Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), an organization which exposes extreme Islamic activity in the US, is attempting to alert the public about a systemic anti-Israel curriculum in Newton, MA schools. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and clergy of two local synagogues continue to criticize APT's ad campaign.
The Arab World Studies Notebook was removed from the Newton high school curriculum last year after a parent complained in 2011 of bias and the district decided the material was outdated, school officials said. An anti-Israel website linked to the school's library website was also removed after the complaint.
APT notes that the same Rabbi who publicly criticized the campaign was aware of the problem as early as 2010. “This constant dumping on Israel, this daily onslaught, drip, drip, drip, that Israel is an oppressor, that Israel is a strategic liability, that Israel is a human rights violator, is a big problem that cannot be ignored,” said Rabbi Gardenswartz of Temple Emanuel, in a 2010 newsletter. The Rabbi also noted that “There is a systematic and thoughtful campaign by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize Israel.”
APT also provides evidence that the Newton, MA school district is being influenced by the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which seeks to delegitimize Israel and use a variety of means to exert pressure on Israel to acquiesce to pro-Palestinian pressures from the international community.
BDS involvement with Newton, MA is through Paul Beran, the director of the Harvard Center for Middle East Studies Outreach Center (CMESOC), a noted BDS supporter. In 2010, Beran instructed 80 history teachers from the Newton school district on how to teach their K-12 students about the Middle East.
A report by CAMERA (Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America) notes that Beran is deeply involved in regional BDS activities, speaking at numerous Christian events to promote anti-Israel activism, writing anti-Israel articles for Arab English-language news sources, and appearing with his wife at events run by radical pro-Palestinian, anti-Semitic groups.
One statement Beran made, cited by CAMERA, includes a comparison of "the military occupation of Israel over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem ... to the Roman occupation of Jews nearly 2000 years ago."
As the Boston Globe reports, the accusation was flatly rejected by Newton school officials. “There is not a single accusation that has merit,” School Committee vice chairman Matt Hills said of the ads. “This is about pure distortion of the facts.”
The Boston Globe also notes the response of ADL regional director Robert Trestan, who insists that the campaign is “misleading.”
“We take these allegations very seriously, and we look into them,” said Trestan. “We concluded that the ad’s description of the material that we reviewed goes beyond reasonable criticism.” He insisted that “The Newton public schools do not have an agenda to delegitimize Israel and glorify Islam."
Hills said that the examples included in the ads are deeply misleading, with passages taken out of context or altered to change their meaning, along with passages that are simply not taught.
Trestan said the ADL also found that “much of what they allege is out of context, and doesn’t take into account the class, the methodology, and the whole context of whatever the publication is.”
APT insists that a joint statement made by the ADL and other Jewish groups in support of the Newton school system misleads the Jewish community. "These are wrong and harmful messages to send to a Jewish community that is beset with an effort, national in scope, to bias public school teaching against Israel," the APT stated.