FROM OUR PRINTED JANUARY 2019 EDITION
by Ilya Feoktistov
Executive Director of
Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
– Originally published in The Federalist, 2018 –
The ruling dynasty of Qatar, the house of Al Thani, invests its massive oil profits to promote its political and theological agenda around the world. It invests in major Western properties, Hollywood studios like Miramax, global news broadcasters like Al Jazeera, terror organizations like ISIS and Hamas, and, most curiously, in American K-12 education.
The Qataris, according to the Wall Street Journal, are spending millions to influence what American educators teach in their classrooms; and it has recently emerged that one of their investments is behind a roiling controversy in the Boston suburb of Newton.
For more than six years, parents and citizens in Newton have been complaining that their city’s high school world history curriculum is biased against Israel to the point of being anti-Semitic. Newton Superintendent of Schools David Fleishman promised the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of New England last year that he would remove and replace the bigoted curriculum with vetted scholarly materials, but public records requests revealed that biased, anti-Semitic, and false materials continued to be taught.
Since Fleishman’s broken promise, the biased teaching at Newton schools has gotten worse. In August, The Federalist broke the story of how a Newton history teacher, David Bedar, plotted with fellow teachers over email to harass, bully, and “call out” conservative students in the classroom, admitting to acting as a “liberal propagandist” in the classroom. Further public records requests show that Bedar is also quite literally a trained propagandist for Qatar. He is working on behalf of a foreign petro-theocracy to teach anti-Semitic lies to American children.
A Qatari-Funded U.S. Teacher Influence Fund
Last year, Bedar attended a five-day summer teacher training course on how to teach about “the dynamics of the Middle East,” provided by a Massachusetts-based organization called Primary Source. Primary Source claims to work “to advance global and cultural learning in schools,” and has partnerships with more than 50 schools and school districts in New England.
It is funded by four foundations. Two are Massachusetts government agencies, the Mass Cultural Council and Mass Humanities. The third, the Cummings Foundation, is one of the largest private foundations in New England. The fourth is Qatar Foundation International (QFI), an arm of the Qatari ruling family’s Qatar Foundation. Through QFI since 2009, according to the Wall Street Journal, Qatar’s Al Thanis have given more than $30 million directly to American K-12 public schools, and an untold amount to teacher training outfits like Primary Source.
To get a sense of the Qatar Foundation’s perspective on things, it is helpful to know that recipients of its largesse include hate preachers who spew ISIS-style ideology, Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader and so-called “Theologian of Terror” Yusuf Qaradawi, as well as the Hamas politburo chairman, Ismail Haniyeh.
As Somali-American scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution: “Powerful foundations such as the Qatar Foundation continue to grant financial support and legitimacy to radical Islamic ideology around the world.”
They also just might be training your kid’s history teacher without your knowledge. In this age of concern over foreign influence on American politics, Al Jazeera videos are slapped with this warning label on YouTube: “Al Jazeera is funded in whole or in part by the Qatari government.” Primary Source makes no such disclaimer for its training materials, and neither do the teachers who use them.
Publicly Funded Anti-Semite Indoctrination
Bedar teaches a senior-level elective on the modern history of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America at Newton North High School. The course includes an extensive unit on the history of the Arab-Israel conflict, which I obtained under the Massachusetts Public Records Law.
Anti-Semitism, which in its contemporary form treats the Jewish state differently than any other nation state, is alive and well in Bedar’s course. For example, Bedar asks students if the Jews should have a state. The question is worded like this: “What are the pros and cons to the one and two-state solutions?”
A “one state solution,” of course, would eliminate the world’s only Jewish state. Among all peoples, only the Jewish right of self-determination is up for debate in Bedar’s classroom. Nowhere are students asked, “Given the Holocaust, should the German people have their own state?” Neither do the Chinese nor the Sudanese, nor any other people, have their right to self-determination questioned, even given horrifically bad behavior.
“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” fits the internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism promulgated by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, of which the United States and most European nations are members. Likewise, the anti-Semitism definition includes “[a]pplying double standards [to Israel] not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Bedar’s course does both.
