A Newton, Massachusetts parents group concerned about inaccurate and biased content in the Arab World Studies Notebook, a supplemental text used in high school history courses funded by Saudi Arabia, has succeeded in its effort to gain support of school officials to remove the flawed text from public school classrooms. The group also succeeded in having a website, www.flashpoints.info, removed from a list of resources that appears on a school library website.
One section had already been removed from the curriculum in November, 2011 due to its anti-Semitic content. The Notebook was previously removed from public schools in Alaska and Oklahoma.
The Notebook has been the subject of intense criticism by numerous educational and civic groups. The Association of American Educators described the book as “a vehicle for disseminating disinformation, including a multitude of false, distorted, or utterly absurd claims that are presented as historical facts …”
The American Jewish Committee says that the book contains “historical distortion as well as uncritical praise, whitewashing and practically proselytizing…”
The Notebook is published by the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), and Arab World and Islamic Resources (AWAIR), whose director is also the editor of the book. Both organizations are funded by the government of Saudi Arabia. The MEPC came to public attention in 1998, when Charles Freeman, the then-head of the MPEC, was nominated to chair the National Intelligence Council. Concerns about payments to Freeman from Saudi Arabia and China played a major role in the decision to withdraw the nomination.
The Flashpoints website was removed on October 10th, 2012 from a list of resources provided by the Newton North High School library. The website, which purports to “provide the information needed to make informed judgments”, describes “Fundamental Judaism” as the reason “Israeli Defense Forces feel free to invade and re-occupy Palestinian territory at will, or that Zionist settlers feel justified in driving Palestinians from the land…they’ve also pulled off some high-profile terrorist attacks.” The school explained that at the time the website was added to the resource list, it had a different owner.
Kerry Hurwitz, president of Parents for Excellence in Newton Schools (PENS), said, “We’d like to thank Superintendent Fleishman, and the librarians and teachers who took these matters seriously. Newton prides itself on excellent schools, which should also use excellent material. Removing the Notebook and Flashpoints is a good first step in ensuring that students learn from accurate and non-biased sources.”