ADL makes conflicting statements on existence of report on anti-Israel texts in Newton, Mass.

( Anti-Defamation League (ADL) officials made conflicting statements on the existence of a report by the organization about allegations of anti-Israel teaching materials in the public school curriculum of Newton, Mass. 

The anti-Israel "Arab World Studies Notebook," which has appeared in the public school curriculum of Newton, Mass. Credit: Amazon.

Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) recently took out an advertisement in Boston-area newspapers that highlighted research by concerned parents and students on anti-Israel texts that have appeared in Newton schools. The texts mentioned in the ad include “The Arab World Studies Notebook,” which claims that Israeli soldiers murdered hundreds of Palestinian nurses in Israeli prisons; “A Muslim Primer,” which claims that astronaut Neil Armstrong converted to Islam; “Flashpoints: Guide to World History,” which asserts that Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, is the capital of Israel, and that Jerusalem is the capital of “Palestine”; and other materials. 

Leaders from the ADL, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston’s Jewish federation) said in a Nov. 6 statement that “based on a careful review of the materials at issue by ADL and JCRC, there is substantial reason to believe that the allegations made in the [APT] ad are without merit.” The ADL, however, is refusing to make its findings on the teaching materials public, The Jewish Advocate of Boston reported in its Nov. 29 edition. 

Furthermore, ADL officials contradicted themselves on the existence of an ADL report on Newton schools. ADL New England Regional Director Robert Trestan told The Jewish Advocate that a report of the ADL’s investigation does not exist, while ADL New England Region Board Chair Jeffrey Robbins said, “It’s an internal report. People do this stuff internally all the time. ... It involves all kinds of proprietary research.”

“We don’t know if the ADL secured the curriculum from the Newton school committee in order to conclude, as they do, that there are no problems,” APT President Charles Jacobs told “They have not shared their ‘careful review’ of the materials with anyone, including reporters, calling it ‘proprietary.’ They seem to have had a greater urgency in defending school officials and the mayor than in getting the facts from parents and students. This is clearly not the quality effort we would expect from a well-funded organization with vast local and national resources. Disappointing.”

CJP President Barry Shrage told that he has seen reports by the ADL and the JCRC on the Newton schools issue, and that the reports show how on the alleged presence of anti-Israel texts, APT has been “picking and choosing individual things that in context said something very different than what APT claimed they said.” Shrage said he believes questions on the issue that have gone unanswered by APT include: When were the anti-Israel teaching materials used? How were the materials used? How many parents have complained to the school district about the materials?

In Shrage’s estimation, it is hard to believe that Newton parents have been afraid to come forward to the district about the anti-Israel texts, as has been claimed. 

“The truth is that the Newton school district gets complaints all the time,” Shrage said. “Where are the parents and where are the complaints [on the anti-Israel texts], and what does that say about whether there’s really a pattern of abuse [by Newton] here?”

Posted on November 29, 2013 .