Palestine in Our Schools

What are Children Learning (or Not Learning)? 

By Sawson Mudarib

May/Jun 2024
Screenshot from the ICS homepage, accessed April 2, 2024.

The horrific ongoing genocide in Gaza has awoken many Muslims to what the Palestinians have been enduring for the past 75 years.

Many of us have been asking why we didn’t know what was happening there until now, why we didn’t learn about Israel’s history in school or through the news networks and wonder if sending our children to Islamic schools will end this knowledge gap.

Atrocities have been happening in many Muslim-majority countries, so what makes Palestine unique? For one thing, its people’s continued oppression is only possible because of Washington’s unwavering generous financial and material support for Israel. Current realities have raised concerns about the role of our country’s K-12 education system in manufacturing consent for Israel. 

The Institute of Curriculum Services (ICS): An Expose

Jeanne Trabulsi, a retired educator who now leads the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights’ (VCHR) Education Committee, spoke on “ICS Textbook Manipulations: VCHR Pushback” on March 4, 2022 at the “Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home and Abroad” conference hosted in Washington D.C. According to, this annual conference is held before the AIPAC meeting, traditionally held in Washington, D.C. Her eye-opening short talk can be heard at

Trabulsi states that the ICS nonprofit, which operates under the auspices of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council, “provides K-12 educators with free professional development and standards-driven resources on Judaism and Jewish history” ( Its stated purpose is related to public affairs with a commitment to Israel.

In addition to the graphic’s statistics, ICS presents signature workshops about the “Arab-Israeli Conflict” and “Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred.” Their resources use primary sources that seem reliable. But upon deeper inspection, the content seeks to construct an uncritical pro-Israel narrative by sanitizing language about settlers, colonization and occupation, as well as omitting factually accurate language about the illegal expansion of Jewish-only settlements and occupation. The resulting message: Israelis have done nothing wrong and the Palestinians are a violent and unwilling party to peaceful coexistence.

Sanitizing the Script

ICS has also had an incredible impact on the content related to Judaism, Israel and Palestine in textbooks by major publishers nationwide due to its engagement with state and district textbook reviews. Trabulsi reveals that it once proposed hundreds of edits for twelve textbooks to publishers like Pearson and McGraw-Hill — among them removing language like “occupied territories” on the grounds that this language is “politicized and inappropriate for a public-school text” — and calling “settlements” “communities.” Additionally, maps were relabeled and references to Palestine were removed, although ICS permitted references to “Mandatory Palestine” and “Palestinians.”

The Reach

ICS boasts of impacting over 11 million students. After Israel’s aggression against Gaza intensified in October 2023, a Texas governor promoted ICS curriculum to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), potentially increasing their impact to many thousands of additional students. 

On Oct. 20, 2023, via a published a message to the TEA, Gov. Greg Abbot (R-Texas) stated, “The State of Texas stands strong with Israel and our Jewish neighbors during the heinous acts of war committed by the terrorist group Hamas, and we will not allow misinformation and prejudice to undermine the support the Jewish community needs during this time of conflict.” 

He shared resources with recipients that they can use in their schools (, which include ICS created material on the Israel-Palestine war (

Victory and an effort worth duplicating

After creating a document that provides pushback on ICS recommendations to the Virginia Department of Education, the VCHR sought the attention and support of prominent academicians, requesting that they explain why the recommendations were problematic. To their knowledge, none of them were accepted into the Virginia textbooks for the review cycle — a huge victory for VCHR and our children.

In the ensuing press release, Trabulsi stated they made a press release, gave talks and interviews on podcasts.  

VCHR continues to seek allies and hopes to provide related teacher training workshops soon. She encouraged people to get involved in the state and district textbook review cycles to achieve similar victories nationwide. 

What about Islamic Schools?

Shockingly, many Islamic school students are essentially learning the same things about Palestine as public school students because, among other reasons, both schools use the same textbooks and because not all of their teachers, regardless of their religion, are able to identify these books’ omissions and/or inaccuracies.

For Muslims, Palestine also holds religious importance as “The Holy Land” and “The Blessed Land.” In addition to Jerusalem being the first prayer direction (qibla), many prophets lived there and from there the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ascended to heaven. And, importantly, in the End Times, Jesus (alayhi salaam) will kill the Dajjal near Al-Quds. Thus, Palestine is a matter of faith and identity for Muslims. 

The injustices currently occurring in Gaza are an extension of the oppressive forces that have killed and harmed others in the past and even now. Muslims must stand up against injustice when they see it (4:135). But first they must recognize it. White supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism were all involved in Israel’s creation and its ever-expanding borders. 

Islamic school teachers must help students make the connections between the theft of Palestinian land to centuries of racism against African Americans to, for example, the decades-long crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Many Islamic school principals and teachers nationwide have been doing just that in order to insert reliable educational resources about Palestine into their K-12 scope and sequence. 

In addition, various organizations have sought to make factual, faith-based lessons about Palestine more accessible for Muslim students worldwide. Examples of these are Yaqeen Institute’s lesson plan ( as well as those created by volunteer curriculum developers and teachers at the Islamic Curriculum Initiative ( 

Other efforts are underway, such as the Consultants for Islamic School Excellence’s ( development of a high school curriculum under the guidance of prominent Muslim experts in curriculum, social studies education and the Middle East, as well as the Islamic Schools League of America’s research-informed initiative to curate the vetted Teaching Palestine Toolkit (

Teachers in Islamic and public schools will quickly recognize the crucial role that education plays in preserving and protecting Palestine and its inhabitants in young Muslims’ hearts and minds. Given the ongoing genocide, there’s no time to lose.

Sawson Mudarib is a freelance writer.

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