Tuesday, August 11, 2015

  • Tuesday, August 11, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon

Last week, as noted by Elder among others, the UK’s pro-BDS National Union of Teachers (NUT), the country’s largest teachers’ union, has – temporarily – withdrawn a controversial teaching resource consisting, to quote the London Jewish News (http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/nut-pulls-one-sided-literature-on-middle-east-following-heavy-criticism/),   “of videos and teachers’ prompts,” while the Charities Commission investigates whether guidelines have been contravened.  Developed in collaboration with Edukid and the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, the resource is widely viewed as deliberate demonization of Israel unacceptable in schools.  Former Communities minister Sir Eric Pickles noted that a reference in the resource “to ‘Jews’ as opposed to ‘Israelis’ is particularly objectionable” while another Conservative MP, Andrew Percy, commented that “The NUT’s attempt to justify its indefensible document by saying they work with the Holocaust Education Trust is utterly derisory”.  Percy added: “As a former history teacher, if any of my students produced such a biased piece of work they wouldn’t have expected to pass.”

As reported by Breitbart  (http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/08/03/national-union-of-teachers-accused-of-pushing-palestine-propaganda-on-school-kids/), Jewish leaders claim that the resource is “one-sided and partisan” in its portrayal of the Middle East, and  the Jewish Chronicle (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/141445/nut-pulls-one-sided-school-books-palestinians) quoted a Department of Education spokesperson thus: “The law is crystal clear that all political discussions in school should be unbiased and balanced. Teachers should only use teaching materials which are suitable for their children and we trust them to decide which resources to use in their lessons.”

Such trust may be misplaced.  The resource under scrutiny is not the only item of its kind developed by Israel’s enemies in the UK for turning young minds against Zionism and the Jewish State. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, for instance, introduced in 2009 a pernicious "Teachers Pack on Palestine" called "Exploring Palestine through Citizenship".  A publicity leaflet obtained by me at the time describes it as follows:

‘PSC, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and CAABU, the Council for Arab-British Understanding have put together an excellent online educational resource designed to introduce secondary school students to Palestine.  They are mainly geared towards the Citizenship Curriculum, but can be used in English, Media, History and Geography lessons.  1) Forced to leave home:  After brainstorming what they would take from their homes if they had to flee at short notice, students will do short role-plays based on fleeing home;  2) Role-play – refugees:  A role-play to explore some of the key questions around one of the most central issues regarding Israel-Palestine.  In character students will discuss the Right of Return and who has responsibility for the Palestinian refugees.  3) Handala – a boy whose face we don't see: Students will look at 10 cartoons by Naji Al-Ali, a Palestinian political cartoonist and one of the most popular in the Arab world.  Students will explore the power of symbiosis and draw their own cartoons; 4) The opinions of maps [Elder’s readers will need no prompting regarding which four maps!]: Students will look at a range of maps of Israel-Palestine representing different perspectives and identify the main themes of each map – thereby increasing their understanding of some of the main issues, improving their map literacy and addressing the question of whether any map presents only "bias-free" facts; 5) Something to cheer about?  The class will prepare and conduct a press conference around the British government's refusal of visas to the Palestine under-22 football team.  6) Why didn't Reem finish school?  Students will be given a series of information cards about Gaza and from these each group will construct a story to explain why a girl living in Gaza might not finish school; 7) A village and a wall – news story: Students will make a news bulletin about the weekly demonstrations in Bil'in, a Palestinian village cut through by the Wall; 8) Bil'in – role plays: Students will look at photos of Bil'in, a Palestinian village cut through by the Wall, and work in groups to make role-plays based on the photos; 9) Trading: different people, different chances – The class is split into several groups, and some of [sic] designated Palestinians and some settlers.  The teacher administers the occupation as the different groups produce goods to sell – giving students an insight into how the occupation and the settlement enterprise affects Palestinian livelihoods; 10) What's in your shopping bag – is it illegal?  Students will learn about fair trade and the issue of products in British supermarkets as being labelled as Israeli when they are from illegal settlements.  In groups, students will produce a flyer, poster and letter to a supermarket; 11) Difference and sameness in a democracy: Students will read a couple of articles and do online research in preparation for a formal debate that takes Israel-Palestine as a case study: This house believes it is easier to be democratic when people are the same"; 12) False advertising: Students will look at an advert from the Israeli tourist board  [http://daphneanson.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/travellers-tall-tale-palestine-lies.html ]that was taken down following several complaints and write their own letter of complaint.  They will learn about the advertising code; 13) New news, old news, whose news? Students will look at events in a given week in the West Bank and Gaza and whether these events made it into the British press.  Students will reflect on why or why not, and on the nature of news; 14) Being neutral: Students will look at the controversy around the BBC's decision in 2009 not to show a humanitarian appeal for Gaza in order to explore notions of neutrality and fairness; 15) Spray-painting the Wall: Students will analyse graffiti from the Wall in the West Bank and read an article on it, developing an understanding of the role that graffiti and art can play in such a context; 16) More on Bil'in: there are two lessons based on Bil'in, a village in the west Bank that has been the site of weekly demonstrations for four years against the Wall – which cuts straight through the village.  Backgrounder on the Wall and Bil'in for teachers and for [sic] something for students.’

