The MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is not just being fought in the streets of Hebron or Gaza; it is also being fought in the classrooms of America. Leading this struggle for the Israeli side is a group called the Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS). Jerusalem-based journalist Jessica Buxbaum has been investigating the ICS and scrutinizing their role in shifting the public debate in the U.S. Jessica joins Lowkey to discuss her recent MintPress News investigation, “Institute for Curriculum Services: How an Israel Lobby Group Infiltrated US Education.
In recent years, progressive activism has forced the United States to begin to deal with the reality of its racist part. These anti-racist movements have attempted to correct what they see as a whitewashing of racist violence from history textbooks. The ICS has attempted to position itself in this post-Black Lives Matter milieu, claiming that their organization exists to give a more accurate picture of Jewish history in textbooks and clear up lingering misconceptions and stereotypes. “But really,” Buxbaum told Lowkey today, “they are just a front for the Israeli lobby.”
Jessica Buxbaum is an investigative journalist specializing in Middle Eastern politics and current affairs. Aside from MintPress News, her work can also be found in Middle East Eye, The New Arab, and Gulf News.
Buxbaum sent Freedom of Information requests to the education boards of all 50 states and found that the ICS was involved in a pressure campaign to monitor and change the wording and framing of school textbooks across the country in order to present a one-sided, pro-Israel narrative to children.
Examples included requests to delete all references to “Palestine,” “Palestinian territories,” or the “West Bank”; removing information about Palestinian culture and heritage; and even demands to amend maps, so that areas such as East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights appear not as illegally annexed but as territorially part of Israel.
“A lot of it is about erasing Palestine, anything that references the natives of Palestine, Palestinians as an indigenous people, that Palestinians have inhabited the land for thousands of years. All those things, they want to have deleted,” Buxbaum told Lowkey.
Another key prong in the ICS attack on the truth is to present Palestinian leadership as violent and the Israeli state as a noble, peace-loving democracy. The word “settlers,” the ICS requested, should be replaced by “communities.” “Wall” with “security fence,” “militant” with “terrorist,” and so on. References to Israel capturing the West Bank in 1967 should be removed and depictions of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat should include that he “direct[ed] countless terrorist attacks against Israelis.” It should also, the ICS suggests, be made clear that Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East.”
The ICS has hosted dozens of training seminars with thousands of schoolteachers across the United States, presenting the issue in a framework conducive to the outlook of the Israeli government. The organization has also recommended that American students be discouraged from finding their own sources of information on the internet, and instead be instructed to use resources from the Anti-Defamation League or the Jewish Virtual Library.
However, attempts to propagandize children with a pro-Israeli government narrative are not limited to the United States. Lowkey also shares his research into how a similar phenomenon is happening in the United Kingdom.
Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.