[News] How An Israel Lobby Group Infiltrated US Education

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How An Israel Lobby Group Infiltrated US Education
By Jessica Buxbaum, Mintpress News. - May 8, 2022
------------------------------

Above Photo: Children from the Greater MetroWest Day School hold Israeli
flags during a march in a New York parade. Craig Ruttle | AP
The Institute For Curriculum Services.

*Jessica Buxbaum Uncovers How The Institute For Curriculum Services, Which
Boasts Of Its Reach In All 50 States, Is Twisting The Truth About The
Israeli Occupation In US Schools.*

Richmond, Virginia – In 2018, the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights
(VCHR) successfully stopped the state from adopting textbook edits made by
the Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS), a pro-Israel “educational”
institution.

The ICS promotes itself as improving the accuracy of K-12 instruction on
Judaism and Jewish history in the United States. Yet, backed by the Israel
lobby, its strategy appears more in line with advocating a Zionist
narrative than enhancing education.

Today, ICS boasts <https://icsresources.org/about-us/> that it has helped
better public education in all 50 states and impacted 11 million students
across the country. With this in mind, *MintPress News* uncovered how ICS
is twisting the truth about Israel in U.S. schools.
The Fight In Virginia

In January 2018, Virginia activist Jeanne Trabulsi attended a Jewish
Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) webinar featuring ICS. During the event,
ICS Director Aliza Craimer Elias spoke about the nonprofit’s activity,
specifically how it works with Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs)
to send revision requests to textbook review committees.

Following the webcast, the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy
(IRmep) sent a request <https://www.israellobby.org/ICS/> to Virginia’s
Department of Education, under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, for
all documents submitted by ICS, JCPA and JCRCs. IRmep found that
ICS-proposed edits were sent to the Virginia Department of Education on
behalf of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and the JCRCs of
Greater Washington, Richmond, and Tidewater.

Requested ICS changes to public school textbooks included:

   - Replace “settlers” with “communities,” “occupation” with “control of,”
   “wall” with “security fence,” “occupied territories” with “captured areas,”
   and “militant” with “terrorist.”
   - Discourage students from conducting open internet research, and
   instead recommend the Anti-Defamation League’s website and the
   JewishVirtualLibrary.org <http://jewishvirtuallibrary.org/>.
   - Delete all references to “Palestinian Territories.”
   - Change maps to recognize Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the
   Golan Heights, instead of classifying these areas as occupied.

ICS targeted 12 textbooks published by the National Geographic Society,
Prentice Hall, Five Ponds Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill
for revision.

With these revelations, VCHR sent a letter to the Virginia Department of
Education and the above publishers requesting that they not incorporate ICS
edits. To VCHR’s knowledge, no ICS-sought changes were made to the
textbooks during the 2018 review cycle.
ICS Tactics

In March, Trabulsi presented VCHR’s victory
<https://www.wrmea.org/transcending-the-israel-lobby-at-home-and-abroad/jeanne-trabulsi-the-fight-against-israeli-propaganda-in-virginia-textbooks.html>
against
ICS at the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and IRmep’s annual
Israel Lobby Conference.

“VCHR is of the opinion that ICS is not a true education outfit. It’s a
public affairs and advocacy group,” Trabulsi said during her talk.

ICS operates as a nonproft under the 501(c)(3) status of San Francisco’s
JCRC and is a grantee of the Schusterman Family Foundation, which also
supports
<https://www.alliancemagazine.org/feature/palestine-israel-israel-focal-point/>
the
American Israel Education Foundation, an American Israel Public Affairs
Committee charity organizing congressional visits to Israel.

In addition to textbook revisions, ICS also hosts teacher training.
Currently, 90 U.S. cities have hosted ICS workshops with over 6,000
teachers have participated. Trabulsi attended their flagship course
entitled “Teaching the History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict Using Primary
Sources.” She described their teaching methods during the conference:

[T]hey are highly selective about what documents they do include in their
teaching modules. If you didn’t know the story of the Arab world and
Israel, you’d think they’re pretty good. I remember one student remarking
that the Israelis have offered peace to the Arabs so many times, what else
could the Arabs possibly want?”

The primary sources ICS uses for this module include The Jewish State
(1896), The First Arab Congress (1913), Hussein-McMahon Correspondence
(1915), and The Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), and The Balfour Declaration
(1917).

Trabulsi told *MintPress* that ICS doesn’t use primary sources that may
alter the narrative they wish to set, such as the White Paper of 1939
<https://justvision.org/glossary/white-paper-1930>, a policy paper by the
British government rejecting the establishment of a Jewish state in
historic Palestine.

“VCHR believes that ICS is enmeshed with and funded by Israel affinity
groups that drive their pro-Israel advocacy. We believe that this results
in biased and inaccurate textbooks and teacher training,” Trabulsi said at
the conference.
ICS Involvement In Textbooks Across The US

*MintPress* sent freedom of information requests to the education
departments or boards of all 50 states and the District of Columbia asking
for all materials sent by ICS, JCPA, JCRCs, or Jewish federations during
curriculum and textbook review processes.

Nineteen states responded that textbook and curriculum decisions are made
at the local district level, so information on recommended changes is not
available. Fourteen states said none of the aforementioned organizations
contacted them regarding proposing textbook edits. Eleven states and D.C.
did not respond by the time of writing. However, the states of California,
New Mexico, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Kentucky provided information on
correspondence they had with ICS, their state Jewish federations, and JCRCs.

