Unmasking Anti-Semitism in Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies activists promoting a version of Marxism and hyper-divisive racial categorizing are seeking to overturn American society. They are teaching America’s young to scorn its central idea of common humanity and its Western civilization achievements. A unifying theme in the agendas of these activists is their shared hostility towards the Jewish people, evinced by their vilification of the world’s sole Jewish state, Israel.

These activists apply their oppressor-oppressed paradigm to American society and project it onto the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Coalescing nationally under the banner of the Coalition for Liberated Ethnic Studies (CLES), they single out Israel as the ultimate example of racist settler-colonialism, and in doing so, uncritically endorse false Palestinian narratives.

The recent massacre of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists on October 7, 2023, has exposed the indefensible belief system these activists try to conceal through their appropriation of social justice jargon. Unabashedly proclaiming their support for Hamas—the genocidal terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip—they promote the chants of “From The River To The Sea Palestine Will Be Free,” a call for the eradication of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. CLES activists present false narratives justifying the heinous crimes against innocent Israeli civilians, including raping of women and barbarous acts against children and the elderly, while ignoring the 240 abducted hostages. They promote high school walkouts using students as foot soldiers for their anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ideology.

CAMERA Education Institute has published a report that uncovers the transformation of ethnic studies into a vehicle for promoting anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic indoctrination. It outlines the extreme agenda of its advocates and discloses key figures within the CLES national movement. Recent events have underscored the urgency in exposing this defamation of Israel and the Jewish people, and documenting how the maligned ideology permeates some parts of our educational system and even threatens to destabilize American society.

This shift of Ethnic Studies toward a radical liberated ideology is a departure from its stated intent, which was to provide more space for the experiences of historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups in school curricula. Its lack of academic rigor has left it susceptible to manipulation and diversion for political and dogmatic purposes.

In California, the legislature endorsed Ethnic Studies for K-12 public schools in 2019. However, the content and direction of the proposed model curriculum was immediately coopted by the Liberated Ethnic Studies movement that dominated the field at the universities. Rather than highlight the contributions and struggles of various ethnic and racial groups, the focus shifted towards political activism with an anti-Western, anti-Capitalist message.

A very important question to be asked is why a conflict in the Middle East would be such a central part of an American ethnic studies curriculum for these activists? The answer is that anti-Israel activists embedded themselves early on within this liberated movement. Taking on leadership roles, they injected the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the curriculum and promoted its importance to ethnic studies.

The activists present an inversion of the conflict concealing the historical context of 22 vast Arab states seeking to extirpate the tiny Jewish state and the expulsion of 750,000 Middle Eastern Jews from Arab and Muslim countries in the middle of the 20th century. Missing from any of their lessons are discussions of Palestinian terrorism, the threats that Israeli civilians face every day—a reality that hit home on October 7 with the Hamas massacre. Their account also fails to disclose the multiple times Palestinians rejected opportunities for statehood side-by-side in peace with Israel.

While this radical ideology has been increasingly exposed, its activist proponents continue to hold positions of influence in state education agencies approving and funding K-12 state learning standards and Ethnic Studies initiatives. They belong to teachers’ unions, social justice education organizations, and consulting groups gaining lucrative contracts with public schools around the country. With such a presence in education, these aggressive and committed activists continue to spread their anti-American and anti-Semitic creed.

Most parents and community members are likely unaware of the distortions, omissions, and false narratives the Liberated Ethnic Studies movement promotes, underscoring the urgency of exposing its threat to the wellbeing of students and society at large. The gravity of the issue needs to be brought to the attention of K-12 school leaders, state educational officials, and elected representatives.

The activists’ shocking responses to the October 7 Hamas massacre tore off their social justice education mask. Their vilifying of Israel and promotion of hatred towards Jews demonstrate their unfitness to serve as providers of education curricula. Americans must demand full transparency and rigorous oversight of curricular content, along with rigorous state standards and teacher trainings.

No less than America’s future is at stake.

Photo by studio v-zwoelf — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 486687334


  • Jany Finkielsztein

    Jany Finkielsztein is an experienced public-school educator. She currently works as an education analyst at the CAMERA Education Institute.

2 thoughts on “Unmasking Anti-Semitism in Ethnic Studies

  1. The liberals in higher ed are now seeing the fruit of their cowardice. In far too many cases they have ceded control of curricula to the marxists, whose support for Hamas terror against Jews will, I hope, finally wake the unwoke to what their tax dollars are supporting. De-fund the marxists!

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