Understanding Zionist Backlash
Given the attacks on teaching about Palestine, it’s important for us as educators to understand the nature of the attacks and where they’re coming from. These aren’t spontaneous protests from random individuals; they are led, organized and financed by Zionist organizations in the United States and Israel.
Zionism is a nationalist, colonial ideology that, from the late 19th century on, has called for the creation and expansion of Israel as a Jewish state in historic Palestine by any means necessary. As support for Palestine and criticism of Israel’s apartheid policies have grown in the US and internationally, Zionist organizations have stepped up their efforts to silence discussion of Palestine/Israel in movement circles, on college campuses, and now in K-12 education.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Community Resource Council (JCRC), and Simon Wiesenthal’s Museum of Tolerance are some of the most active Zionist organizations fighting against Palestine curriculum K-12. All three organizations have tried to position themselves as advocates and experts on anti-bias education.
Both the ADL and the Museum of Tolerance have enormous influence in the construction and dissemination of what they call anti-bias curriculum in California’s public schools. However, as Zionist organizations, their primary goal is to stunt the development of authentic anti-racist curriculum to ensure an Israel-friendly analysis. They want to prevent teachers and students from making connections between the US and Israel as white settler states, or apartheid-era South Africa and the current apartheid in Israel. They also want to prevent an understanding of Islamophobia that reveals the connections between anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, and US imperial wars in Southwest Asia and North Africa.
Attacks on teachers who bring Palestine into their classrooms or advocate for staff development on the history of Palestine and Israel usually take the form of accusations of antisemitism. Zionists argue that any discussion of Palestine or critique of Israel creates an “unsafe climate” for Jewish students.
It’s important to be clear: