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OC Board of Education’s Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Workshop

OC Board of Education’s Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Workshop

Letter sent to the OC Board of Education

October 24, 2017   | 11:56 AM

Rebecca Gomez, 1st District
David L. Boyd, 2nd District
Ken L. Williams, Jr., D.O., 3rd District
John W. Bedell, Ph.D., 4th District
Linda Lindholm, 5th District

Orange County Board of Education
Orange County Department of Education
200 Kalmus Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Dear Members of the Orange County 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 tomorrow, Wednesday, October 25, 2017, the Orange County Department of Education 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 Anaheim Educators, 50 S. Anaheim Blvd, Suite 300, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. (This Workshop is a second of two parts, the first was held last October 4, 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 here or a follow-up news story about the Workshop by WND and The Algemeiner.

The Orange County Department of Education 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).

The Israel Group has learned that FORUSA, several presenters, and educational content providers at the Workshop are highly involved with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Therefore, we remind the Orange County 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. If the value of the District’s contract with the workshop provider meets this threshold, please confirm that the provider has executed the certification required under Section 2010.

While The Israel Group certainly appreciates the need for education of diversity and multicultural awareness for Orange County 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 one-side of the argument, and the fact that the organizers of the Workshop are political activists. The Orange County Department of Education 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 Orange County Board of Education 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 Orange County Board of Education 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 us 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, transpired at 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

CC:
Orange County Board of Supervisors
Michelle Steel, Chairwoman, 2nd District
Andrew Do, Vice Chair, 1st District
Todd Spitzer, 3rd District
Shawn Nelson, 4th District
Lisa A. Bartlett, 5th District

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