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EXCLUSIVE: LA Unified School District recruits anti-Israel political group to indoctrinate teachers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

EXCLUSIVE: LA Unified School District recruits anti-Israel political group to indoctrinate teachers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

K-12 LAUSD teachers are given salary points for attending workshop

By Jack Saltzberg | 10:30 pm, October 16th, 2017  

LOS ANGELES – The Israel Group has learned that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) co-sponsored a workshop “Learning about Islam and the Arab World” last weekend—with a second scheduled for this Saturday—at the United Teachers Los Angeles union building, with an anti-Israel, pro-BDS, pro-Palestinian organization: The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FORUSA).

FORUSA is connected with and promotes the boycott movement against Israel (BDS), and aligns itself with Black Lives Matter, which holds decidedly anti-Israel platforms, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR was found by a Muslim Brotherhood-related organization to promote Hamas financially and politically.

According to one Workshop participant, who spoke with The Israel Group on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, “The Workshop was nothing more than lectures proclaiming the virtues of Islam, while following the same party lines: All negative information about Islam was labeled as lies, mistranslations, ignorance, prejudice, and hoaxes; speakers stated that violent Jihad is non-doctrinal, bullshit; Christians and Jews were always better off living under Muslim rule and anyone who says otherwise is lying.” The participant, who is Christian, added: “I can only wait to hear what they teach about Israel at this weekend’s Workshop?”

This coming Saturday’s Workshop (Oct. 21, 2017, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM) continues with sections entitled: Palestine/Israel; Palestine Today: No Way to Treat a Child (under the “bullying” theme), The Changing Arab World: Overview of Politics, Society, and Refugees; and Refugees from the Arab World.”

The session Palestine/Israel is taught by Jeff Cooper, a part-time adjunct professor of history at Santa Monica College. According to one student’s review about Cooper on ratemyprofessor: “He has really far out radical left-wing political views. He hates the USA.” Cooper’s 40-page handout (first section / second section) Palestine, Israel, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, is based on this publication by Joel Beinin and Lisa Hajjar, of the Middle East Research and Information Project. (Cooper’s handout was with approved edits.) Without knowing the factual history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—as many of the teachers don’t—this information will appear as neutral and authoritative. Unfortunately, it is nuanced anti-Israel propaganda from beginning to end, with thousands of inaccuracies, distortions, factual lies, and insidious misrepresentations. To name just a few:

  • Not once in the entire paper were indigenous Jews referred to as “Palestinian Jews” when, in fact, during the British Mandate, Jews were referred to as “Palestinian Jews” and Palestinians were referred to as “Palestinian Arabs.”
  • A section is titled The Creation of Palestinian Refugees and Ethnic Cleaning.
  • Under the heading, The June 1967 War, it states: “From 1948-1967, Israel’s military and political leadership was looking for a way to conquer and occupy the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
  • The document lays out a foundation basis for the BDS movement: “Israel regards all forms of Palestinian opposition to the occupation as threats to its national security, including non-violent methods like calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions.”
  • The word “terrorism” was only used three times. Once with the PLO “renouncing” it, and once with an added quote by Cooper: “This is why military occupations [meaning Israel] are the highest form of terrorism. [Emphasis the document.]

The session, Palestine Today: No Way to Treat a Child, is led by Rola Karam, who has presented this course for the LAUSD since at least 2009. Karam, a Palestinian-American, has, among other things, been a conference presenter on the “Nakba” for Sabeel.Sabeel seeks to replace all of Israel with a Palestinian Arab state and specializes in working to turn Christians against Jews and Israel, and is among the ADL’s Top 10 anti-Israel Groups: “the worst of the worst.”

This “Arab, Islamic World” Workshop by FORUSA has taught more than 200 K-12 LAUSD teachers since at least 2005, as reported by the anti-Israel Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Neither the Workshop web page on FORLA nor the Registration Form listed any of the pro-Palestinian courses sessions. Those were only listed in the Class Agenda given at the Workshop.

In past LAUSD Workshops, Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter CAIR, has been a presenter. This is the same Ayloush who said on CNN that “ the United States was partly responsible for terrorism carried out by Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS.”

The Workshops are held under the leadership of Rosa Melendez and Richard Jessel, both LAUSD teachers.  

