Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
May 11th 2009
Your readers should know the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and many others are troubled a factually inaccurate map of the Middle East that was posted at Pioneer Elementary Schools 4th Annual International Heritage Day in May 2008. Pioneer Elementary School is in the Davis Unified School District in Davis CA. The map did not include any reference to the State of Israel; instead, Palestine was erroneously denoted on the map in Israels place.
Even more troubling was the districts response after the factually inaccurate map was brought to its attention. It took the district almost one year to respond to the complaint (supported in writing by numerous members of the community) that had been lodged about the map, and that was only after the original complainant repeatedly prodded the district for an answer. The response should have been immediate, since there was little if anything to debate about what the appropriate response should be.
When the district finally responded in a letter from Pamela Mari, Director of Student Services, the response was shockingly misguided. While the district acknowledged that International Heritage Day is a school-sponsored activity and that the district has the right and responsibility to regulate how such activities are conducted, the district then veered off in a direction that was unjustified and inappropriate.
The response focused on whether the map in question promoted a discriminatory bias. This is surely a concern. Leaving Israel off the map of the Middle East suggests an anti-Israel bias on the part of the maps promoter at the International Heritage Day event. Indeed, the promoters animus toward Israel is clear; we understand that when confronted with the maps inaccuracy, she responded angrily that the Arab world does not recognize Israel. (This by the way is false; Egypt and Jordan recognize Israel.)
But bias is not the principal issue here. The fundamental issue is whether the school district is going to permit and promote deliberately false information at school-sponsored events, in derogation of its duty to ensure that materials that are presented to students are accurate and not misleading, and that such materials are based on facts and historical truths, not someones bigotry or political agenda. The individual who presented the map is plainly unhappy that the State of Israel exists. But it is indisputable that the State of Israel does exist and that it is a sovereign nation among all the nations of the world. It is outrageous that the school district would even consider tolerating a map at a school-sponsored event that deliberately falsifies the truth.
This information has also been communicated to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, State Senator Lois Wolk, State Assemblymember Mariko Yamada and other appropriate parties.
The writer is director of the Center for Law and Justice at the Zionist Organization of America.