Op-ed: European educators brainwash young minds with blatant anti-Israel views
Earlier this month it became known that the German EVZ Foundation had financed two high school student programs which promoted hatred of Israel. This state foundation was created to compensate Holocaust slave workers and fight contemporary anti-Semitism. In one program, Dutch Jewish anti-Israeli extremist Hayo Meyer came to the Anne Frank High School in Gutersloh. He equated Palestinian suffering with the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust and termed Israel a “criminal state.”
Since then, in the Nesbru High School in Asker, Norway, an exhibition sponsored by Norwegian Church Aid, was held on “Palestine.” It included a picture of an Israeli flag crossed out and “Murder” written in reverse underneath it. After protest by an Israeli student and some bad publicity, the school finally decided to remove the exhibition.
It is crucially important to know much more about hatred spread against Israel and Jews in schools in the Western world. This contributes to the formation of a new generation of Israel haters and anti-Semites.
Very few studies give information on these topics. In the 1990s, Mitchell Bard studied the most widely used history textbooks in American high schools. Regarding Israel, he found them “full of factual errors, oversimplification, omission, and distortion.” Bard concluded that American “high schools are, as far as anti-Israeli teaching is concerned, even worse than universities.”
In 2008, another analysis by Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra confirmed this. They also found that Arab and Muslim interest groups try to whitewash and glorify all things Islamic and thus promote Islam. In this way, a whole series of lies has permeated American textbooks.
A study conducted on textbooks in France exposed that facts on the Middle East are presented in a way suggesting that Palestinian terrorism is different from general terrorism. One researcher summarized the description of Jews as a caricature: “In antiquity, these were the Hebrews whose religion, Judaism, was significantly improved by Jesus, founder of Christianity. At the end of the 19th century, a Jew and French officer (Dreyfus) was accused of treason. This divided the country until the beginning of the 20th century. Jews were exterminated and others who created Israel since then carry on an unjust war against the innocent Palestinians.”
A “Panorama” television program aired by the BBC in 2010 exposed what is taught in Saudi-run Muslim schools in Britain. They use textbooks from Saudi Arabia that teach children from age six and up that Jews are descendents of monkeys and pigs. According to one textbook, “Jews are cursed by God.” This book asked children to list the negative qualities of Jews. Teenagers who follow the Saudi national curriculum are being taught that Zionists aim to take over the world for Jews and that the fabricated text of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is true.
Sometimes, one can incite children with just a single sentence. In a Dutch language teaching book for the sixth grade in Belgium, students are asked to read sentences with the correct intonation. One was: “When a Palestinian child in Jerusalem saw a Jewish soldier arriving, he shrank in fear.”
One can only imagine the reactions in Belgium if the text had read instead: “After a Palestinian suicide bomber killed many Jewish children and adults, the Belgian press mainly stressed the Israeli reaction to it.”
A related subject is biased teaching. Information on this is sporadic and anecdotal. Dutch Holocaust scholar Johannes Houwink ten Cate remarked that in 2006, he watched the TV news with an 11-year-old-child. “It showed that the Israeli army had inadvertently caused civilian casualties. The child didn’t believe that it was a mistake. I said: ‘Listen, you know that in general, the Israeli army tries to avoid civilian casualties.’ The child did not want to accept Ten Cate’s viewpoint and replied, “My teachers told me otherwise in school.”
In the US the youth group of the Orthodox Union, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), has culture clubs in more than 150 public schools. These reach approximately 30,000 Jewish youngsters. Former OU Executive Vice-President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb said, “We find that many of these children are very anti-Israeli. They have been very much brainwashed by an extremely anti-Israeli educational establishment.”
The results of such distortions in teaching may lead many high school students – including Jewish ones – to arrive on campus with an ingrained anti-Israel bias. This will be caused partly by educators charged with forming young minds and values. Much more effort needs to be invested by parents, Jewish communities and the Israeli Government in order to expose and counteract this problem.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Several of these address anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism