Bias Against Israelis and Jews

A number of materials used by Newton students contain inaccurate, anti-Israel and/or anti-semitic statements. In addition to the two texts analyzed below, the P.O.V. Timeline, PLO-approved maps, and altered or inaccurately described primary source documents contain both subtle and overt biases and descriptions of Middle East history, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Verity Educate report analyzes additional examples of these biased materials. 

Note: writing in blue indicates our analysis of statements in material used by students in Newton, MA public high schools. The statements read by students appear in black.

The following are just a few of the inaccuracies and biases in two texts used at Newton South High School - The 5 Points of Peace and The Middle East in Transition (also called the Middle East in the World).

The Middle East in Transition

Only a small portion of The Middle East in Transition was analyzed. We did not attempt to include every inaccuracy, only the most obvious and egregious ones. 

The overt bias against Israelis and Jews can fairly be described as anti-semitic. School is no place for the misrepresentations, double standards, and name-calling against the Jewish people found in these texts.

There is certain to be many more inaccuracies, biases, and examples of objectionable material among the other texts used in this class.

(1) “The story of Israel’s creation starts in the late 1800’s...[Jewish leaders] looked in East Africa and South America before settling on Palestine, a significant region is Jewish history, as the best choice. In the early 1900’s, these Zionists started buying land there for Jewish settlements.” 

Neither Uganda nor Argentina was ever seriously considered as a site for a future Jewish state. The possibility of a Jewish state in Argentina was raised in the early 1880's by Leon Pinsker, a Russian Jew who proposed several sites to which to remove the persecuted Russian Jewish community. The proposal was never endorsed by any Jewish organization and Pinsker thereafter devoted his energies towards a Jewish state in Palestine.

The proposal of a temporary refuge in Uganda for Russian Jews, who continued to suffer from pogroms and mass murder, was made in 1903 at the Sixth Zionist Congress. The proposed project was not meant to replace Israel as a Jewish homeland, it was intended solely as a temporary measure to save lives.

The proposal was rejected at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905 after the Russian delegation, representing the community it was meant to protect, walked out in protest during a discussion of creating a Jewish state in any place other than Israel. 

The return to the Jewish homeland of Israel is an essential tenet of Judaism and a part of both daily and Shabbat prayers. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in Israel for 3,000 years. Jewish philanthropists began purchasing tracts of land for settlement in the 1840’s, even though doing so was technically unlawful until 1920. All three major Jewish denominations explicitly state that Zionism is an essential part of Judaism.

(2) “Between 1922 and 1939...the Zionist movement increasingly found itself at odds with the aspirations of Palestinian Arabs to forge a state of their own.”

There was never any discussion of a ‘Palestinian’ state until the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964; even then the goal was reunification with Jordan until a change of policy in 1974. Prior to the 1920’s, the area known now as the West Bank or Judea and Samaria was part of Syria; after that it was part of the British Mandate in Greater Palestine until 1948. Until the 1950’s, the word ‘Palestinian’ was generally used to refer to Jews, not Arabs.

(3) “Most Arab leaders opposed Israel because the country was carved out of lands where Arabs already lived.”

Jerusalem and other areas in pre-state Israel have had a majority Jewish population since the mid-1800’s.

(4) “By the time a truce was reached in January 1949, the Zionists had seized a large portion of the land that the U.N. had designated for the Palestinians.”

At the end of the war, each party held territory originally designated for other. In particular, Arab armies claimed the areas of Judea and Samaria (later renamed “West Bank” by Jordan) and murdered or expelled its inhabitants. Using the book's terminology, both sides "seized” land. Because this language condemns actions by Israel while ignoring the same actions performed by its enemies, it can fairly be considered anti-semitic.

(5) [After Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli ships in May 1967] “President Johnson attempted to solve the crisis diplomatically. But Israeli leaders had little faith in diplomatic efforts. In June 1967 they launched a surprise attack...and overran the West Bank.”

The “West Bank”, as it was renamed by Jordan during its 19-year occupation of the Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria, belonged to Israel under the 1947 U.N. partition plan. Israel no more “overran” the West Bank than Jordan did when it seized control of Judea and Samaria in 1947.  Because this language condemns actions by Israel while ignoring the same actions performed by its enemies, it can fairly be considered anti-semitic.

(6) “Israeli warplanes bombed a U.S. communications ship based off the coast of Egypt, killing thirty-four U.S. sailors. Although Israeli leaders claimed the attack was a mistake, some U.S. officials privately believed that Israel’s intent was to direct attention away from Israelis military preparations against Syria.”

There is no evidence to support this claim, which has been rejected by all reputable historians. Were the claim to be true, it would be a declaration of war by Israel on the U.S. Implying without evidence that the tragic death of U.S. personnel was the result of a deliberate attack is not only false, but the creation of a noxious and defamatory anti-Israel myth can fairly be considered anti-semitic.

The Five Points of Peace

(1) “Tens of thousands of Israelis [have settled] on lands seized from Palestinians. Today there are 155,000 settlers living in the West Bank and 6,000 in Gaza.” 

Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 in the hopes of making peace. Since then, over 10,000 rockets have been fired by Hamas on Israeli civilians, and Hamas has diverted building materials supplied by the U.N. to build tunnels to carry out mass terror attacks.

Describing Israelis as having “seized” former Jordanian and Egyptian territory won in a defensive war, as well as ignoring the fact that the vast majority of the area was state, not private, land (many farmers did not pay rent, or paid only nominal rent, but did not own the land they farmed) while ignoring similar “seizures” by Arabs exhibits substantial bias against Israelis and Jews. Additional information regarding the demonization, delegitimization, and double standards (the "3 D's of Anti-semitism" described by Natan Sharansky") inherent in this description is below.

