update deskSchools & Higher Education

Deborah Project: Berkeley district hid ‘PR bonanza for Hamas’ from parents

The course included “an all-out assault on Israel, including propaganda from Al Jazeera” and “inflated numbers from the Hamas Health Ministry,” Lori Lowenthal Marcus said.

Berkeley High School in Berkeley, Calif. Credit: Coro via Wikimedia Commons.
Berkeley High School in Berkeley, Calif. Credit: Coro via Wikimedia Commons.

The Berkeley Unified School District in Berkeley, Calif., hides from parents what it knows to be “a one-sided presentation of issues relating to the conflict between Israel and Hamas that condemns the Jewish State’s exercise of self-defense, ignores and misrepresents the atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, and impugns Israel’s right—conferred by the United Nations—to exist as a ‘Jewish state.’”

That’s according to a lawsuit that the Deborah Project, a public-interest law firm that protects Jewish students against discrimination, filed against the Berkeley district in Alameda County Superior Court.

The district includes 16 elementary, middle and high schools that educate 9,400 students, including Berkeley High School.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus, legal director for the Deborah Project, told JNS that the complaint pertains to an ethnic-studies course the district requires for ninth-graders.

An “Israel-Palestine” unit shared with about 800 ninth-graders at Berkeley High School “refers to Jews in the land of Israel as ‘settler colonialists,’” according to Lowenthal Marcus. “The events of Oct. 7 are described as ‘an attack on southern Israeli communities and a music festival at which 1,200 Israelis and other nationalities were killed and 240 taken as hostages to Gaza. In response, Israel launched an all-out assault on Gaza.”

“The rest of the slide deck continues as an all-out assault on Israel, including propaganda from Al Jazeera, inflated numbers from the Hamas Health Ministry, a ‘Kids of Gaza’ press conference and in all respects, a public relations bonanza for Hamas via a public high school captive audience,” Lowenthal Marcus told JNS.

The Deborah Project alleges that the school district has stonewalled requests for documents.

“Petitioners are deeply concerned by suggestions of antisemitic, anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist bias in the records to which they have gained only limited access, as well as in public events such as BUSD school board meetings,” per the 75-page lawsuit.

“Some records were disclosed after classes about Israel and Palestinians were taught, but BUSD has refused to say whether it has disclosed all curricular materials used,” it states.

“Records still completely undisclosed, but responsive to the Public Records Act requests this action seeks to enforce, include drafts of the curriculum material; communications among BUSD employees about what was or should be taught, and between BUSD employees and teachers in other districts,” it adds, “and, importantly, all documents relating to whether and when any of these materials should be released to parents and/or the public.”

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