporatocracy in fact), boy are we hated.

  14. edwardm
    edwardm on June 8, 2019, 4:49 pm

    sense of “exclusion” boohoo! Try being Palestinian sometime. Try even being Palestinian American. “oh your Dad’s from Palestine? Is he a terrorist? ” Don’t even begin to equate your mild discomfort with others EXISTING, with real racism and cruelty.

    https://cdn.thisiswhyimbroke.com/images/miniature-violin.jpg
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DxZlGXNWoAMJsdt.jpg

    • LiberatePalestine
      LiberatePalestine on June 9, 2019, 11:18 am

      → Superintendent Isoye will be meeting with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Chicago-based office to discuss bringing the educational resources of the Center and their Museum of Tolerance to District 219. ‘We plan to offer the School District educational materials, films, and exhibitions that will help teachers and students alike better understand the complexities of the Middle East’, Ms. Pur-Slovin added.

      We’re expected to consider it generous and selfless «to offer» «educational» hasbara to the head of the school district for imposition on all teachers, while individual teachers who are interested in issues of social justice must not be allowed to attend a course about anti-Palestinian bias.

      Note also the hackneyed reference to «the complexities of the Middle East». There’s really no complexity at all to the situation in Palestine: it’s nothing but brazen settler-colonialism. The only «complexities» are the Zionists’ irrelevant, convoluted, self-serving justifications proffered in defence of the indefensible.

    • Marnie
      Marnie on June 10, 2019, 6:16 am

      “sense of “exclusion” boohoo! Try being Palestinian sometime. Try even being Palestinian American.” Try being human!

      Sounds like the same mental cases behind the ‘straight pride’ campaign because ‘straight white men’ are marginalized and they’re tired of gays getting all the attention and having all the good times associated with being gay in amerikkka. Guess they didn’t read the fine print about being gay in the land of Pence and others.

  15. jew4justice
    jew4justice on June 12, 2019, 2:08 pm

    Thank you for carefully covering another example of how organized pro-zionist organizations respond to anything that opposes Israel’s unassailability. Many other agencies have misreported this story and did not provide this level of analysis.

    As a jew in the district this silencing is very concerning. I’m aggravated that in Israel there is greater openness to discussion about Palestinian rights than here in the US. I feel stifled by BDS(really free-speech) suppression laws, Jewish organizations’ automatic defense of Israel (assailing the livelihood of many who criticize), and personally face being maligned for speaking out against the injustices perpetrated by the israeli government with the total support of my tax dollars.

    The strategy the Israel defenders use is to conflate anti-zionism with antisemitism, criticism of inequities within israel with questioning its right to exist, and open discussion about second class conditions for marginalized groups with challenging israeli legitimacy. And from what I observe those who defend Israel’s actions without question, tend to take issue with the language their critics use and not the substance of the injustices that Palestinians face.

    From my observation public of schools, Hebrew courses and extra-curricular israeli clubs typically have unquestioned Israeli propaganda masquerading as cultural education. There is little balance and if Arabic language programs or student groups came even close to what happens in Jewish spaces there would be calls for banning these. Shutting down discussion out of fear leads to resentment and feeds anti-semitic lie of jewish aspirations to control.

    Lastly, do Muslims and students of color feel supported in the district? Maybe there is a need for teachers to be exposed to other views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I certainly do not believe that these stalwarts for Israel could articulate a human-centered justice perspective. I also hope that the administration is standing for all marginalized students and teachers when they are targeted in this culture of “secondary” telling, right-wing violence, and our culture of little compassion for suffering. I hope that Jews and our district will choose the right side of history and stand for human rights, which helps Jews, Palestinians, and all people.
    My full comment: http://bit.ly/2KJUSPt

  16. crankylibrarian
    crankylibrarian on June 14, 2019, 12:13 am

    As the JVP member who helped develop the materials for Teachers for Social Justice’s workshop on teaching Palestine, I’d like to correct a few errors which have been commonly reported about this story.

    On May 4, Teachers for Social Justice, the Us Palestinian Community Network, and Jewish Voice or Peace gave a workshop on Palestine in the school curriculum, in response to a professional development training from the Institute for Curriculum Services. ICS is an initiative of the Jewish Community Relations Council, a lobbying group promoting “effective Israel advocacy.” and has been pushing state departments of education to adopt their curriculum rationalizing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

    Our workshop looked at a variety of curricula: from Israeli advocacy organizations like ICS, Stand With Us, and the Anti Defamation League; but also from Jewish organizations like Reframing Israel, an association of rabbis who developed a dual Palestinian/Israeli narrative curriculum specifically for Jewish children; and the If Not Now liberation syllabus created by young Jews to model for Jewish schools, camps and youth groups the necessity of engaging with the reality of the Occupation. The If Not Now resources were submitted by Rabbis, teachers, parents, journalists and other members of the Jewish community. Our workshop resource list included materials from the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Institute for Middle East Understanding, as well as a variety of Palestinian organizations.

    The workshop was so successful that we decided to organize a summer Inquiry to Action Group discussion, or ItAG for teachers on the same theme. ItAGs are not “courses”, they are not part of any school districts curriculum or professional development program. ItAGs gather educators, activists and others to study a topic and collectively create an action around that area of study, consistent with TSJ’s principles of education that is pro-justice, anti-racist, multicultural/multilingual, and grounded in the experiences of students and their communities.Recent ItAGs have looked at Islamophobia , policing in Chicago, and US relations with Honduras.

    A staff member at Niles Skokie District 219 emailed the Director of Equity a list of 4 TSJ summer ItAGs , including the one on Palestine, and suggested they be included in a list of summer offerings for teachers. Then, as you know the District was inundated with angry calls and messages, not only from district residents but around the country, accusing us of anti semitism, creating a pro-terrorist propaganda exercise, and the veneration of mass murderers. Predictably, the mere mention of the words “Palestine” and “occupation” were described as threatening and as “making Jewish students feel unsafe”.

    None of the organizations that called for the elimination of the ItAG asked to see any of our materials; neither did anyone at District 219. The Teaching Palestine ItAGs was de-listed solely because of its subject matter and perspective. We find it interesting that our ItAG on Palestine was de-listed for being “one sided” while the district considers training materials from Stand With us and the Anti Defamation League, two organizations whose central mission is advocacy for Israel.

    I’m happy to say that the ItAG will still take place; in fact it is completely full, (the publicity we received probably helped).

    Lesley Williams

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