World History Textbooks Biased Against Israel

Roundup: Talking About History

Lee Kaplan, contributing editor to (March 19, 2004):

Militant Islamists in the United States and their allies have set their sights on our American children. They seek to provide an education similar to that taught in the controlled regimes of the Arab world. So far, American textbook suppliers are more than willing to accommodate them.

It is well known that the Palestine Authority, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world use propaganda in their schools to support Islamic hegemony and stir up sentiment against Israel and the West. Students in the Middle East are taught to distrust Christians and Jews and are then taught to apply those lessons to opposing the free and democratic—and non-Muslim—nations of the world. These lessons serve to buttress the dictatorships of the Arab world. But now, prestigious American textbook publishers such as Prentice-Hall, Simon and Schuster, TCI and others are educating your child to the “Arab point of view” and its aspirations of world domination through what the Islamic world calls Dawa , a means of proselytizing unbelievers to the faith . They are doing this no matter how much that point of view may be distorted, farfetched or, in some extreme cases, outright lies.

The U.S. textbook publishing industry is a $4 billion-dollar-a-year business providing materials for over 45 million elementary, middle and secondary students in U.S. public and private schools. At the collegiate level, Congress has recently stepped in to create oversight on U.S. taxpayer funding in our universities of Middle East Studies centers. Influxes of Saudi and Palestinian money, frequently matched by U.S. taxpayer dollars, have financed teaching material that demonizes Israel and the United States . But even before students reach college, American students are now indoctrinated with falsehoods. Legislators and administrators have, so far, ignored the curricula offered in grammar, middle and high schools. What goes on even before students reach college years is being completely ignored on the federal and state levels to a frightening degree.

Gilbert T. Sewell of the American Textbook Council, a non-profit that reviews history textbooks, recently submitted a report that reviewed the teaching of Islam in most of our children's history textbooks. He discovered that sections concerning Islam in books distributed by the main U.S. publishers/providers have been sanitized. In general, current or past events about Islam are not reported accurately for the sake of “political correctness.” Arab and Palestinian political goals are also strongly promoted . The Council's report included the following world history textbooks, one of which your child in grades 7 through 12 might be using right now:

Human Heritage , by Greenblatt and Lemmo. Glencoe Publishing, 2001

Across the Centuries by Nash, Armento, de Alva, Wilson and Wixson. Houghton-Mifflin, 1994

A Global Mosaic by Ahmad, Brodsky, Crofts and Gay. Prentice-Hall, 2001

Patterns of Interaction by Beck, Black, Krieger, Naylor, Shabaka. McDougal Little. 1999, 2003

Connections to Today by Ellis and Esler. Prentice-Hall, 2001, 2003

The Human Experience by Farah and Karls. Glencoe Publishing, 1999

Continuity and Change by Hanes, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1999

One publisher not mentioned in the American Textbook Council report was Teacher's Curriculum Institute(TCI) in Mountain View, California. The content of TCI's book and resource material for its Modern Middle East curriculum unit is blatantly anti-Israeli . High school teachers are instructed to require class “exercises” designed to pit some students in roles as advantaged Jews against other students as disadvantaged and unfairly treated Palestinian Arabs. The teachers, representing a world power, are instructed to intentionally and unfairly side against Arabs to suggest the existence of favoritism to Jews. The course material is quite shocking and clearly biased .

Furthermore, the TCI material turns Middle East history on its head. It does not present the history of Arab terrorism against Israel much less outline its extent over the last 55 years. The theme is constantly implied, stated and reiterated that Israel is a foreign entity that stole the Palestinians' “country.” There is no mention that more than half of Israel's population is indigenous to the area or victims of Arab pogroms. In fact, any Arab violence discussed at all is couched as being done in self-defense against Jewish persecution or “terrorism” against Arabs in the region. The same distortions are taught in Saudi and Palestinian schools where they help raise the next generation of Islamic terrorists and suicide bombers or their sympathizers. This is the same type of educational system in the Arab world that roils and intensifies the Middle East conflict. It works over there, so why not here?

In addition, a comparison of lesson plans matches materials in Palestinian classrooms as outlined in reports by the Center For Monitoring the Impact of Peace (November 2001-2003). In 1993, Palestinian propaganda ministries tried to portray Palestinians as descendents of the Philistines, a Minoan culture, in order to suggest they predated Jewish presence in Israel . In the Arab world, Ph.D.'s even claim that Israel had no Jewish population before the modern Zionist movement began in the late 19 th century. They simply ignore a Jewish presence of 3,200 years—and considerable available archaeological evidence from the Biblical period, as well as the Bible itself. This tale has since been abandoned for the new lie that the Palestinians are the Canaanites. Nevertheless, TCI materials still allude to the canard of Palestinians being the ancient Philistines. As this article went to press, although TCI had earlier insisted its material was academically sound for 9 th to 12 th graders, the textbook publisher announced plans to revise its course material to include documentation provided by local Jewish organizations and scholars. TCI estimated it will take two years to implement. But what those revisions will actually look like remains to be seen. TCI has also chosen not to eliminate some of the scholars responsible for the current material. Meanwhile, some California school districts like Santa Rosa are still using the materials at the individual teacher's discretion, despite news reports that falsely claim the contrary.