[NOTE: In partnership with the Orange County Department of Education, this cookie cutter educational Workshop was given in Orange County on 10/4/17, with the second part about the Israel-Palestinian conflict scheduled on 10/25/17, open to all educators K-12.]

The most important and pressing questions are: why is a Workshop about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being presented to LAUSD teachers entirely by anti-Israel political activist group?; why was the educational content not vetted?; and why were no pro-Israel historians invited to present?

Jack Saltzberg is The Israel Group founder and executive director  js@theisraelgroup.org

Barry Forman, MD contributed to this story.


This report has been picked up by

The Jewish Journal Part I Part II | Anti-Defamation League | The Algemiener | Simon Wiesenthal Center

Truth Revolt | Campus Watch | Maccabee Task Force | WNDTruth Revolt | Frontpage | StandWithUs 


Email sent to the LAUSD Board of Education

Subject: The LAUSD Board of Education must cancel this Saturday’s anti-Israel pro-Palestinian indoctrination workshop

October 20, 2017

Mónica García, President of the Board
Dr. George J. McKenna III
Scott Schmerelson
Nick Melvoin
Ref Rodriguez
Kelly Gonez
Dr. Richard Vladovic
Jefferson Crain, Executive Officer of the Board

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education
333 South Beaudry Avenue, 24th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Dear LAUSD Board of Education,

The Israel Group is an educational organization that is also connected with a larger coalition of Jewish, Christian, educational, and civil rights organizations that represent hundreds of thousands of constituents.

It has come to our attention—and we have reported—that this coming Saturday, October 21, 2017, the LAUSD is co-sponsoring a Workshop for teachers K-12 entitled “Learning about Islam and the Arab World.” The Workshop is scheduled to be presented at UTLA’s Helen Bernstein Professional Development Center, located at 3303 Wilshire Blvd., 8th floor, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. According to the literature, LAUSD teachers will receive salary points for completing the Workshop. (This Saturday’s Workshop is a second of two parts, the first was held last Saturday, October 19, 2017.)

After investigating the Workshop’s co-sponsoring organization, The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FORUSA), and reviewing the educational handouts, Workshop  Agenda, and presenters of the Workshop, it is extremely clear that the entire agenda of the Workshop is to religiously and politically indoctrinate teachers with the goal of promoting a state of “Palestine,” Islam, and the Palestinian cause, while blatantly vilifying and polarizing Jews and the State of Israel, based on false history, lies, mistruths, and standard anti-Semitic canards.

For a better overview, please see The Israel Group’s initial report or a follow-up news story by WND.

The LAUSD co-sponsored Workshop, unfortunately, constitutes a one-sided official condemnation of core Jewish religious beliefs and violates the rights of Jews under the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment, subjecting those involved to liability for damages.  See Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 624 F.3d 1043 (9th Cir. 2010).

In addition, because the Workshops are held on Saturdays—the Jewish Sabbath—the LAUSD is inhibiting the ability of observant Jews to attend, further limiting the Jewish perspective and ability to counter the propaganda and factually inaccurate information about Israel being taught at the Workshop.

Lastly, The Israel Group has learned that FORUSA, several presenters, and educational content providers at the Workshop are highly involved with and promote and support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Therefore, we remind the LAUSD Board of Education that, pursuant to Section 2010 of the California Public Contract Code, any state contract with a value of $100,000 or more requires a written certification that the contracting party does not have a discriminatory policy against a sovereign nation or people, such as Israel.

Accordingly, The Israel Group hereby demands that the LAUSD Board of Education:

  1. Immediately cancel this Saturday’s Workshop, and do not reschedule another Workshop on this topic until a complete investigative review of the co-sponsoring organization(s), presenters, educational information, and the entire vetting process has been completed;
  2. Inform The Israel Group if  this Saturday’s Workshop  is or  is not  being canceled;
  3. Inform The Israel Group and the public at large about any LAUSD investigation and public discussions regarding this topic;
  4. Implement safeguards and protocols to prevent such future occurrences;
  5. Require that both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict be properly represented for such workshops, rather than only using anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian activists and organizations;
  6. Demand that future Workshops’ publicity, literature, and registration forms show controversial topics that will be taught (such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict), instead of insidiously hiding it from the public; and
  7. Provide proof that the contract with the Workshop provider is for less than $100,000, and, if not, please provide proof that the provider has executed the certification required under Section 2010.\

If for no other reason, the Workshop must be rescheduled in order to allow the LAUSD the necessary time to properly evaluate and act on the aforementioned objections.

