The Institute for Curriculum Services is a California-based non-profit organization that works “behind the scenes” to change curriculum and textbook references about “Jews, Judaism and Israel.”
In a January 31, 2018 webcast (YouTube Video) sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella organization, ICS head Aliza Craimer Elias made the following claims:
- That ICS has successfully made 11,500 changes to textbooks across America.
2. When state education departments initiate textbook reviews, ICS works with Jewish Community Relations Councils (usually unincorporated units inside major Jewish federations) to contact textbook review committees to review and submit change requests..
3. Lead JCRCs submit these requested ICS changes.
4.Common requests include changing references to Israel’s “wall,” partially built across the Green Line, to “the security barrier” or simply the “fence.”
2. Insistence on Arab agency in depictions of violence. For example that textbooks not say “War broke out between Israel and Arabs in 1948,” but rather “Israel was formed, and Arab states attacked it.”
6. Craimer Elias of ICS claimed to have overcome input from a Muslim-oriented group in the Pacific Northwest that similarly tried to influence textbook content.
7. The next initiative ICS claimed to be working on was the State of Virginia textbook review.
JCPA President and CEO David Bernstein congratulated ICS saying he knew it received “a great deal of [presumably financial] support.” Bernstein considers the “other side” of the “political spectrum” on this issue to be “the BDSers” (those calling for the Boycott Divestment and Sanction of Israel ) and “anti-Israel” groups.
On February 1, 2018 IRmep submitted a Virginia Freedom of Information Act, §2.2-3704 request with the Virginia Department of Education for “all copies of input submitted from or on behalf of the Institute for Curriculum Services, Jewish Council for Public Affairs and or Jewish Community Relations Councils or Federations during the Textbook Review & Approval process for History and Social Science textbooks”. Below are links to original PDF cover letters and responsive documents released by the State of Virginia on April 4, 2018. Below the PDFs are the Israel Lobby Archive’s selection of ICS quotes and comments on interesting and misleading proposed ICS changes to textbooks.
Common themes in ICS requests to make changes to Virginia textbooks.
- Qualify claims of Islam as “expressing Muslim religious belief” while referencing those of Judaism as “God’s covenant.”
- Replace Christian versions of key texts (such as the Ten Commandments) with Judaic versions.
- Emphasize the “Jewish ethnicity” of major American historical figures.
- Eliminate terms such as “settlers,” “occupation,” “land theft” and “wall” or replace with more neutral terms such as “disputed,” “captured areas,” “security fence” and “controlled.”
- Emphasize Arab culpability for crisis initiation (Israel’s 1948 War of Independence) leading to military action, but not Israeli culpability (e.g. surprise Israeli airstrikes on Egypt commencing the 1967 Six-Day War).
- Discourage students from conducting open internet research on current events lest they run into controversial content. Instead recommend approved websites such as the ADL and the JewishVirtualLibrary.org
- Eliminate or replace historical artwork created for predominately Christian audiences.
- Add content that augments Israeli claims to occupied territory in the Middle East, such as changing maps of the Golan Heights as belonging to Israel rather than Syria.
- Reference Israeli claims such as “Israel annexed East Jerusalem” as settled fact, without referencing lack of official recognition by other nation states.
- Delete all references to “Palestinian Territories.”
- Where ICS has already successfully lobbied for changes in national editions of textbooks, it demands that these changes also be made to State of Virginia editions.
Publishers of the textbooks targeted for changes include National Geographic, Prentice Hall, Five Ponds Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill.
“This year, at our request, the Institute for Curriculum Services reviewed materials that have been submitted for consideration by the state in the 2018 History and Social Science Textbooks and Instructional Materials Adoption. They have made recommendations, which we endorse, to correct errors and misleading information regarding Judaism and Jewish history.”
ICS recommends the famous bluejeans maker be cited as Jewish. “One merchant who became rich during the gold rush was Levi Strauss. A Jewish German immigrant, he arrived in San Francisco in 1850…”
ICS recommends changing date references from BC and AD to the “common era” designations to avoid “Christian connotations.” Also recommends replacing the Christian version of the Ten Commandments with the Jewish version. Suggests not including “artistic representations of God” in images because it is “forbidden in Judaism.” References to Einstein should be “the German-born Jewish physicist Albert Einstein.” Similarly, “The Jewish Austrian physician Sigmund Freud (froyd)” also suggested as a reference as well as “Jewish American poet Gertrude Stein …” Add underlined context, “By June 1945, the Nazis had massacred more than six million Jews, two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. Qualify reference to “Palestine” as “Mandatory Palestine.” Change reference to “Israel occupying” to “in control of the Sinai peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights” after the 1967 Six-Day War. ICS comments that “This information appears when the student hovers over the map. Since Israel gained this territory as a result of a defensive war and was willing to return it in exchange for peace, the term ‘occupying’ should be eliminated.” There is no apparent reference in the textbook to the fact that Israel initiated the war through a surprise attack on the Egyptian Air Force. ICS encourages, under Virginia standards, that “militant group” is too vague and that “The U.S. Department of State designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 1997, so it is a more accurate description.”
ICS cautions that “Unguided internet research may lead students to websites containing politically biased, racist, hate-filled, and anti-Semitic materials highly inappropriate for the classroom. Including a list of reliable historical websites would be helpful.” ICS praises past changes, “ICS has reviewed other editions of this text in the past and is extremely appreciative that so many agreed upon changes have been made to the current online Virginia edition of this textbook.” Recommends changing: “How did the Balfour Declaration further undermine Pan-Arabism?” to “How did conflicting British policies threaten Pan-Arabism?” Recommends “murder” rather than “kill” in Holocaust descriptions. Insistence that students not be asked to consider Palestinian refugees without context. “As noted in the textbook, equal numbers of Jewish refugees were expelled from Arab lands and fled to Israel. Asking students to focus exclusively on Palestinian Arabs is not a balanced pedagogical approach. By recasting the assignment to include Jewish and Arab refugees, students will gain deeper understanding of the refugee crisis that emerged after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.” Cautions against the Holocaust as a sole reason for the establishment of Israel. “Students often wrongly believe that the sole reason for Israel’s creation was the Holocaust. While the Holocaust certainly galvanized the international community to recognize the need for a Jewish home, it is important to also note the decades of state building efforts by Jews in the Land of Israel (starting in the 1880s).” ICS recommends a statement to contextualize Palestinian refugees that “Israel absorbed an equal number of refugees from Arab and Muslim lands.” Also recommends that “Students should understand that not all Palestinian Arabs live as refugees or in refugee camps. Palestinian refugee status is a political construct that should not be equated with the conditions faced currently by Syrian, Kurdish, or Iraqi refugees.” Also insists that “There is no state of Palestine nor has there ever been one. The change in title better reflects the historical reality. Students should understand that the conflict is between Israel and the Palestinians. The title should be changed throughout.” Insistence that Gaza, Sinai and East Jerusalem were “captured” in a “defensive war.”