In a telephone interview, TCI President and CEO Bert Bower was asked which consulting professor inserted the tale of Palestinians being the ancient Philistines and what the other “scholars” had to say about this. Despite numerous calls giving him the chance to reply, he still has not answered. This is most likely because Middle East Studies departments funded by the Saudis at our universities have produced academics who, when they are hired as sources or consultants, might push a certain political agenda affecting the content of such textbooks.

An overview of the list of professors used by TCI to put together its texts and interactive materials tells us probably why Mr.Bower has not replied. The list is headed by Joel Beinin of Stanford and includes Kamran Aghaie from UCLA, Betsy Barlow from the University of Michigan, Glenn Perry of Indiana University and Abraham Marcus at the University of Texas at Austin—none of whom could be classified as pro-Israel with the exception of Marcus, who might be considered lukewarm to the only democracy in the Middle East.

Beinin, a former head of MESA, the trade group for Middle East studies professors, also helped choose all the other panelists for TCI's books and materials. He wants Israel dismantled and has organized violent and noisy demonstrations at Stanford against pro-Israel scholars like Daniel Pipes or former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to prevent them from speaking on campus. Aghaie, of Iranian descent, specializes in Islamic studies, not the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and has emphasized the Arab perspective over America's since 9/11; Barlow once reportedly invited a known terrorist to speak at a Middle East academic function and is a well-known, extremely vocal pro-Palestinian activist . She frequently supports and disseminates false Arab propaganda at Palestine solidarity conferences . She advocates using educational institutions to advance Palestinian goals and is a big proponent of divestment from Israel. Perry likewise follows the “anti-Zionism” creed so prevalent at MESA functions .

In discussions on the Middle East, even Marcus inexplicably ignores pogroms against Jews prior to and after Israel's creation in the Middle East in his commentaries. Over 800,000 Middle Eastern Jews were driven from their homes in Arab Muslim lands. Such events led to Israel's creation as much as the European Holocaust. Yet Marcus suggests Middle Eastern Jews lived relatively unharmed, even though they were “ dhimmis ,” or second-class citizens in a Muslim world. This ignores countless murders of the Jews who were hung in the streets of Baghdad for entertainment or murdered in anti-Jewish riots in Cairo and other capitals of the Arab world.

TCI material lacks balance from esteemed Middle East scholars like Pipes, Bernard Lewis or Martin Kramer. The TCI materials show no effort to present a pro-Western viewpoint. TCI also claims in choosing its scholars to prepare its course materials on the Middle East it “made sure to use a wide variety of perspectives.” But some would call TCI's panel, headed by Beinin, a stacked deck .

But besides prejudice and unprofessional academics, the real driving forces behind the textbook and course bias now infesting our public schools are obscure organizations such as the Council on Islamic Education (CIE). Located in southern California, CIE has taken upon itself the task of lobbying publishers to present a limited Muslim religious point of view in our public school textbooks. These organizations have been working quietly behind the scenes to indoctrinate the upcoming generations to support Arab/Islamic goals like those practiced back in the Middle East. CIE has managed to make such inroads with the major textbook suppliers that some even cite them as a reference for their books.

According to Munir Shaikh, the Executive Director, and on its website, it is a non-profit and receives no funds from Saudi Arabia, only the local Muslim community. Yet when asked for details over the phone of its non-profit status, Shaikh admitted it has not been a non-profit since being founded and only recently applied for such status. Its founding director, Shabbir Mansuri, has been quoted in the past as boasting he is able to vet public school textbooks by threatening charges of racism and xenophobia against publishers who don't meet CIE standards . Despite Shaikh's denial of any Saudi connection, he mentioned that CIE started out as part of the International Islamic Educational Institute that does have ties to overseas Islamic organizations and funding .

Another organization known as Arabic World and Islamic Resources (AWAIR) also provides resource materials to further “enhance the educational experience” for free to high school teachers where Islam is concerned. Some of the “resource materials” teachers use inside the classroom, but that parents never see, show their handiwork . Displayed prominently on the website, AWAIR provides “supplemental” resource and books also that tend to “sanitize” Islam and speak of “occupation” by Israel. A photo of Ghada El Turk on their website reveals a lot. Ms. El Turk is a prominent pro-Palestinian proponent in the American Library Association who has been pushing books and films in libraries across the U.S. supporting Palestinian goals without telling the Israeli side. She has been padding library collections nationwide with Palestinian propaganda books, films and events while virtually shutting out valid information on Israel.

There is nothing wrong with public school textbooks including sections on Islamic culture. To be sure, it's a major part of world history. But the activities of organizations like CIE and AWAIR seek to glorify historical Islam while ignoring Islamic historical tenets that even survive today and are affecting our world. Jihad is virtually ignored in many of the texts or sweetened to mean a personal internal struggle. Bernard Lewis, one of the most prominent Middle East scholars, has stated in the past that jihad has always referred to Muslim conquests in military terms in Islamic culture and to claim otherwise is a diversion. Lewis states, “The object of jihad is to bring the entire world under Islamic law.” The Muslim concept of the Dar El-Salamm , the Muslim world, and the Dar Al-Harb (the rest of the world to be conquered and converted by war ) is also left out.

