Berkeley Heights Public Schools’ Troubling Misinformation on the Israeli-Palestinian Arab Conflict

A few days ago, the following email from Dr Melissa Varley, the Chief Education Officer at Berkeley Heights Public Schools, came to my attention:

This part:

We have been informed that parents are being advised to delete their children’s Instagram and TikTok accounts because dreadful, graphic, and highly disturbing videos are being released.  People who follow Jewish and Israeli influencers are more likely to see these videos. We wanted to make you aware so that parents can make an informed decision about their own children’s social media use. 

upset many Jewish activists, since it seemed to be encouraging parents to stop their kids from following Jewish and Israeli social media accounts.

I wasn’t sure if this was the intention; one of the links included later in the email was from the Jewish website Kveller, after all. But the wording was definitely terrible at best – and the impact of them could be to expose these kids to an even more biased worldview than the one to which they are already exposed. There is no problem with the “pro-palestinian” accounts in Varley’s eyes, after all – despite the fact way too many are spreading outright lies and hate against Jews and the Jewish state.

However, I now think I was perhaps being generous, after some of the lessons on the conflict apparently being taught to the kids at the Berkeley Heights Public School District schools were sent to me.

Some (but not all) of the most problematic parts are:

  • Slide 9: Using the one-sided, anti-Israel Al Jazeera as a source.
  • Slide 12: Referring to the ‘Nakba’, which was really the result of the Arab refusal to accept Jews in the land and the failure of their armies to drive us into the sea; accepting without question that there are 6 million palestinian refugees, without explaining the overly expansive UNRWA definition which includes people who immigrated to the area within two years before the 1948 War, as well as the “descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children”; using Al Jazeera again as a source.
  • Slide 13: Labeling as “Palestinian territory” areas that were nothing of the kind – they were disputed areas; in the last graphic, Israel launches air strikes on Gaza just to deter Hamas, and not in response to Hamas rocket attacks
  • Slide 15: No mention as to why Israel blockaded Gaza (i.e. Hamas terrorism), and making out like Israel simply “waged wars” on Gaza for shits’n’giggles, without explaining we were responding to incessant rocket fire on our civilian population; using Al Jazeera yet again as a source.
  • Slide 17: Quoting as a source Middle East Eye, another vehemently anti-Israel website
  • Slide 18: “Hamas attacks Israel” – that’s all they have to say?

But the entire thing is way too simplistic.

I have also been informed that one of their former students who recently graduated was one of those vile people destroying the hostage signs, and replacing them with these:

If the slide deck I was sent is truly indicative of how they are treating the Middle East conflict, is does not surprise me that one of their former students would act in this way. He is one of their poisonous fruits.

If you are as appalled as I am at this, here are some people we can contact:

Dr. Melissa Varley
[email protected]

Stephen Hopkins
District Director of DEI/ Social Studies Supervisor
[email protected]

Robert Nixon
Governor Livingston High School
[email protected]

Angela Penna
Board of Education President
[email protected]

Joy Young
Board of Education Vice President
[email protected]

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