FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2015
HIGH-SCHOOL TEACHING RESOURCE
ON ISRAEL/PALESTINE UNDER ATTACK
The Palestine Teaching Trunk, a free
online teaching resource developed locally in Seattle about Palestinians and the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has come under attack by apologists and extreme
advocates for Israel.
The Palestine Teaching Trunk, which is both a physical trunk of curriculum and materials as well as free online curriculum, was developed by local educator Linda Bevis to offer teachers a wide spectrum of lesson choices. Materials include human-rights perspectives, two-sides-to-the-conflict lessons, pro-and-con articles about Israeli settlements, debates as to whether or not the term “apartheid” applies to Israel, movies with study guides, lectures, readings, writing prompts, role plays, and other tools. Linda Bevis, developer of the Teaching Trunk, is a longtime Seattle resident who received her MA in Education from UW and taught in local high schools for many years. She worked with Palestinians and Israelis as an international human rights lawyer.
Israeli-government funded advocacy group Stand With Us (SWU) has now launched online and in-person attacks on the Teaching Trunk. SWU lobbied hard to have a workshop about the Teaching Trunk removed from a recent Seattle Social-Studies conference. When the conference organizers refused, SWU distributed literature calling the Teaching Trunk biased, even though articles by SWU members appear in the Trunk and SWU itself is linked as a resource for teachers. SWU members attended the workshop and tried to distract from the content and exercises.
SWU has also used covert methods to attempt to block internet usage of the Teaching Trunk. SWU apparently bought the three most likely URL web domains for the Trunk so that the Trunk would be harder to find online.
“Some advocates of an extreme pro-Israeli government position are trying to undermine the Teaching Trunk. They are accusing the Teaching Trunk of lack of balance, but in fact the Trunk redresses a lack of balance in current media and school curricula, which mainly present the Israeli government’s viewpoint on issues and events,” said Bevis.
SWU attacks have come from doubtful sources. One article critical of the Teaching Trunk was published by Robert Wilkes, a member of SWU’s advisory board and media response team. Robert Wilkes' subsequent blog post in the Times of Israel was so incendiary that the Times of Israel deleted it, since Wilkes revealed disturbing bigotry in claiming that both African Americans and Palestinians should be blamed for their own problems as they are both beset by “permanent, deep-set anger and rage and are looking for anything to set it off,” driven by emotions, and in the case of African Americans led by “race hustlers.” Wilkes claimed that “Black problems in America have nothing to do with the conduct of the police.” SWU members at first defended Wilkes’ post, then were forced to distance themselves from it.
Despite the attacks, the Palestine Teaching Trunk has been used in some area high schools for two years, and educators are coming forward to defend it. One high school teacher commented, “I am very impressed by the depth, detail and richness of this resource. Great care has been taken to offer materials and activities that help students use critical thinking skills to analyze this very complex historical dilemma. . . . I’m also quite impressed by the thoughtful manner in which this resource is directly connected to State and Common Core standards.” Dr. Nada Elia, retired Palestinian-American professor of Global and Gender Studies, has said that the Teaching Trunk “diligently rises against self-censorship, presenting both the Zionist and Palestinian narratives side by side, for students to compare and form their own educated opinions as they hone their critical skills through in-class debates.”
Dr. Simona Sharoni, professor at SUNY-Plattsburgh, grew up in Israel and has written extensively about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and conflict resolution theory. Sharoni said, “The Palestine Teaching Trunk makes it possible for students to hear silenced Palestinian voices, along with Israeli voices that are more often heard. This is crucial, not only for understanding the history but for developing critical thinking." Dr. Wayne Au, Associate Professor in the School of Educational Studies at the University of Washington Bothell and editor of Rethinking Schools, said, “In the face of mainstream media and well-funded think tanks and NGOs that are one-sidedly pro-Israel, the Palestine Teaching Trunk creates the space for students and teachers to actually hear the voices of Palestinian people, voices systematically silenced under the weight of occupation.”
The Palestine Teaching Trunk is available without charge for use by teachers. The extensive online curriculum materials are at palestineinformation.org/trunk_contents. The physical trunk of maps, books, visual aids and curriculum binders is available for teachers in the Seattle area by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.