(July 3, 2018 / JNS) A recent investigation by the media watchdog group CAMERA has revealed bias in school curriculum produced by PBS on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
PBS now offers American schoolteachers lesson plans to accompany some of the documentaries it distributes. And unlike its hallmark science and entertainment programs, these lesson plans are neither apolitical nor objective, CAMERA said.
According to CAMERA, lesson plans about Palestinians and Israelis present a skewed image of the subject matter.
“The lesson plans that purport to teach about the Arab-Israeli conflict [based on documentaries previously aired on PBS] fail to explore fundamental, underlying causes of the conflict and reduce the issues to a ‘good guy-bad guy’ scenario,” said CAMERA media analyst Ricki Hollander.
The films used in these lesson plans present an oversimplified image in which Palestinians are cast as the victims and Israel as the villain in the role of aggressor or bigot. This image is conveyed either by the protagonists themselves or through the context in which the conflict is presented.”
Most of the lesson plans in CAMERA’s study were based on what the media watchdog says are “one-sided, controversial films” that were aired previously on PBS’s acclaimed POV (“Point of View”) program.
One of the examples noted in the investigation was the program “5 Broken Cameras,” which film critics label “a polemical work,” that came under attack from its Israeli protagonists, who claimed that clips of unrelated events were spliced together to create the false appearance of unprovoked Israeli aggression.
PBS chose this film as a basis for a lesson plan instructing student about differing points of view, but as CAMERA notes, the lesson exposes students only to the Palestinian filmmaker’s point of view.
At the same time, Israeli grievances about what they say is the film’s dishonest editing are neither shown nor mentioned in the lesson plan.
PBS lessons about Israel’s security barrier are based on “9 Star Hotel” and “This Way Up”—films that focus on Palestinians who are inconvenienced or otherwise impacted by the barrier.
“Without focusing equally on the brutal Palestinian terrorism that prompted the barrier’s construction or mentioning the barrier’s success in preventing the deaths of innocent Israeli civilians,” Hollander says, “the students cannot help but come away with a distorted picture of excessive and malicious restrictions placed on innocent Palestinians by ruthless Israeli occupiers.”
A lesson that teaches about the Palestinian claim to the “right of return” is based on “A World Not Ours,” a film by Mahdi Fleifel who was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.
Hollander points to the film’s revisionist history of Palestinian refugees that erases the war launched by Arab leaders and presents a false version of events in which Palestinians are said to have been expelled from their homes in order “to make way for Jewish immigrants.”
There is also a lesson plan that purports to give an overarching view of the conflict, based on “Promises,” a film that follows children on both sides of the conflict.
Hollander notes that “despite its superficial appearance of balance, the film’s misleading background information, omission of basic context and politicized editing combine to create an inaccurate and biased picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Both film and lesson ignore the war launched by Arab states to eradicate the newly declared Jewish state in 1948. At the same time, they also do not mention the Jewish and Arab refugee situation as a result of the war, or Arab states still keep Palestinians in refugee camps rather than resettling them, as Israel did with Jewish refugees, CAMERA said.
Instead, the film misleadingly implies that Israel is entirely responsible for the Palestinian refugee problem, said CAMERA. At the same time, the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is described as a relatively innocuous “political faction” that opposes the peace process.
Worse yet, according to CAMERA, are the materials accompanying the lesson plan that is used to provide background information.
A series of maps titled “Losing Ground” twists the facts to suggest that Jews are foreign interlopers who have seized the indigenous land of the Palestinians in a land grab.
And an error-ridden timeline titled “History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” distorts the chronology of the conflict to conceal most of the terrorism directed against Israel since its founding. This timeline is offered as a resource in other PBS lesson plans as well.
What these lesson plans share in common is that they all avoid exploring Arab accountability for the conflict.
CAMERA enumerates a list of fundamental contributing factors that are either entirely ignored or downplayed, including the wars of aggression against Israel waged by Arab leaders; their declared intent to eradicate the Jewish state; their unwillingness to accept the presence of a neighboring Jewish state and their repeated rejection of peace offers that would give Palestinians their own state; Palestinian terrorism; and such terrorism’s effects on Israeli victims.
Only one lesson plan includes a look at the Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism, and this is in the form of a three-minute “PBS NewsHour” clip about a brutal and deadly terror attack on Jewish worshippers that was added to the lesson plan only after a huge public outcry. The original lesson plan focused only on the radical claims of Palestinian terrorists, while omitting the impact and immorality of their attacks on innocent civilians.
Outraged viewers who interpreted this as promoting sympathy for the perpetrators protested, and PBS subsequently added the news clip. But a short clip does not begin to address the imbalance and one-sidedness of all the other lessons that instruct about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As CAMERA shows in its latest monograph publication, Indoctrinating Our Youth, these biased PBS lesson plans are now being used in public-school classrooms.