Lastly, we welcome the opportunity to meet in order to discuss further concerns and the seriousness of the scheduled Workshop.

Sincerely,

Jack Saltzberg
Founder / Executive Director
The Israel Group

CC:
Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer
Los Angeles City Controller, Ron Galperin
Los Angeles City Council:
Gilbert Cedillo
Paul Krekorian
Bob Blumenfield
David E. Ryu
Paul Koretz
Nury Martinez
Monica Rodriguez
Marqueece Harris-Dawson
Curren D. Price, Jr.
Herb J. Wesson, Jr.
Mike Bonin
Mitchell Englander
Mitch O’Farrell
Jose Huizar
Joe Buscaino

BCC:
The Israel Group Legal Task Force
The Israel Group Board of Advisors
Barry Forman, MD
Community, governmental, and religious leaders
International Media


Response from the LAUSD Board of Education

October 20, 2017

Mr. Saltzberg-

Thank you for sharing your concerns with the Board of Education regarding an upcoming workshop for teachers.  The Board Members received a memo this week from the Superintendent in response to inquiries and concerns about a District-approved salary point class, “Learning about Islam and the Arab World,” and an on-line newsletter that was posted regarding this class.

The memo stated the District Office of Human Resources considers the issues you raised very seriously and will be sending a representative to the Saturday, October 21 training, to make sure that the content delivered in class is consistent with the description of the course.

Los Angeles Unified School District teachers have the opportunity to participate in voluntary multicultural awareness classes to build cultural competency and develop effective strategies to connect with the diverse communities we serve.  In 2007, the Joint Salary Point Credit Committee, comprised of UTLA, the teachers’ collective bargaining representative, and District appointees, reviewed and approved “Learning about Islam and the Arab World” for inclusion as one of the offered multicultural awareness classes.  At that time, it was determined that the class met all of the criteria for inclusion, as it aligned with the California History Social Studies Standard 7.2, and promoted multicultural awareness, as well as respect for diversity, dialogue, and non-violent conflict resolution.  This class was re-approved in 2013 for another five-year increment.

I understand that on October 16, 2017, an online newsletter called The Israel Group posted an article with the headline, “LA Unified School District recruits anti-Israel political group to indoctrinate teachers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”  Following the publication of this article, the District received concerns from some community members about this course.  

In response, the District reiterated the reasons why the course was approved for inclusion as a salary-point class.  It is important to note, evaluations received by Human Resources indicate the course received satisfactory ratings by participants.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Jefferson Crain
Executive Officer of the Board
Los Angeles Unified School District

Mayor Eric Garcetti
City Attorney Mike Feuer
Ron Galperin LA City Controller
Bob Blumenfield
Curren D. Price, Jr.
David E. Ryu
Gilbert Cedillo
Herb J. Wesson
Joe Buscaino
Jose Huizar
Marqueece Harris-Dawson
Mike Bonin
Mitch O’Farrell
Mitchell Englander
Monica Rodriguez
Nury Martinez
Paul Koretz
Paul Krekorian
Board Members LAUSD


Response from The Israel Group
to the LAUSD Board of Education

October 24, 2017  | 9:30 am  

Dear Mr. Crain,

Thank you for your expedited response.

While The Israel Group certainly appreciates the need for education of diversity and multicultural awareness for LAUSD teachers, it is hard to understand how a course entitled “Learning about Islam and the Arab World” can justify focusing 50% of its time demonizing the Jewish homeland of Israel, and how that falls under the category of diversity and multiculturalism. It actually gives teachers a distorted caricature of Islam, as if 50% of Islamic teachings are obsessed with maligning others.

As we continue to obtain additional feedback, information, and course material, it is apparent that the Workshop was designed, not as a neutrally balanced presentation about a complex situation, but rather as a propaganda platform intended to vilify Israel and the Jewish people as being responsible for all suffering and for the entire refugee problem in the Middle East. This includes promoting the standard Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s lies and counterfactual allegations that the Jewish people of Israel continue to participate in systemic ethnic cleansing, genocide, and terrorism against Palestinians. This lack of any neutrality, empathy, and balance toward the Jewish State of Israel constitutes the highest levels of anti-Semitism because it portrays the overwhelming majority of American Jews who support Israel as an evil collective, knowingly seeking the sufferings of Palestinians.

