Rethinking Schools Needs a Rethink on Israel

Only four days after Hamas terrorists brutally slaughtered, tortured, raped, and kidnapped Israeli citizens, including many civilians, on October 7—which saw the most Jews murdered in a single day since the Holocaust—Rethinking Schools—a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization supposedly committed to “strengthening public education through social justice teaching and education activism” and “promot[ing] equity and racial justice”—published a post in which they blame Israel for the terrorist attacks committed against Israelis while failing to even mention the internationally-recognized terrorist organization, Hamas, responsible for the attacks.  To support their victim-blaming, Rethinking Schools quotes Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which has written,

The bloodshed of today and the past 75 years traces back directly to U.S. complicity in the oppression and horror caused by Israel’s military occupation. The U.S. government consistently enables Israeli violence and bears blame for this moment. The unchecked military funding, diplomatic cover, and billions of dollars of private money flowing from the U.S. enables and empowers Israel’s apartheid regime.

This statement fails to provide any evidence for its spurious claims.  In contradistinction to apartheid South Africa, Israel accords its Arab residents full citizenship in the State of Israel with all the rights that this entails, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech.  In addition, Israeli Arabs have participated in the country’s political process, forming their own political parties and serving in the Knesset and on the Supreme Court among other governmental positions.

The post by Rethinking Schools also fails to acknowledge the problematic nature of JVP.  The scholar Miriam F. Elman notes that “JVP has long advanced an antisemitic form of anti-Zionism”[1] while “actively traffic[king] in classical antisemitic tropes and canards”[2] and defending individuals, like Jasbir Puar, who have leveled “modern-day blood libels.”[3]  Moreover, “JVP frequently platforms terrorists and advances the work of organizational allies with ties to violent extremism,”[4] including Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) supermarket bomber Rasmea Odeh.  CAMERA has also published a number of pieces documenting similar problems with JVP.

The post also obscures the fact that Israel aims to eliminate the terrorist organization Hamas, not kill innocent Palestinians civilians.  It is precisely due to the Israeli government’s desire to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties that Israel is urging, not forcing, Palestinian civilians to leave northern Gaza, where Israel’s invasion will be focused, a warning intended to spare innocent Palestinian lives, which stands in marked contrast with the longstanding practice of Hamas of using its own civilians as human shields.  While Rethinking School decries rhetoric by Israelis they deem dehumanizing of Palestinians (without providing any examples of such rhetoric), they fail to mention how Hamas has long dehumanized Israelis both through their rhetoric and behavior, including Hamas terrorists’ brutal butchering of Israeli civilians on October 7, burning alive and decapitating both young and old Israelis.

The Rethinking Schools post also promotes resources that include material by individuals, like Samia Shoman and Jody Sokolower, whose problematic work on Israel CAMERA has documented.

While Rethinking Schools expresses a commitment “to teaching and working for the dignity of all peoples,” teaching and working for the dignity of Israelis seems not to concern Rethinking Schools all that much.

[1] Elman, Miriam F. “Antisemitism on the Left: The Case of Jewish Voice for Peace.” Contending with Antisemitism in a Rapidly Changing Political Climate, ed. Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Indiana University Press, 2021, pp. 113-133.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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