The course includes a PowerPoint presentation on the Arab Israeli conflict, which Bedar fills with carefully phrased false assertions like: “Critics of Zionism view it as a colonialist, racist and exceptionalist ideology that led advocates to violence during Mandatory Palestine, followed by the exodus of Palestinians.”
While claiming to provide all perspectives, Bedar never provides similarly critical thoughts about the ideology of Israel’s enemies, such as: “Critics of Islamist supremacism say that it is the true motivating force of the Arab assault on Israel, which hides under the cloak of Palestinian nationalism and a dispute over land.” “Religious battle? No. A political struggle over land and competing national aspirations,” proclaims Bedar on one of his PowerPoint slides with uncritical certitude over this very arguable proposition.
Not Only Bigoted But False
Bedar’s course materials are as bigoted as they are substandard. Here’s a peculiar negative side-effect of teacher trainings from unaccountable private groups like Primary Source: Teachers like Bedar get the idea that completing a week-long summer seminar gives them the competence to “Google up” a curriculum of their own, as opposed to teaching “by the book.” The results, at least in Bedar’s case, are dilettantish.
For example, the above anti-Semitic quote comparing Zionism to racism is directly cribbed, without attribution, from the Wikipedia entry on Zionism. A word for advice to Bedar’s students preparing for college: Never crib from Wikipedia without attribution, especially not from its infamously biased articles on current controversial topics.
What Bedar presents as the claims of Israel’s critics are usually ad hominem insults that corrupt the meanings of words and lack all evidence.
The message conveyed in Bedar’s PowerPoint—that Zionism is racism—represents one of three general propaganda techniques Bedar uses to sneak in lies under the guise of critical thinking. This first technique consists of the general formula: “Supporters of Israel/Zionism say X but critics of Israel/Zionism say Y.”
What Bedar presents as the claims of Israel’s supporters are generally objective historical facts, like: “Advocates of Zionism view it as a national liberation movement for the repatriation of a persecuted people residing as minorities in a variety of nations to their ancestral homeland.” But what Bedar presents as the claims of Israel’s critics are usually ad hominem insults that corrupt the meanings of words and lack all evidence, such as the “Zionism is racism” claim.
The second propaganda technique Bedar uses to mis-educate his students is the similar but even more insidious “Israeli perspective versus Palestinian perspective” ploy. It seems like a fine exercise in critical thinking and the balancing of competing viewpoints, but the “Israeli perspective” Bedar presents is a fringe left-wing one, while the “Palestinian perspective” is less history than histrionics.
Here’s Bedar’s “Israeli perspective”: “During the war [of Israeli independence] there were a number of massacres, robbery and rape by Jewish fighters.” His “Palestinian perspective”? The Palestinians say they “had been exposed to the most barbaric kinds of torture and immoral and inhuman practices” by Jewish fighters.
Both statements are highly misleading. The first is neither a mainstream Israeli perspective nor a factual one, while the second is hysteric slander. Arab violence, on the other hand, is given the opposite propaganda treatment. According to Bedar’s “Israeli Perspective,” the Arab anti-Semitic orgies of slaughter prior to Israel’s independence are characterized antiseptically as “[t]he riots of 1920, 1929 and 1936,” and the Arab leaders who instigated them as simply “unscrupulous.”
And the “Palestinian perspective” that Bedar teachers Newton public school students on these slaughters is akin to genocide denial and justification: “All the disturbances were justified and spontaneous revolts by the Palestinian people against the British/Zionist alliance and increasing immigration.”
Your Religion Is What
Its Enemies Say It Is
In Bedar’s class, Judaism becomes the only religion whose core tenets may legitimately be defined by hostile non-adherents. His students are taught that, according to the Palestinian perspective, “Judaism . . . has no inherent tie to a particular land. Jews are not a nation but rather a community of believers.”
Class materials compare Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria to the genocidal Nazi policy of lebensraum.
The students, of course, are not presented with what might be a counter perspective, one widely believed by Western historians and many Arabs: that the Palestinian nationality is an artificial construct used by groups of Syrian Arabs to define themselves as a separate people in the 20th century in order to better position themselves in the Arab war against the Jews.
