Newton, Massachusetts, a large Boston suburb, has an anti-Semitism problem in its public schools. Some Newton high school teachers, trained by Saudi and Qatari-funded curriculum mills, teach about the history of the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict in ways that the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights defines as anti-Semitic.
Influenced by anti-Semitic classroom portrayals of the Jewish state, some Newton students have bullied their Jewish classmates with Nazi comparisons; and swastikas have appeared at a couple of schools.
In response to the situation, local activists have been engaged in grassroots campaigns to remove the anti-Semitic elements in the Middle East curriculum. The campaign, initiated by APT, strongly supported by CAMERA, and recently joined by the group Education Without Indoctrination (EWI), has included an in-depth investigation of the curriculum by APT, a short APT documentary about the events, a scholarly report by CAMERA analyzing curricular materials, numerous published articles, as well as correspondence with the school committee, the school superintendent, and Newton’s mayor. More recently EWI initiated a lawsuit against the Newton School Committee over an illegal lack of transparency. National news stories have emerged about biased teaching in Newton schools.
Now, after seven years of grassroots campaigns, Boston’s establishment Jewish leaders, who were for a long time reluctant to address the problem, have finally acknowledged it. On October 9, at a public meeting hosted by the Israeli-American Congress (IAC), the Jewish Community Relations Council, the New England branch of the ADL, and the Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), all discussed the biased Middle East curriculum at Newton schools. All the groups, including the IAC, agreed that the curriculum and the teachers who use it are promoting anti-Israel lies to Newton students. The event further augmented the mounting negative publicity and pressure on the schools and teachers to act. Instead of addressing the problem, the very next day the educational establishment in the city struck back.
On October 10, Newton North High School teachers staged a protest against Jewish community’s concerns about their teaching. The protest was led by David Bedar and John Fitzgerald, two history teachers who have attended the Qatar-funded anti-Israel teacher trainings exposed by APT. The protestors, among whom were young children and Newton Schools Superintendent David Fleishman, ignored the concerns of the Jewish community, and portrayed the biased teachers, as opposed to Newton’s Jewish students, as the real victims of bullying and harassment. Some teachers were holding signs reading, “Defeat Hate, Defend Newton.” That the two missives are mutually exclusive never occurred to these teachers, who claim to teach critical thinking. Neither did the irony in a claim that exposing hate and civil rights violations by adult teachers against minority students amounts to bullying the teachers.
None of the speakers at the rally addressed the substance of the Jewish community’s allegation that Newton teachers had taught anti-Semitic lies given to them as lesson plans at teacher workshops sponsored by the Jew-hating regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. None mentioned that the Jewish community might be upset because teachers had handed out falsified primary documents, a Hamas Charter, for example, that erased Hamas’s call for the murder of all the world’s Jews; or a set of PLO propaganda maps with the PLO branding removed so that the students would think the maps were factual. The lesson for Newton students?
The teachers coopted a reporter for the Newton Patch “hyperlocal news” website, Jenna Fisher, to engage in a slanderous and hateful attack against those representing the Newton Jewish community’s concerns. The way Ms. Fisher has it in the article, “Jewish community groups including the ADL, JCRC, Israeli-American Congress and CAMERA” aren’t at all interested in “good-faith discussion.” Instead, the Jewish groups are “bullying and harassing” the poor teachers.
Ms. Fisher reserved her most serious libels for my organization, APT, and her go-to source for these libels was the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. According to the FBI, “CAIR and its founders were part of a group set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas,” an organization whose charter calls for the murder of every Jew on the planet. In 2009, a federal district judge ruled that prosecutors in the largest terrorist fundraising trial in American history have established “at least a prima facie case as to CAIR’s involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas.” CAIR has helped raise millions of dollars for Hamas terrorists. It’s not surprising that a Massachusetts organization connected to the genocidal Jew-hating terror group Hamas will make false and vicious claims against APT. What is surprising is that a reporter like Ms. Fisher, whether due to malice or incompetence, fails to see that.
Sheikh Ahmed Mansour, an Al Azhar-educated moderate Islamic scholar sits on APT’s board of directors. CAIR’s associates in Egypt tried to have him killed. APT’s president, Charles Jacobs, was honored by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott, for freeing tens of thousands of black African slaves – many of whom were Muslims – in the 1990s. Newton history teachers, on the other hand, minimize the significance of modern-day slavery in their lessons. According to a Gallup poll, 88% of American Muslims say that CAIR does not best represent them. On the other hand, the Boston Jewish Advocate wrote in an editorial early this year that “APT, which many members of the Jewish community support with their hearts, minds, efforts and dollars . . . clearly represents a significant segment of our Jewish community.”
With their mindless slurs, Newton’s teachers have taught their students that race-baiting insults are preferable to good arguments in their classrooms. They and Ms. Fisher have now taken a stand in support of biased and hateful teaching, and against the Newton Jewish community’s concerns, while wrapping their intolerance in the mantle of fighting hatred. It remains to be seen how the school committee and the decent residents of Newton will respond.