Last Friday, Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi gave a presentation to a third-grade class at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in Ithaca. Tamimi is known for encouraging Palestinian children to confront Israeli soldiers in order to capture video footage portraying the soldiers negatively. In 2011, he was convicted by an Israeli military court for "sending people to throw stones, and holding a march without a permit". So, you might ask, what brought this notorious anti-Israel activist to Ithaca?
The presentation was arranged by Ithaca local Ariel Gold, a self-proclaimed "community activist" committed to the goal of "delegitimizing zionism." Gold serves as the coordinator of Tamimi's national speaking tour, and is also known to use children for political purposes. You can read the original coverage over at Legal Insurrection.
The Cornell Review contacted the principal of the elementary school, Susan Eschbach, requesting comment over the community, and now national, backlash. The principal unequivocally defended Tamimi's visit to the school in her statement, which reads in part:
There were many adults present in the class and at no time was there an anti-Israel, anti-Palestine, anti-Jewish, or anti-Muslim stance. The children took away from this experience several messages ."I can be an ambassador for peace." " You can make friends across borders and that is a good thing." "Children want the option to live peacefully and to go to school. Children can help stand for these desires." "Everyone should work things out to live together." And "love will make peace, not hate." The children had meaningful, relevant, and appropriate conversations.
One-sided political presentations should not be part of any educational curriculum. However, it is far worse to openly promote one-sided political activism to elementary school students and disguise it as part of a curriculum to study "human rights." Unlike adults who would voluntarily come to hear Tamimi speak, the students in this third-grade class had no choice but to attend this presentation. The children were also not exposed to any neutral or pro-Israel point of view on the subject, and we can't expect them to question what they are being presented as an adult might.
Overall, this is really not surprising considering the prevalence of anti-Israeli activism in Ithaca, but just when we thought the purveyors of hate and division couldn't sink any lower, we are proven wrong yet again.