The state of California has introduced "blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel" lessons into its official high school curriculum, drawing outrage and concern in the state's Jewish and pro-Israel communities, according to multiple sources involved in the controversy.
The California Department of Education is facing backlash after permitting a host of anti-Israel activists to build a statewide educational curriculum that demonizes the Jewish state and is said to be fostering hatred of Jewish and Israeli-American students, sources said.
Already, 83 pro-Israel and anti-discrimination organizations have petitioned the state's education department to reform its Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) to remove multiple instances of what they say is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias.
Multiple sources involved in the fight have described to the Washington Free Beacon anti-Semitic courses that they say are fostering an unsafe environment for Jewish and Israeli-American students. Further information obtained by the Free Beacon reveals that several of the educators involved in pushing the new curriculum have a history of anti-Israel activism that has often spilled into anti-Semitic territory.
"We are aware that many individuals and groups affiliated with the Jewish community have already written to you about the ESMC's shocking omission of information about American Jews and anti-Semitism, its use of classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, and its blatant anti-Israel bias," a coalition of 83 pro-Israel organizations led by the AMCHA Initiative, a watchdog group that combats anti-Semitism in America, wrote to California's Education Department.
"This includes the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, who wrote to you that they 'cannot support a curriculum that erases the American Jewish experience, fails to discuss anti-Semitism, reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews, singles out Israel for criticism and would institutionalize the teaching of anti-Semitic stereotypes in our public schools,'" the groups wrote.
The curriculum, the organizations claim, is the result of an effort by several leading educators who have expressed both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic viewpoints.
"The anti-Jewish, anti-Israel bias of the proposed ESMC curriculum—including its implicit portrayal of Jews and Israel as part of 'interlocking systems of oppression and privilege' and its endorsement of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as a form of 'direct action' or 'resistance' that students are encouraged to engage in—clearly exposes the politically motivated and directed nature of the curriculum and its drafters," the organizations wrote.
"Not surprisingly, more than one-quarter of the Model Curriculum Advisory Committee members, appointed by the State Board of Education to draft the ESMC, have publicly expressed animus towards Israel and its supporters, with some members openly supporting BDS," the letter states. "There is no doubt that these committee members have unconscionably used the state-mandated curriculum as a tool for politically indoctrinating California's high school students with anti-Israel propaganda and encouraging them to engage in political activism against the Jewish state."
Shoham Nicolet, head of the Israel American Council, an organization working to oppose the curriculum and expose those behind it, told the Free Beacon that California's small, tightknit Israeli-American community is concerned that this curriculum will foster anti-Semitism in the state's schools.
"As immigrants of this country, we're looking at a curriculum that will discriminate based on ethnic backgrounds," Nicolet said.
After researching the educators behind the new curriculum, Nicolet said he was "surprised to find out that you have people who are ... supporters of BDS publicly."
The global BDS movement has been described not just by pro-Israel leaders but also by many members of Congress as an anti-Semitic movement that seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel and Jewish citizens.
"It's odd that a professional committee that's supposed to have an impact on the education of millions of kids in California in public school and is funded by taxpayers is so biased," Nicolet said. "How come the BDS movement is part of what is supposed to be allowed in classrooms in California?"
Public research materials viewed by the Free Beacon reveal that several committee members behind California Department of Education's Draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum are outspoken critics of Israel.
One member, Samia Shoman, is a Palestinian-American who teaches in the San Mateo Union High District. Her lesson plans on Palestinian history have been featured as a teaching tool by the Qatar Foundation International, a group tied to the nation and its efforts to proliferate boycotts of Israel. Shoman is also a pro-Palestinian activist on Twitter.
Another committee member, Gaye Theresa Johnson, an associate professor at UCLA college of social sciences, also has supported pro-Palestinian causes on Twitter, including retweets from pro-Iran individuals who have deemed Tehran as the victim in the ongoing nuclear standoff with the United States.
A third committee member, Theresa Montaño, a professor at California State University, Northridge, has publicly supported the BDS movement and advocates for Israeli scholars to be boycotted in the United States. Montaño also signed a 2009 letter to then-president Barack Obama that was organized by one of the globe's most prominent BDS organizations.
Masha Merkulova, founder and executive director of Club Z, a Bay Area organization that fosters commitment to Israel, told the Free Beacon that the effort to promote this one-sided curriculum should worry all Americans.
"If we allow this to happen, California's children are going to be indoctrinated in intolerance and hate," Merkulova said. "This is our flashpoint ... this ethnic studies curriculum is infused with Jew hatred. Let's call it for what it is, anti-Semitism. Our Department of Education has put bigoted people in charge of writing a curriculum that is supposed to promote inclusivity and tolerance."
"This is an attempt to make anti-Semitism institutional," she said. "This is what the kids are going to learn as part of normal things they learn."