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BC activists lobby government to teach anti-Israel account of 1948 war

The activists refer to the event, which began after five Arab nations invaded Israel following its declaration of independence, as the Nakba, meaning ‘catastrophe’

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Pro-Palestinian activist groups in British Columbia have sent an open letter to the province’s NDP government demanding a new curriculum featuring politicized content on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The statement was sent to Minister of Education and Child Care Rachna Singh and insisted the province’s social studies curricula be overhauled to include reference to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

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The activists refer to the event, which began after five Arab nations invaded Israel following its declaration of independence, as the “Nakba” — “catastrophe” in English.

“Over 700,000 Palestinians were forcefully expelled from their homes, more than 15,000 were massacred, and over 500 of their villages were destroyed,” the letter claims. (Those statistics cited are at odds with historic evidence.)

“To uphold our commitment to social justice, decolonization, and reconciliation, it is imperative that we ensure students do not leave the education system completely ignorant of the history of Palestine and Israel. We cannot have yet another generation grow up believing it’s ‘too complicated’ or ‘too sensitive,’” it concludes.

Israeli historian Benny Morris, considered one of the war’s preeminent scholars, called the proposal a distortion of “what happened in 1948.”

“It omits the fact that the Palestinians launched the war in defiance of the proposal by the international community,” Morris said over the phone, referring to the United Nations partition plan adopted in November 1948. “That’s not in there and neither is the second part of the war, which was launched by the Arab states when they invaded Israel in May 1948,” he continued.

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Morris pointed to this crucial context explaining the subsequent conflict. In the late 80s, Morris wrote a ground-breaking book about the subject, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, and in 2008 he wrote a definitive history of the conflict, entitled 1948.

“It doesn’t explain why 700,000 Jews were uprooted from the Arab states in which they had lived until 1948, under pressure by Arab societies and Arab governments, creating a Jewish refugee problem,” Morris continued. “None of this is explained or touched upon at all in that proposal they made.”

Distinguished historian Gil Troy denounced the demand as an example of “twistory, not history,” framed to perpetuate a “simplistic, misleading” narrative that has no educational value.

“By not acknowledging that most Palestinian Arabs rejected the compromise — and encouraged terrorist attacks on their Palestinian Jewish neighbours — the petition, and implicitly the curriculum, doesn’t explain how the war truly began,” the McGill academic told National Post in an email. “And it, of course, ignores the invasion by outside Arab armies in May 1948, when the Jews, who accepted the compromise, launched Israel, as per the UN’s vision.”

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Troy contemplated how a constructive lesson plan might instead examine support for partition and the two-state solution from then-diplomat Lester B. Pearson, who later became prime minister of Canada.

“It overlooks the United Nations’ attempt at compromise — in its 1947 Partition Plan, which recognized the historical legitimacy of Jewish ties to the land,” Troy said. “It also ignores the fact that Canada voted for the partition and that a great Canadian leader, Lester B. Pearson, had a leading role in drawing up the proposed compromise.”

Troy considered a lesson plan encouraging students “to think for themselves,” free from “partisan lies,” would be a greater service for young students today.

“The letter takes a complicated conflict, which could be taught sensitively and thoughtfully, with nuance and respect for the truth, and reduces it to a one-sided opportunity to erase the history of Israel, the legitimacy of Zionism, the depth of Jewish ties to the land — while bashing Canada along the way.”

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The B.C. education ministry said in a statement that parents should reach out to their child’s teacher or principal if they want to discuss what’s being taught in the classroom.

“Students in B.C. learn about history throughout the K-12 curriculum – including references to international wars and global conflicts,” the ministry said in an email.

“At the local level, school districts and teachers use their professional judgement when choosing to incorporate current and historical conflicts into their lesson planning that align with the required learning standards of the curriculum.”

The open letter’s organizers include the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Network, headquartered in Vancouver, which has close ties to the designated terror group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In the early morning of October 7, as Hamas terrorists had infiltrated the Israel border and began committing widespread atrocities, the group released a statement glorifying the massacre. “The resistance is rising throughout occupied Palestine, smashing the siege on Gaza with a comprehensive offensive confronting the occupier by land, air and sea,” the group wrote in a statement featuring images of keffiyeh-clad militants.

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Samidoun was joined by other groups in writing the letter, such as Teachers 4 Palestine BC, Palestinian Youth Movement Vancouver and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). The latter, a fringe group, has been accused by B’nai Brith of promoting Holocaust denial conspiracies online as well as participating in events with terror sympathizers and antisemites.

As of Friday, the public petition had passed its goal of 5,000 signatures.

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