Middle East studies in the News
BJM Students Subjected to Pro-Palestine Guest Talk
A third grade class at a city elementary school was subjected to a politically-driven guest speech Sept. 18, prompting a review in policy and procedures for guest speakers and visitors in the Ithaca City School District.
A news release from the school district said guest speakers originally were to discuss human rights and peace with a third grade class at Beverly J. Martin School, but instead they gave a politically-driven talk in support of Palestinians in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The school administration was not informed beforehand of the presence of additional speakers, according to the news release.
The talk, according to the school district news release, featured a brief video shown by the speakers of a young Palestinian girl who references Israelis killing Palestinians, as well as an anti-Israeli sentiment portraying the country as having broken the laws of the United Nations and being in control of the whole region.
"Such statements are not developmentally appropriate for third graders, nor aligned with the New York State standards," Superintendent Luvelle Brown said in a statement. "The statements were politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District."
Afterward, the school district stated a speaker spoke of solidarity encouraging being freedom fighters for Palestine to "bring peace and protect the future of their children."
Bassem Tamimi, a Palestinian activist, is the speaker in question. He was invited to speak at the school by Ariel Gold, the organizer for his national tour and a member of the Ithaca chapter of an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace, which "seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem," according to the mission statement on its website.
In a statement, Gold said she and her family traveled to the West Bank and Israel as a family, where they stayed in the homes of Palestinian families and met with peace activists, including Tamimi.
"Spending time with Bassem and his family, we saw firsthand what life is like for Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation," Gold wrote. "Bassem's children (two of whom are ages 12 and 14, like my children) have the same hopes and dreams and interests as all children. They want to live, play, learn, work, and grow in freedom."
Tamimi was in the area on Sept. 17 and 18 for appearances at the Unitarian Church in Ithaca and at Tompkins Cortland Community College, according to a schedule on his speaking tour's website.
Gold wrote she believes the school had a mission aiming to teach children about equality, freedom and human rights and defended the talk as age appropriate, saying she believed Tamimi embodied those principles.
"They continue to insist that Israelis and Palestinian must, and one day will, live together in peace and equality," Gold wrote. "This is the message that Bassem shares. It is the message that he shares with my children as a mentor and role model. It is the message he shared, age appropriately, with the children at BJM."
The New York State Social Studies Standards for third grade includes the topic of human rights, according to the district.
In his letter, Brown said at a minimum:
The Ithaca City School District did not immediately return calls for further comment, however, in his letter Brown said:
"We recognize that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is very sensitive to many members of our community. We also recognize that this delicate topic was not presented in a manner consistent with its importance. We sincerely regret that this has occurred."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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