August 23, 2019

83 Jewish and Pro-Israel Organizations Call for ‘Safeguards’ in Response to Drafted Anti-Israel Curriculum

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Eighty-three Jewish and pro-Israel organizations urged the California Department of Education to implement “safeguards” in response to drafted anti-Israel ethnic studies high school curriculum.

The organizations, which include the AMCHA Initiative, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs and Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, wrote in an August 7 letter to the California Department of Education Quality Commission Chair Soomin Chao that the proposed mandatory Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) portrays “Jews and Israel as part of ‘interlocking systems of oppression and privilege’” and endorses the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. 

“There is considerable evidence showing that the kind of anti-Zionist propaganda and activism promoted in the ESMC is strongly linked to acts of anti-Jewish hostility,” the organizations wrote. “Studies of anti-Semitic activity on college and university campuses across the country have consistently shown that schools with anti-Zionist expression and activity, including the promotion of BDS, are about three times more likely to host incidents targeting Jewish students for harm, including acts of harassment, vandalism and assault. Implementation of a model curriculum that includes the promulgation of such political, ethnic or religious hatred can’t help but threaten the safety and well-being of Jewish and pro-Israel high school students in the state.”

They added that while the curriculum needs to be re-written, there needs to be “safeguards” in place to ensure that any sort of curriculum in the future cannot be weaponized “against any group” or incentivize “high school students to take action based on such enmity” against a group of people.

“We strongly urge you, as well as the Board of Education officials and state legislators copied on this email, to immediately address this consequential problem by establishing safeguards for ensuring that all state-sponsored curricula and other instructional materials may never be created or used as tools of political indoctrination that promote hatred and incite harm against any race, religion, group or individual,” the letter concludes.

First reported by Jewish News Syndicate on August 2, the drafted ESMC would require students to study pro-BDS figures like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Women’s March, Inc. leader Linda Sarsour, and features songs that provide odes to “Free Palestine.” The California Jewish Legislative Caucus wrote in a July 29 letter to Chao that the drafted curriculum “erases the American Jewish experience” and promulgates “negative stereotypes about Jews.”

The Progressive Zionists of California similarly said in an August 2 statement, “The curriculum gives voice to those who discriminate against Israeli citizens and denies the history of ethnic Jews, including Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. By ignoring the historic Jewish presence in the Middle East and North Africa, the drafted curriculum fails to affirm the heritage of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, who were forcibly expelled from their countries, saw their money, homes, and private possessions stolen from them, faced severe discrimination, and escaped to Israel and other places including California.”

According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the drafted curriculum will likely be approved in 2020.