The past year has seen an enormous shift in the landscape for teachers who want to include Palestine in their curriculum. In California, attacks by Zionist and other right-wing organizations on the inclusion of Arab American studies—and specifically Palestine—in the CA Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) have shone a spotlight on Palestine and importance of including it in ethnic studies curriculum. Many educators who have taught ethnic studies for years without thinking about Arab American history are reflecting on their curriculum, learning new content, and making revisions. Discussions about the pedagogical importance of comparing and contrasting settler colonialism in the US and Palestine have been central to that process. The vicious attacks that equate any mention of Palestine with antisemitism have pushed teachers, unions, and districts to understand that honest discussion of Israel’s role in the oppression of Palestinians is not antisemitism.
Another factor has been the shift in public opinion in light of Israel’s May 2021 bombing attacks on Gaza, their efforts to forcibly expel longtime Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in Jersualem, and their violent suppression of Palestinian resistance. Even media as blindly loyal to Israel as the New York Times have carried front page stories on the children murdered by Israeli bombs in Gaza and home demolitions in Silwan. As the violence dominated the news, students pushed their teachers to explain what was happening, and to make space for classroom discussion of the issues.
So we are seeing an upsurge in interest in learning about and teaching Palestine, often within an ethnic studies framework. At the same time, Zionists are organizing to police curriculum on Palestine. They often try to isolate and attack individual teachers to scare other educators away.
That’s not a reason not to teach about Palestine, just as attacks on Black Lives Matter in Schools isn’t a reason not to teach Black history. Teaching the truth about the history of the US is a liberatory act, for teachers and for students. Teaching the truth about Palestine is also a liberatory act, for teachers and for students. It’s a political decision. But, as much as possible, you want to be strategic. The goal is for your anti-racist teaching to be sustainable, and to be part of a larger movement. This is a road we’re making by walking, but this toolkit provides a brief framework for thinking about how to approach teaching about Palestine.