What do American students learn about Hamas and Hezbollah?

Posted: 7/2/2014 8:59:00 PM
Author: Ellen R. Wald
Source: This article was originally posted on the Times of Israel website.

What do American students learn about Hamas and Hezbollah?
by Ellen R. Wald

Just recently the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) released the titles of new social studies textbooks and supplementary educational materials under consideration for adoption in 2015. In November, the SBOE will approve some of these textbooks for use by over 5 million students in the state. Millions of other American children will be impacted, as publishers offer these same books across the country.

Verity Educate scholars are undertaking a systematic examination of the content accuracy of the books made available for public view and will be sharing this information with the public throughout the summer.

So far, a disturbing trend is emerging in middle and high school geography books. These books have lengthy sections devoted to the Middle East, which they call “Southwest Asia,” (the use of that term is itself a discussion for another day), and delve into the physical, cultural, religious, historical, and political attributes of the nations in this region.

Although these books provide general overviews rather than detailed information, they all specifically address contemporary violence in the Middle East. And they all fail to identify Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt books are the worst offenders. In discussing the Gaza strip, the high school textbook explains that, “Since 2007, an organization called Hamas, which means ‘Islamic Resistance Movement,’ has controlled Gaza.” The middle school version goes even further and characterizes Hamas as a “political group.” The high school textbook is equally evasive about Hezbollah, explaining only that, “the Syrian regime received backing from Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

By failing to identify Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, these textbooks mislead students. In both cases, Hamas and Hezbollah are discussed in context with either an authentic political organization (Fatah and the Palestinian National Authority), or a nation-state (Iran). Students reading this text will internalize Hamas and Hezbollah as synonymous with these other groups/nations and will fail to grasp the true nature of Hamas and Hezbollah’s hatred of Jews and Israel, and the violent acts of terror they undertake. (See full quotes here)

McGraw-Hill presents only a slight improvement. Its World Cultures & Geography book identifies Hamas as “an anti-Israel Islamic group.” The text proceeds to teach that there were, “eruptions of violence [that] have limited progress toward a peaceful solution,” but it does not connect Hamas to these eruptions. Simply identifying a group as “Islamist” is not itself indicative of violence or terrorism.

The U.S. State Department defines Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Minister of Justice, recently declared on the pages of the Wall Street Journal that, “Hamas is a designated terrorist organization, ideologically committed to an extremist anti-Semitic, anti-Western agenda.”

Students must be presented with relevant information that is not sanitized or they will not comprehend the history, geography, cultures, religions, and politics of the Middle East. The facts are that the Palestinian people in Gaza voted to be governed by a terrorist organization and that the Syrian regime receives support from a terrorist organization. This is the reality in the Middle East. The sad truth is that many students in the United States may never learn this

Read more: What do American students learn about Hamas and Hezbollah? | Ellen R. Wald | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/what-do-american-students-learn-about-hamas-and-hezbollah/#ixzz36NEsAle4
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Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a former Middle East history professor and currently the executive director of Verity Educate.