Though some points in the course material might have some basis in reality, virtually every one of them is written specifically to portray Jews as aggressors and Muslims as victims. For example, while the course listed in detail every political and military action taken by Israel with regard to Gaza from 2005-present, it did not ONCE mention the Palestinian terrorist tunnels into Israel, the kidnapping and murder of Jews, or the more than 15,000 rockets that Palestinians have fired into Israel, killing and wounding thousands of Jews, and forcing a generation of Jewish school children to study in bomb shelters. Look no further than the following text to see how the course presented the Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel, which has killed thousands of Jews and wounded tens of thousands:

“In November 2000, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, responding to Israel’s excessive use of force, each began a campaign of suicide bombings inside Israel.”

Thus, even a coordinated terrorist campaign (the second Intifada) is portrayed as Israel’s fault.

The manipulation of the facts in this Workshop was intentional and we can easily back this claim: There is the statistical impossibility of hundreds of omissions and distortions that promote only the one-side of the argument, and the fact that the organizers of the Workshop are anti-Israel political activists. The LAUSD knew (or should have known) what type of Workshop would be presented when they contracted an anti-Israel political activist group to sponsor this Workshop instead of neutral academic scholars.

The more important questions remain:

  • Why was half a course on “Learning about Islam and the Arab World” spent on Israel and the Israel-Palestinian conflict?
  • How can the LAUSD justify a Workshop involved with and speakers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), when a 2013 Department of Justice report describes the FBI’s policy to restrict all interactions with CAIR (e.g. education and public outreach)?
  • Why did a course that taught that Jews were always better off under Islamic rule not mention ONCE the nearly one million Jewish refugees who were discriminated against, brutalized, and were ethnically cleansed (and became refugees) from Muslim countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen in the late 1940s?
  • Why did the Workshop continue to portray Hamas as a victim when, it never mentioned that, to this to this date, its Charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and to ship its Jewish population back to the countries that expelled them?
  • Why was nothing mentioned about state and religious sponsorship in the Muslim world of honor killings and the torture of homosexuals, and the equality enjoyed by women and homosexuals in Israel?
  • Why were no positive stories about Muslims living in Israel, such as Salim Joubran, the Muslim who sits on Israel’s Supreme Court, or Mais Ali-Saleh, the female who graduated Valedictorian from Technion—Israel Institute of Technology’s medical school, or about the hundreds of Muslim/Arab doctors who head units in Israel’s many hospitals?
  • Why did the LAUSD contract an activist group with a KNOWN and well-documented track record of agenda-driven anti-Israel politics, to provide a Workshop for teachers K-12?

Therefore, pursuant to California Government Code s 6250 et seq, we request that you submit to The Israel Group the following:

  1. All documents related to the Workshop, including any promotional material, anything distributed at the Workshop, or received from attendees.
  2. All information and bios about all presenters.
  3. All videos or PowerPoint presentations given at the Workshop.
  4. All audio and video recordings taken during the Workshop.
  5. Any paper reports of what happened, such as those by the board of education and UTLA auditors who attended the Workshop.
  6. All contracts and agreements relating to the Workshop, plus all memoranda, emails, and correspondence concerning the same.

Please send to:

The Israel Group
PO Box 4332
Valley Village, CA 91617

Please let me know when we should expect the requested information and materials.

Sincerely,

Jack Saltzberg
Founder / Executive Director
The Israel Group

CC:
Mayor Eric Garcetti
City Attorney Mike Feuer
Ron Galperin LA City Controller
Bob Blumenfield
Curren D. Price, Jr.
David E. Ryu
Gilbert Cedillo
Herb J. Wesson
Joe Buscaino
Jose Huizar
Marqueece Harris-Dawson
Mike Bonin
Mitch O’Farrell
Mitchell Englander
Monica Rodriguez
Nury Martinez
Paul Koretz
Paul Krekorian
Board Members LAUSD

BCC:
The Israel Group Legal Task Force
The Israel Group Board of Advisors
Community, governmental, and religious leaders
International Media