And watch out for The Balfour Project (http://www.balfourproject.org/), which is in the process of developing resource material for schools, and which in the meantime advises “Teachers may wish to have educational material for history lessons. Please contact us”.

The Steering Committee of this initiative consisted at the outset of Dr Mary Embleton, historian; Professor Mary Grey, theologian, writer and activist; Dr Imad Karam, academic and film maker; Peter Riddell, peace activist;  Dr Monica Spooner, medical doctor; Professor Roger L. Spooner OBE,  scientist; Rev Dr Stephen Sizer, Anglican vicar and author (who of course is in disgrace following that notorious Israel and 9/11 Facebook post of his in January this year), and its advisers were John Bond OAM, Former Secretary, National Sorry Day Committee, Australia; Anne Clayton, Coordinator of Friends of Sabeel UK; Abe Hayeem, architect, peace activist; Simon Keyes, Director, St Ethelburga’s Centre; Professor Ilan Pappe; Massoud Shadjareh, Chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission; Professor Nur Masalha,  Professor of Religion and Politics; Dr Peter Shambrook, historian and author;  Mariam Tadros, Trustee, Biblelands (name since changed to Embrace the Middle East).

On its website we read: 
“The Balfour Project has been created by a group of academics and activists who believe that this anniversary should not pass unremarked. Mindful of Britain’s responsibility for what has come to pass in the Middle East, the Balfour Project will encourage understanding of what led to the Balfour Declaration, and what flowed from it. Through our website, we plan to facilitate a network of educational, political, religious and humanitarian groups who share this conviction. We aim to stimulate conferences, cultural exchanges and the production of multimedia resources.  Above all, we believe that the search for the truth of what took place, and the acknowledgement of wrong-doing, can contribute to justice, peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.”


“In November 1917 the government of Britain issued the Balfour Declaration which promised a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine whilst also promising to protect the rights of the existing indigenous Arab population.  This was despite the fact that two years earlier Britain had promised the Arabs the same territory in return for their support against the Ottomans  Subsequent British governments upheld the promise to create a Jewish homeland but  reneged on the promise to protect the rights of the Arab inhabitants.  Thus, a homeland for the Jewish people was achieved at the cost of freedom and self-determination for Palestinian Arabs.  Almost a hundred years ago the stage was set for a struggle to control the land that has intensified from that day to this.”  (http://www.balfourproject.org/about-2/)

It has since denied that its purpose is to seek an apology by Britain for the Balfour Declaration, and while the bibliography of relevant reading material on its website seems well-balanced, the fact remains that most of the individuals prominently connected with this still rather coy and curious Project appear to be overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian rather than pro-Israel.  Mary Grey, indeed, recently signed an online petition requesting prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May to ban Christians United for Israel (CUFI) from establishing a presence in Britain.  The petition says, inter alia, that CUFI’s “founder not only promotes war and Islamophobia, but his organisation in engaged with funding terrorism in the Middle East, and the building of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, contrary to International Law and UN resolutions,” and Professor Grey added her own reason for signing: “Because Christianity should not be associated with such fundamentalist racism”.

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