May 20, 2021
A question on a Los Angeles middle school quiz generated controversy for asking where “Palestinians are facing evictions” at the hands of the Israelis.
The full question read: “In _____, some Palestinians are facing evictions from their homes by Israelis,” referencing the potential eviction Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem over a property dispute. The multiple-choice options were Haifa, Tel Aviv, Nazareth and East Jerusalem.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) told the Journal that the question was asked during a class for sixth-grade students at Portola Middle School. “The quiz was produced by a third-party program that provides digital lessons for teachers for use in the classroom. It included a question about events in the Middle East and was phrased in a way that may have been deemed culturally insensitive. We immediately contacted the provider of the program, and the question and related content have been removed. We also provided counselors for students and staff who may need additional support.”
The spokesperson added, “We understand that this is a sensitive topic. This incident was unintentional and does not reflect the commitment of Los Angeles Unified or Portola Middle School to respect and inclusivity.”
Jewish groups criticized the quiz question. “Presenting one narrow part of a much larger conflict out of context is educational malpractice and political indoctrination. It is especially shameful given how little information most middle school students would know about this issue,” StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein said in a statement to the Journal. “While we thank LAUSD for indicating they will no longer use the app that generated this misinformation, we remain concerned about who is selecting LAUSD’s quiz material and whether it is part of a malicious attempt to indoctrinate middle schoolers with an anti-Israel narrative.”
StandWithUs filed a California Public Record Act request on May 20 requesting that LAUSD hand over the quiz in its entirety and all communications related to the matter. A district spokesperson told the Journal they have nothing further to add at this time.
Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper also said in a statement to the Journal that he has two suggestions for the district. “Stick to 2+2, Algebra, and other math skills that will help youngsters get a job in the future, but if school districts want to introduce ‘human rights’ into math classes, here are a few suggestions: How about ‘How many Uighurs are in Chinese Communist concentration camps’…‘how many hundreds of miles ( or kilometers) did Venezuelan refugees have to walk to reach the border of Chile?’…. ‘How many innocent Iranians have been executed by the regime of Ayatollah Khamenei’…. ‘How many rockets has Hamas launched against Israeli communities?’ (Hint — over 4k) ‘How many Israeli Arabs sit on the Jewish state’s Supreme Court?’”
American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles Regional Director Richard S. Hischhaut said in a statement to the Journal that the question “is symptomatic of a fundamental lack of context and factual perspective surrounding recent [Middle East] tensions. The question itself is simplistic but also gratuitous in naming other cities among the potential correct answers. Is this intended to be a geography lesson? It most certainly is not a history lesson in misrepresenting what is actually under consideration by Israel’s justice system.”
He added that the AJC is happy “that LAUSD officials quickly recognized the inappropriateness of this material. In furtherance of this ‘teachable moment,’ AJC will be pleased to offer additional resources to Portola Middle School and others to better inform teachers and students alike to the realities of this evolving situation.”
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Senior Associate Regional Director Matthew Friedman said in a statement to the Journal, “We are aware of this issue as several community members have brought it to our attention. ADL has reached out to the school directly and offered our resources so that in the future they do not utilize materials with biased or culturally-insensitive content.”
The Sheikh Jarrah situation stems from a property dispute. Some argue that it’s simply a matter of enforcing property rights against squatters and tenants refusing to pay rent; others contend that the evictions are part of an effort to “Judaize” the area.
Read the article here.