Judging from a children’s book and a Sunday school teacher’s manual published by the United Methodist Church in 2006, the anti-Israel activists in the denomination are fans of St. Francis Xavier, the 16th century missionary who proclaimed “Give me the children until they are seven and anyone may have them afterwards.” These activists also believe in an alternative universe in which Israeli concessions and withdrawals bringing about an end to Palestinian violence – a fairy tale that has been proven false on numerous occasions in the past decade.
The book, “From Palestine to Seattle: Becoming Neighbors and Friends” is billed as a “storybook on
The Story Book
The storybook, written by
The book describes the children’s email correspondence with Tarek, a young Palestinian boy whose family’s life has been disrupted by checkpoints on the West Bank and Miriam, a Jewish Israeli girl, who participates in a program that brings nine- to 12-year old Israelis and Palestinians so they play together and learn about each other's religion and culture. Miriam’s cousin, an Israeli soldier, has been put in prison for refusing to man checkpoints “because he thought they were wrong and were hurting people.”
In one email, Tarek writes that “Between
Thus, the storybook offsets and downplays Miriam’s legitimate fear of terrorism with Palestinian complaints about the checkpoints, a reassuring image of a Palestinian class clown and the depiction of her Jewish friends as unreasonably afraid of Arabs.
When Allison and Matthew see a checkpoint for themselves as they travel to
The image accompanying this part of the story shows five soldiers standing around the van in which Allison and Matt ride and a sixth soldier standing in a guard tower nearby. The image of barbed wire, guard shacks, sandbags, and menacing armed soldiers surrounding a brightly-colored van of innocent children is reminiscent concentration camps in
The story continues with the children participating in a peace rally in
The PFLP group is responsible for the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in October 2001, a December 2003 suicide attack that killed three Israelis, and the murders of several Americans including wheel-chair bound Leon Klinghoffer, who was pushed off a cruise ship in the
Predictably, the existence of these groups, and the mayor's connection to them, is left unmentioned in the Methodist storybook.
The Teacher’s Guide
The teacher’s guide, written by Faye Wilson, an educator from
The children are then directed to form a single line and approach a refreshment table and attempt to get a cup of orange juice. Those with “GO” passes are given a drink, but those with “STOP” passes “must either wait in line or go back to their seats.” Then the process is repeated with grapes. Children with “GO” passes are allowed to eat; those with “STOP” passes are not.
The teacher’s guide then tells instructors to ask how the children with the “STOP” and “GO” passes feel about the situation. The lesson then ends with this coda: “Remind the children that when people are denied things that they believe everyone should have, they feel bad and sometimes become angry, too. Invite the remaining children to get juice and grapes from the refreshment table.”
The implication is undeniable. Suicide bombings – which are not described anywhere in the either the storybook or the teacher’s manual – are the consequence of Israeli checkpoints, which deny the Palestinians “the things that they believe everyone should have” and in turn make “people feel bad and sometimes become angry.” The impression the children are left with is that if the Israelis took down the checkpoints, Miriam, the young Israeli would no longer be frightened of bombs going off in her neighborhood.
History demonstrates otherwise. From 2000-2004,
History demonstrates otherwise. From 2000-2004,
The teacher’s guide offers other distortions about the Arab-Israeli conflict. For example, on page one, the text reads in part:
For Palestinians, some of the concerns include curfews; restriction of movement for Palestinian families (using passes, going through checkpoints) limited access to
, a holy city for Christians, Jews, and Muslims and the destruction of homes. For Israeli children, there are issues of being safe in their country, understanding the need for people of other faiths to have access to Holy Sites in Jerusalem ; and learning to live peacefully and responsibly with Palestinian neighbors. Israel
This passage is emblematic of the bias in much of the UMC’s materials regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, particularly the last half of the last sentence – “and learning to live peacefully and responsibly with Palestinian neighbors” – which puts the onus for the conflict's existence on
The fact is since the Olso Process, official Israeli school books have taught peace; Palestinian schoolbooks continued to demonize
Another example of the UMC’s bias is the suggestion that Israelis need to understand “the need for other faiths to have access to Holy Sites in
Another distortion appears on page 31 of the teacher’s guide, which asserts:
Apartheid is similar to the pass system that exists for Palestinians. In
, movement is restricted from one area to another. Only individuals who have proven business or work duties can go from one area to another; even then, a soldier can deny honoring a person’s pass. In addition, families who live in Palestine often receive unequal treatment in terms of food, recreation, and employment. This inequity in work and recreation also parallels the former apartheid system in Palestine . South AfricaIt is important for children to understand that in the pass system means that many families and children cannot go very far from home and they cannot find the jobs that will help them build a nice community. Palestine
The economy of the [occupied territories] grew rapidly between 1968 and 1980 (average annual increase of 7% and 9 percent in real per capita GDP and GNP respectively), triggered by a number of factors, including the rapid integration with Israel and the regional economic boom. In the early years of the occupation, there was a sharp expansion in the employment of unskilled Palestinian labor in
and a rise in incomes, which in turn spurred domestic economic activity, especially in the construction sector. Earnings of Palestinian workers in Israel rose from negligible levels in 1968 to almost one quarter of GNP in 1975. Israel
Since unskilled labor played a central role in the growth, the poor shared in this growth, and as a result, in all likelihood, there was a significant reduction in poverty in this period. Household conditions improved substantially, with a several-fold rise in the possession of consumer durables and significant increases in access to municipal water and electricity connections. Life expectancy increased by a decade, and there was significant progress in reducing infant mortality. School enrollments also rose during this time. These advances mirrored substantial improvements in income levels and in living conditions all through the region during the 1970s.
Not only did the violence perpetrated during the intifadas necessitate increased security measures, they also decreased Israeli appetite for Palestinian goods and labor. But instead of acknowledging the relationship between Palestinian violence and Israeli security measures, the UMC’s teacher’s guide portrays these security measures as motivated by Jim Crow racism and not as a regrettable, but understandable response to suicide bombings and sniper attacks perpetrated, in many instances, by groups intent on depriving the Jewish people of a sovereign state, not merely to build a Palestinian state.
An honest portrayal of Palestinian suffering would at least acknowledge the possibility that Palestinian violence caused decreased opportunities in “food, recreation and employment,” but this reality is not acknowledged anywhere in either the storybook or the teacher’s guide. (Most people understand that engaging in acts of war against a neighbor with whom you trade is not conducive to economic development, but such wisdom is absent from the storybook.)
In these texts, the