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In thousands of public-school districts across the United States, taxpayers unwittingly bankroll the dissemination (to grade-school and high-school students) of materials that are anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-American, and pro-Islamic.

Often bypassing school boards and nudging aside approved curricula, these materials -- whose production is, in many cases, funded by Saudi Arabia -- enter U.S. classrooms via two main avenues:

  • teacher-training seminars that provide instructors with graduate or continuing-education credits

  • school textbooks vetted by activists with Saudi ties; some of these activists advise and influence major textbook companies vis a vis the contents of their publications.

The creation of many of these materials is made possible by Title VI of the Higher Education Act, under which select universities receive federal funding and prestigious designation as National Resource Centers (NRCs) for the study of places and languages which the government considers to be of vital importance. Eighteen of these centers -- based at such institutions as Harvard, Georgetown, Ohio State, UC Berkeley, and the Universities of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington -- focus on the study of the Middle East. As part of the federal mandate, each center assigns an outreach coordinator to extend its expertise to the community at large and to school-age children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Outreach usually includes workshops, guest speakers, books, pamphlets, and complete syllabuses broken down into teaching modules -- with instruction booklets (and sometimes visual aids) for teachers.

Though some of the materials produced by these NRCs include content that is anti-Israel in nature, many school-district officials are unaware of this bias. Others who are aware of it, nonetheless accept the materials simply because they come with the imprimatur of elite institutions such as Harvard or Georgetown. In reality, they are accepting propaganda that originates in Riyadh.

The Arab World Studies Notebook (AWSN) -- a 500-page manual of essays, lesson plans, and primary sources -- is one such publication. First produced in 1990, this book is billed by its creators as an important tool to help students correct their misperceptions about Islam and the Arab world. It is estimated that by 2005, the AWSN had reached some 25 million pupils.

  • AWSN denigrates the Jews' historical connection to Jerusalem. One passage, describing the Old City, says: "The Jerusalem that most people envisage when they think of the ancient city is Arab. Surrounding it are ubiquitous high-rises built for Israeli settlers to strengthen Israeli control over the holy city."

  • AWSN suggests that Jews exert undue influence on U.S. foreign policy. Referring to President Harry Truman's support of the 1947 United Nations resolution to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the book says: "Truman's decision to push the U.N. decision to partition Palestine ended in the creation of Israel. The questions of Jewish lobbying and its impact on Truman's decision with regard to American recognition — and indeed, the whole question of defining American interests and concerns — is well worth exploring."

  • AWSN omits facts and figures about the State of Israel in its country-by-country section, but refers instead to "Palestine."

  • AWSN states that the Koran "synthesizes and perfects earlier revelations," meaning those embraced by Christians and Jews.

One of the groups involved in the publication of AWSN is the Berkeley, California-based Arab World and Islamic Resources, or AWAIR, established in 1990 with funding from Saudi Aramco, a Saudi government-owned oil company. The editor of AWSN is Audrey Shabbas, AWAIR's founder.

The second major organization involved in AWSN's production is the Washington, DC-based Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), which helps to print and disseminate the manual. Headed by Charles Freeman (a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia), the MEPC receives direct funding from the Saudi Kingdom. Freeman lauded MEPC’s publication of John Mearsheimer’s and Stephen Walt’s controversial 2006 essay, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” which claimed that American Jews had a "stranglehold" on U.S. politicians and decision-makers. In a 2007 address to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, Freeman said that "Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians," against whom the Jewish state was allegedly perpetrating a "brutal oppression."

Sandra Stotsky, a former senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, describes AWSN as "a piece of propaganda." She contends that this and many other supplemental instructional materials (which are used in American classrooms) reflect the biases inherent in "the ideological mission of the organizations that create them." These organizations, says Stotsky, "embed their political agendas in the instructional materials they create so subtly that apolitical teachers are unlikely to spot them."

Adapted from "Tainted Teachings, What Your Kids are Learning about Israel, America, and Islam," by the Jewish Telegraph Agency (October 27, 2005).


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