(2) “Settlements are areas in the Occupied Territories that are controlled by Jewish residents. The first settlements were constructed after the 1967 war as a way of claiming seized Palestinian and Syrian is recognized that these settlements are illegal under international law.” 

The pejorative claim that homes built on land gained in a defensive war is “a way of claiming seized...territories” is not only opinion, it is unsupported opinion. Never in history has a defending nation been required to relinquish territory gained as a result of another nation’s aggression. The result of this never before heard of ‘principle’, if applied uniformly, would be to encourage all nations to wage war on their neighbors, as there would be no negative consequences to such aggression.

Were this principle applied equally to both Israel and Arab nations, Jordan would not only be condemned for building homes and administrative structures in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") between 1948 and 1967, it would have been required to return that land to Israel after the 1948 armistice. No return was ever considered by the U.N. or any nation.

The only two occasions on which this ‘principle’ has ever been discussed in the international arena were after Israel succeeded in repelling genocidal attacks in 1967 and 1973. Apparently, the text’s authors have determined that the concept applies to Israel and only to Israel, not to any of the Arab nations which attacked it in 1948, 1967, or 1973. In the absence of being applied equally to all nations, this ‘principle’ can have no effect.

With respect to Jewish presence being contrary to “international law”, accepting that construct would give express approval to state- and UN-sanctioned apartheid, and legitimatize a double standard of treating Jews differently than non-Jews. In similar situations, there has been no objection by the U.N. or any other organization to the entry or settlement of citizens of an occupying power in a disputed area. 

An example is the ongoing conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara over the latter's territory. Not only are Moroccan citizens permitted and in fact encouraged to settle in Western Sahara, with no objection from the U.N., the Moroccan government has built a wall, four times as long and much less permeable than Israel's anti-terror fence, to prevent the conflict from extending east. (There are ten other present-day border barriers as long or longer than the anti-terror fence). Not a single objection has been raised by the U.N. or any other nation.

Nowhere in the world other than Israel is there any contention that a given people be legally barred from residing in an otherwise accessible area. The legitimacy and moral validity of apartheid has been rejected time and time again - except when it involves apartheid that excludes Jews.

The United States has consistently vetoed resolutions upholding the claimed “illegality” of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria. It is notable that most nations and other organizations international bodies which insistent that some parts of the world must be Judenfrei are not only following in the footsteps of the ‘racial purity’ laws of the Third Reich, but have themselves enforced similar apartheid laws. A striking example is the many Arab League states (including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and the U.A.E.) which do not permit Jews to become citizens of, and in some cases reside in, those nations. The same nations loudly condemn Israel for "apartheid".

Renowned jurists such as the late Eugene Rostrow (Dean of Yale Law School) and Julius Stone persuasively argued that rights granted under the League of Nations (which were adopted by the U.N.) and U.N. resolutions themselves, especially U.N. Resolution 242 which specifically applies to Judea and Samaria, cannot be revoked absent revocation of the issuing documents, and that exceptions applied to only one religion or one people is contrary to established principles and laws. More recently, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop questioned whether nations which claimed that Jewish families must be removed from their homes had any valid grounds for those opinions.

(3) “Refugees often want to return to ancestral lands taken by Jewish settlers, making their situation even more difficult.”

The majority of land in both pre-state and modern Israel belongs to the state; unlike the U.S., most homeowners rent the land under the buildings they live in. During the Ottoman era, the majority of productive land was owned by absentee landlords. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire and decrease in agricultural productivity, many owners effectively abandoned their land by not paying taxes. By law, those tracts reverted to the state. Unlike the U.S., there is no provision for ‘adverse possession’ in Israeli law.

Local families continued to farm, however, and in time began to consider the land ‘theirs’ even though they had not purchased it and according to law, it belonged to either the original landowner, someone who purchased the land from the landowner, or the government.

Deed registries during the Ottoman era and the British Mandate were accurate and up-to-date; landholders also held a physical deed to their land. Israeli law recognizes either a deed or deed register entry as a basis for ownership. If a claimant cannot produce either one, however, there is no basis for granting title to land which s/he did not purchase and was never deeded to him/her.

To describe such land, which was sold by an absentee owner or which reverted to state ownership as “taken” (i.e. stolen), while at the same time ignoring land which was truly “taken” after the murder of its owners (as occurred in 1929 Hebron when the entire 500-strong Jewish population was killed or expelled, in 1948 in Gush Etzion, when 127 men and women were murdered by Arab troops to which they had surrendered and the kibbutz they defended fell under Jordanian occupation, and in 1948 in Jerusalem, where all Jews living in the area conquered by Jordan were expelled) is a classic example of double standards. 

The land described by the 5 Points of Peace as "taken" was in fact either sold to Jewish farmers or reverted to Israeli state ownership after the 1947-1948 war. As noted, the 5 Points of Peace makes no mention of land and personal property which was truly "taken" after its owners were murdered and/or the land conquered by Jordan. (After the 1947-48 war, Arabs who remained in Israel were given Israeli citizenship and allowed to keep their land and personal property. By contrast, all Jews who lived in the areas conquered by Jordan were either murdered or expelled, and their land and personal property confiscated). This false and defamatory depiction of Jews alone as “takers” of land can fairly be called anti-semitic.

Although the text extensively discusses Arab refugees, there is no mention at all of the greater number of Jewish refugees - at least 800,000 - from Arab nations. This is over four times the number of Arab refugees created by the 1947-48 war. Ignoring Jewish suffering while focusing exclusively on the plight of Arab is an example of overt anti-semitism found in this and other material used in Newton high schools.