Following the horrific attacks on 9/11, I began to ask, like most Americans, what happened to our country. As I researched and talked to experts, the issues of radical Islam and the attacks on America and Israel became extremely personal to me. In response, I founded Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Christians about their biblical responsibility to stand with and for the people and land of Israel. I established PJTN as a powerful Christian voice for Israel in the media using my years of experience in broadcasting and film. Christians were for the most part silent during the first Holocaust — I believe we cannot be silent again.
Little did I realize I would be fighting anti-Semitism in my very own backyard. For the last twenty-five years, we have resided in Williamson County, TN, a county with a long tradition of being one of the top ten most conservative counties in the U.S; a county in the very center of the Bible belt; a county where Christians should not stand by in silence. I discovered that behind our backs, a liberal school board agenda had taken hold and was indoctrinating our children. Several controversial incidents and troubling educational materials have been cause for great alarm.
Anti-Semitism in a Pearson Published Textbook
In November of 2012, a concerned Williamson County parent contacted PJTN about a controversial human geography textbook (The Cultural Landscape) being used in her son’s high school. The immediate problem involved a section under the title, “Terrorism by Individuals and Organizations,” that asks students to consider the following question on why terrorism has increased:
“If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?”
During the same class, an anti-Israel handout and a guest speaker influenced her son to question his faith and the accuracy of the Bible concerning Israel and her rights to her ancient homeland. This led to the concerned parent contacting me. It was also discovered that another student had remarked that “had he not taken the class, he wouldn’t have known about the dangerous Zionist agenda.”
Meetings with the school’s faculty led nowhere, so I filed an official complaint with the school district requesting the textbook’s removal due to the highly objectionable statement. With the help of several parents, nearly a dozen other objectionable passages, descriptions and word choices were also found in the book. Not only was the textbook anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, but it was replete with anti-Christian, anti-Western and pro-Marxist propaganda as well.
Despite gathering over 1,300 signatures protesting the book, other parents’ outcries, and repeated school board meetings, Williamson County Schools Director, Mike Looney, encouraged the board to vote to continue using the book. Looney defended the use of this textbook because it had been used for several years with no one ever filing a formal complaint. He further stated, “I personally don’t get that anti-Semitic perspective from reading the question in context. I respect other people’s viewpoints and understand they might read it differently.” He also felt that one passage in a 500-page book could not justify discontinuing its use.
The Nashville Jewish Federation supported PJTN’s leadership on this matter and agreed that the textbook needed to be removed and issued this statement:
“To create moral equivalency between specific acts of terror and legitimate territorial disputes that are political in nature serves to legitimize wanton and premeditated violence against innocent civilian victims. To further allow distorted, unbalanced and prejudicial content to stand as a form of academic inquiry is a perversion of our educational system and a disservice to all the children who learn in that system.”
- Mark Freedman
Jewish Federation Executive Director
In October 2013, I took the issue to the Tennessee State Legislature where my advocacy against anti-Semitism is well recognized among the state’s legislators. In a state that has passed several strong pro-Israel resolutions, legislators shared my concern about the material being presented to students. I testified before the Tennessee Senate Education Committee to address their concerns about this textbook material. This testimony was instrumental in the Tennessee legislature introducing bills this year related to textbook issues.
The Double Standard in the Williamson County School District
Mr. Looney and other county officials refuse to acknowledge the detrimental effect of textbook and curriculum materials containing subtle and not-so-subtle expressions of anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. Under his leadership, the doctrine of anti-Semitism has permeated into the students and faculty of the school district.
For example, in September 2013, two male students at a Williamson County Middle School stood at the front of my car giving me a “Heil Hitler” salute in response to a “Defend and Protect America and Israel” bumper sticker on my vehicle. After contacting the school’s principal to make her aware of the incident, it was discovered that the students were from nearby Ravenwood High School. Despite identification of the students from viewing the school’s security camera tape, no action has been taken to address this incident. To date, my request regarding disciplinary action continues to go unanswered by Ravenwood’s principal.
This is the same high school that in 2009 permitted a Palestinian Arab booth at the school’s Cultural Heritage Fair to distribute venomous anti-Semitic propaganda. The “Arab-Palestinian” booth was displaying anti-Israel hate propaganda that included “doctored” pictures of Israeli soldiers shooting babies and the security fence labeled as an “apartheid wall.”
This year, during the school’s Cultural Heritage Week, Muslim students claimed offense because of a pamphlet that was being distributed by a local Jewish organization at the event. The pamphlet contained accurate information about the anti-Semitic hatred that is taught to children in U.S. funded Palestinian schools. The double standard and hypocrisy at Ravenwood High School and the school district at-large should outrage students and parents.
The pamphlet in question was published by “StandWithUs (SWU), an organization that is dedicated to publishing accurate educational information about the Arab – Israeli conflict for use in a high school/university environment. On a page that describes the problem in the Arab culture under, “Teaching Peace,” it describes the incitement to hatred and violence against Israel and Jews that is pervasive in Arab/Palestinian media, schools, and mosques. “In fact, it is this incitement that disturbed then Senator Hillary Clinton in 2007, and that continues to disturb peace makers because the incitement leads to violence and has always been an obstacle to peace,” stated Roz Rothstein, President of SWU.
The truth is that this particular pamphlet is entirely educational and appropriate for this event. It is PJTN’s opinion that in Williamson County and at a school like Ravenwood, where anti-Semitic incidents have occurred and anti-Semitic textbook materials have been found, this educational pamphlet, should be required reading. To provide accurate information about the conflict in the Middle East should be welcomed in the “educational” environment of a high school. Accurate and unbiased resources about the Middle East allow our children to use their critical thinking skills concerning this ongoing conflict.
Double Standards and Double-Speech
This situation leads me to ask the question: what are we teaching the immigrants that come to Tennessee, especially from the Middle East? Israel is our only true friend and ally in the Middle East. We, as a Judeo-Christian nation, share the same values of freedom and faith as our Jewish brethren in Israel. It is that freedom that allows people of all faiths and nationalities to live without fear of persecution not only in our country, but in our county as well. It is critical that we provide accurate and unbiased textbooks to the immigrants that make Williamson County their home. I fear if we do not, we may find similar horrific justification for terrorist attacks here.
Finally, as a result of this whole issue, a deeper-rooted problem has surfaced. What does it say about our local leaders when school officials will censor pamphlets with accurate information that Muslims find offensive but refuse to remove inaccurate anti-Semitic/anti-Israel and anti-Western textbooks at the request of Christian and Jewish parents?
This obvious double standard must not stand unchallenged and must be dealt with at the voting booth. This growing threat further illustrates how critically important local elections are, especially when those elected leaders will be influencing the future direction of our nation. With elections quickly approaching, I hope more Williamson County citizens will join me in some crucially needed “spring cleaning” on this school board, which refuses to uphold the values of the citizens of this great county.
Ironically, as a result of the national and international media attention generated by PJTN, Pearson Publishers agreed with the parents and removed the anti-Semitic quote from future editions of the Human Geography textbook. This is certainly a small and important victory, but the battle continues.
To save our country, we must retake it one small county, one small election at a time. As we have slept, the progressive agenda has penetrated every strata of our government and our educational system. It is a long road ahead but we can no longer afford not to walk it.
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