It is true that these tenets are carried to the extreme by militant Islamists today in our present world and not all Muslims. But to ignore this important historical background information in the light of 9/11 smacks of censorship, or denial. The term “holy war,” which is the rallying call for Osama Bin Laden, gets transformed into a harmless example of self-improvement, thus denying such students a true historical perspective of how things got to be the way they are.

Patterns of Interaction by Houghton-Mifflin makes no mention of jihad at all. Prentice-Hall in their textbooks quotes the meanings of Islamic words verbatim to what CIE has on its website. While Arab suicide bombers actually chant the Arab battle cry “Allahu Akhbar,” in this textbook it is merely “an expression of joy.” Jerusalem is defined as Islam's third holiest city despite no mention of it in the Koran . It was the PLO that started to make that claim in their propaganda by creating a non-existent Koranic discussion of Jerusalem. This was done to justify Arab demands for the city to counterbalance thousands of years of identification of Jerusalem as being the capital of world Jewry.

Also left out are issues involving Muslim women. While textbooks have made strides including the status and participation of women in history, these textbooks and resource guides gloss over or ignore the misogyny of the Arab world. Women are known to be treated as chattel in most of the Islamic world and live under the veil. The course materials attempt to present this as a pleasure for women and neglect to mention that even today women have been imprisoned or killed for refusing to wear the veil. Arranged marriages where women are sold as a commodity are portrayed in supplemental materials as cute customs. Subjects such as when and how to beat one's wife and daughters, “honor killings” for losing virginity or female circumcision might be too graphic for younger students, but definitely should be included in resource materials; even though they are not part of the Koran, they are widely practiced in the Islamic world.

Prentice-Hall's Connections to Today even names the Council on Islamic Education as an editorial revisionist. And it shows. In addition to sanitizing Islam in the textbook, the resource material accompanying the textbook for classroom exercises (which parents usually never see) are outright Arab propaganda against Israel: A handout 3.2b given to students about the Intifada accuses Israel of collecting taxes from Palestinians for unemployment and health care in the 1980's, then not providing services. In the 1980's, Israel provided universal health care to Palestinians in the territories; the Palestinian Authority stopped it when given autonomy despite substantial funding. The sheet further implies Jewish persecution of Arabs by Israel but mentions nothing of 40 years' worth of terror attacks by the Arab world in order to wipe Israel off the map. The Israelis are presented as using military weapons against only rocks, which is hardly true, and Palestinian “civilian” casualty figures falsely include terrorists who were killed by Israelis in self-defense or who killed themselves as suicide bombers as “victims.” The handout concludes by asking a leading question to choose which of several “responses” addresses the concerns of all involved. All the responses listed are “solutions” pushed by the PLO propaganda machine in the world arena. None are those proposed by Israel or the United States.

Prentice-Hall's passion for pushing this agenda may even extend to violating California state law according to one Santa Rosa attorney alarmed by what he saw in his children's textbooks.

A parent who asked to remain anonymous, he resides in Santa Rosa, California, and has been advocating such textbooks be banned from his local school district because they violate state laws against indoctrination . He has been divulging to the public what is going on in his children's textbooks regarding CIE's involvement with all the publishers in this situation.

California state and federal laws through the U.S. Department of Education require that publishers like Prentice-Hall log all complaints against their textbooks and make such complaints available to the public and authorities. Prentice-Hall has yet to provide examples of complaints against their books. This parent has found his work cut out for him. Another parent, attorney Paul Vogel, also filed a complaint against Ukiah High School in nearby Mendocino County, when it hosted a propaganda tour by PLO activists all day on school grounds during school hours.

Back in Santa Rosa, the school board has even approved a required humanities course for all high school students. Taught only to students attending at Maria Carillo High School and entitled “The Middle East Conflict According to the Palestinians,” the instructor has defiantly refused to allow parents to audit or see any of the course materials for the class. Those materials most likely were supplemented by AWAIR and approved by the CIE.

One parent was incensed enough to file complaints with the Santa Rosa school board over A Global Mosaic . Sentiment became serious enough that the Jewish Community Relations Council prepared a 23 page analysis of TCI's textbooks and materials which clearly showed TCI's presentation of the Israeli- Palestinian issue as being almost a verbatim repeat of PLO propaganda.

The result? The Santa Rosa school board refused to find fault with the Prentice-Hall book at all. While they found major problems with the TCI book in eliciting opinions against Israel, they refused to remove the book and materials from the curriculum. It's business as usual in the classroom.

If the use of false history and propaganda to promote the goals of our enemies overseas becomes commonplace in our textbooks here, how long before those goals are achieved in our next generations? Our schools and children have become targets of militant Islam and its apologists. Congress did right by insisting on oversight of Title VI funds in our colleges. It is time now they take an equally hard and long look at the textbooks being used to indoctrinate our children still in grades K through 12.