ICS revisions in Kentucky focused on adding references to ancient Israel
and the Holocaust in the content. The Jewish Federation of New Mexico sent
their state’s education department an ICS review of social studies
standards — advocating “Nation of Israel” be changed to “State of Israel.”
In South Carolina, ICS reviews of a textbook from National Geographic
Learning and Cengage Learning detailed adding references to acts of
Palestinian terrorism.

In California, where ICS is based, JPAC, JCRCs of San Francisco and
Sacramento, and the Jewish Federations of Greater Los Angeles and the
Desert sent the state’s education department proposed revisions made by
ICS. In their cover letter, the organizations commended California for
accepting previous ICS edits.

ICS reviewed the textbooks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson Scott
Foresman and Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill, Teachers Curriculum Institute,
Studies Weekly, National Geographic Learning, Discovery Education, Pearson
Prentice Hall, and First Choice Educational Publishing. ICS proposed edits
include:

   - Delete mentions of “Palestine” and the “West Bank.”
   - Change “Palestine” to “Judah,” the ancient Israelite kingdom.
   - Add “Mandate” and “Region” to references of Palestine.
   - Delete reference to “Palestinian cultural heritage.”
   - Change “Jews settled there” to “Jews joined those [Jews] already
   there.”
   - Delete reference to Israel capturing the West Bank in 1967.

In Louisiana, the North Louisiana Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of
Greater New Orleans and the Jewish Federation of Baton Rouge sent a letter
to the state’s Department of Education on behalf of ICS recommending ICS
revisions to content published by the American Book Company, The Gilder
Lehrman Institute of American History, Studies Weekly, Edmentum, Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt, and Brown University’s The Choices Program. ICS changes
to these texts include:

   - Delete “rightfully” from sentence “The Arabs believed Israel had
   stolen land that rightfully belonged to Palestinian Arabs.”
   - Delete mentions of Israel “seizing territory” from Arab nations.
   - Add information describing Palestinian President Yasser Arafat as
   “directing countless terrorist attacks against Israelis.”
   - Delete student exercise to “[w]rite an unbiased essay that explores
   all sides of the issue of West Bank settlements.”
   - Delete mentions of “The Green Line,” “The wall,” and “Land lost by the
   wall” on maps.
   - Delete reason for Arab states rejecting the UN partition plan.
   - Add “Mandate” to references of Palestine
   - Delete mentions of “historic Palestine” and mentions of Palestine as a
   “land” or “country.”
   - Add references to acts of Palestinian terrorism
   - Place liberation of Palestine in quotes
   - Delete “natives of Palestine” in definition of Palestinians
   - Delete references to Palestinians inhabiting the land for thousands of
   years.
   - Add information describing Zionism as a movement for Jewish
   self-determination.
   - Add Israel retaliates in “self-defense” to Palestinian attacks.
   - Delete sentence “Israel disproportionately uses the bulk of the water
   from those aquifers [in the Occupied West Bank] for its population.”
   - Mention “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.”
   - Delete mention of Israel being” accused of many human rights abuses
   against Palestinians in the territories it occupies…[and] treating its
   Arab-Israeli citizens as inferior to its Jewish citizens” and replace it
   with “Israeli Arabs, who are Israeli citizens, have the same full legal
   rights as Israeli Jews.”

Erasing the existence of Palestine and the indigenous identity of
Palestinians was a common theme in ICS revisions. “They relabeled maps and
they deleted all references to Palestine. You can call it Mandatory
Palestine, but you can never call it Palestine,” Trabulsi said during the
Israel Lobby conference. “They want to change the word Palestine to
Palestinian. The reasoning is there is no state of Palestine, nor has there
ever been.”

ICS, JCPA, and the Jewish Federations of North America did not respond to
*MintPress’* requests for comment.
The Israel Agenda In Schools – And Progressive Pushback

ICS isn’t the only pro-Israel organization attempting to shape the
narrative on Israel-Palestine in American education. Left-wing activists
accused the final adoption of the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum
<https://forward.com/news/466069/why-thursdays-vote-on-californias-ethnic-studies-curriculum-wont-end-the/>
of
being “white-washed” and “watered down” following opposition by pro-Israel
groups.

The Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate initiative is involved in
thousands of schools across the U.S. and encourages these institutions to
use ADL resources. Pro-Israel groups also continuously go after Palestinian
and solidarity activists on college campuses across the country.

Yet progressive movements are fighting back. In 2018, the Texas Coalition
for Human Rights (TCHR) successfully got the state’s board of education to
change curriculum standards related to Palestine-Israel.

The following main changes were approved
<https://www.txchr.org/results-of-state-board-of-education-efforts/>:

   - “[E]xplain how Arab rejection of the state of Israel has led to
   ongoing conflict” changed to “discuss factors contributing to the
   Arab-Israeli conflict, including the rejection of the existence of the
   state of Israel by the Arab League and a majority of Arab nations.”
   - “[E]xplain how developments in Islam influenced law and government in
   the Muslim world such as secularism, nationalism, and fundamentalism”
   changed to “explain how geopolitical and religious influences have impacted
   law and government in the Muslim world.”

In November 2018, the Texas Board of Education heard public comments on its
decision to update the school curriculum. TCHR testified in favor of
changing the curriculum while Jewish community center Shalom Austin, the
Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federations in Texas, B’nai
B’rith International, and Truth in Texas Textbooks all testified in favor
of keeping the current standards.

TCHR activist Alex McDonald <peacenotapathy at gmail.com> understands that
more needs to be done in fixing the U.S.’ faulty school curriculum and
ensuring accuracy, especially when it comes to Palestine. “The goal is to
stifle the conversation and the criticism,” McDonald told *MintPress News*.
“And ICS is just one small part of the brainwashing.”
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