Yet a third Bedar propaganda technique is to quote fringe far-left Jews against Israel to legitimize the most vicious slanders with the “said by a Jew” label. Among the research topics for the class is an article in Israel’s far-left Haaretz newspaper that compares Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria to the genocidal Nazi policy of lebensraum, “living space,” in Eastern Europe. “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” is also part of the international definition of anti-Semitism.
Some anti-Semitic lies in Bedar’s course cannot be blamed on the Qataris or Primary Source: they are entirely his own. For example, Bedar lies to his students that Israel made peace with Egypt in the historic 1979 Camp David Accords only “after Israel had extracted most of the oil” from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel returned to Egypt in the accords. According to Bedar, the accords were an Israeli treachery because they only “facilitated [Israel’s] ability to make war elsewhere.”
In truth, Israeli companies limited their energy projects in the Sinai, knowing that the territory will ultimately be returned. The Sinai oil and gas fields are still very much kicking. “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations” about Jews or Israel is also a part of the international definition of anti-Semitism.
Critical Thinking Doesn’t Mean Slander
Aside from Jews, no other ethnic or religious minority’s history or identity is subject to the same “critical thinking” approach in Newton public schools, where objective fact is presented on par with bigoted slander as equally legitimate “perspectives” for students to choose from. There is no “Klansman perspective” offered on how the lynching of blacks in the American South around the same time as the lynching of Jews in Mandatory Palestine was simply part of the “justified and spontaneous revolts” against the Negro-Yankee alliance.
Only the Jews and the Jewish state are singled out in such a fashion. It is a caricature of “critical thinking” to split the difference between truth and lies—or between lies and shrill outrageous lies.
The critical thinking, of course, does not extend to the Palestinian side in Bedar’s class. “Abbas and the Palestinian Authority seek peaceful negotiation with Israel to establish a co-existing Palestinian state,” insists Bedar in his PowerPoint—Abbas’s own video-taped statements to the contrary notwithstanding.
Things Like This Are
Not at All Isolated Incidents
The Qatar Foundation is not the only Islamic petro-theocracy propaganda outfit influencing public high school education in Newton, Massachusetts through private front groups like Primary Source. In fact, the controversy over anti-Semitic and anti-Israel history lessons in Newton first started when Newton invited the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) to help its history teachers “develop new resources to use in the classroom to teach on the conflict in Israel and the Occupied Territories.”
Eighty NPS history teachers were trained on April 10, 2010 in “approaches and resources for teaching about the conflict.” Shortly thereafter, parents first started reporting biased and anti-Semitic history lessons in Newton high schools. The Harvard CMES is financed with Saudi petro-dollars, as the Center itself admits:
[A]lthough the University provided a modest amount of support, the bulk of the funds needed to launch the [Harvard] Center [for Middle East Studies] came from private companies and individual donors. By far the largest contributors were the oil companies, foremost among which was . . . ARAMCO [the Saudi state oil company].
This incident shows just a sliver of the Arab theocracies’ larger influence operations within the American K-12 system. Carried out with the often-witting collusion of left-wing educators, these influence operations have come a long way to marginalize Jews, Zionism, and Israel (and not infrequently America and the West) within the minds of American children.
What Leaders Should Do About This
School committees and districts must begin to reevaluate their partnerships with front groups funded by foreign governments, like Primary Source. State departments of education must investigate the effect of foreign-funded teacher trainings on the quality of public education in their jurisdictions. Teachers like Bedar must not be allowed to promote their political ideology at taxpayer expense.
The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice should also take a serious look at foreign interference with America’s education system.
Of course, with Qatar and civil rights violations involved, this is not just a local school board issue. “The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools,” declared the U.S. Supreme Court in 1960.
The federal government protects the constitutional freedoms of Jewish students from hostile foreign powers and agenda-driven local bigots alike. Any violations against the civil rights of Jewish, Israeli, or other students must be remedied, punished, and further enjoined.
On a federal agency level, the U.S. Department of Education should develop training that helps teachers understand and counter the corruption of American education by foreign powers. The U.S. departments of education and justice should also take a serious look at foreign interference with America’s education system, which is the foundation of our democracy.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for the story on how Newton Public Schools teach about Islam. Critical thinking has nothing to do with it. ♦