OpinionAntisemitism

DEI’s rotten foundation

An open letter from a parent to the public schools in Newton, Mass.

An illustration of the diversity, equity and inclusion acronym. Image: Dmitry Demidovich/Shutterstock
An illustration of the diversity, equity and inclusion acronym. Image: Dmitry Demidovich/Shutterstock
Jonathan Levin
Jonathan Levin is an attorney living in Newton with his wife and children.

Dear Newton, Massachusetts School Committee and City Council members,

I am writing to ask that the Newton Public Schools suspend all diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)-related activities and lessons immediately pending investigation into DEI’s contribution to antisemitism, as well as its legality under Title VI and the U.S. Constitution.

Following Hamas’s Oct. 7 mass murder, torture, rape and kidnapping of over 1,000 people—overwhelmingly Israeli Jews—there have been enormous rallies embracing Hamas and terrorism at schools, on campuses and in the streets of major cities around the world. Tellingly, they began even before Israel launched its military operation in response to the massacre.

Calls to “gas the Jews” have been heard from Sydney, Australia to Washington, D.C. Synagogues have been defaced and firebombed. Jews have been beaten in the streets. Swastikas abound, including in Newton Public Schools. Menorahs have been destroyed and public lightings canceled due to threats of violence. Antisemitic incidents on campuses are too numerous to recount, with Jewish students hiding from roving mobs. The presidents of three elite universities were unwilling to say before Congress that calling for genocide of Jews is against their institutions’ codes of conduct. According to the ADL, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have risen more than 300%.

Those defending or celebrating the Oct. 7 massacre frequently frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms straight out of DEI jargon. They claim that Jews are “white oppressors” and Palestinians oppressed “people of color.” They hold that Jews are “settler colonialists” and Palestinians are engaged in “decolonization.” None of this is true.

This false and antisemitic paradigm is especially popular among young people. A recent Harvard/Harris poll found that 67% of U.S. 18–24-year-olds say Jews are oppressors and 51% of U.S. 18–24-year-olds accordingly favor destroying Israel and giving the land to Hamas. Young Americans who view Israel and Jews through the lens of DEI as taught in our schools endorse Hamas’s use of “any means necessary” to destroy Israel. As we now know, this includes mass murder, systematic rape, unspeakable torture and hostage-taking.

This absolutist oppressor/oppressed dichotomy, with its consequential moral failure, is embedded in Newton Public Schools’ approach to DEI. School professional development materials call on teachers to “Teach the Oppression” and invite activists into the classroom. Bizarrely, a slide on “cultivating genius & joy” says that “critical reading” means “the ability to read texts to understand power, authority and oppression.” When developing curricula, teachers are told to consider how they will “help students to learn anti-oppression.” Clearly, the Newton Public Schools are encouraging teachers to instill in students a false binary understanding of the world that encourages horrific violence.

The flaws in the current approach to DEI and DEI’s contribution to antisemitism are now widely recognized. To name only a few, Heather Mac Donald, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Stanley Goldfarb, famed historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, Bari Weiss, Samuel Abrams, Alan Dershowitz, Niall Ferguson, Glenn Loury and Tabia Lee, Jonathan Tobin, Pamela Paresky and Francesca Block have all written about DEI’s failings in general and promotion of antisemitism in particular. Abe Foxman and David Harris, former leaders of major Jewish communal organizations, have called for an end to DEI on campus.

DEI advocates who argue that the solution is for Jews to be granted protection within the existing structure ignore intractable logical, moral and legal problems. Who decides which categories of people are included or excluded from DEI and when or if they should be moved in or out? What groups remain outside of DEI? If bringing Jews in can fix DEI’s contribution to antisemitism, what does it mean for those groups that remain outside? Whom is it acceptable to hate?

If placing Jews under the DEI rubric will reduce antisemitism, then it is clear that DEI is irredeemably discriminatory. Discrimination on such a basis violates Title VI and the Constitution. Disparate treatment is fundamental to the current DEI approach and is thus morally and legally indefensible.

Granting protection for Jews within a framework used to legitimize the murder, rape and torture of anyone is not a solution. Newton Public Schools must start anew and embrace the core values of individual dignity and mutual respect for all members of the community.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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