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Lawsuit alleges that California school district illegally approved ‘antisemitic’ ethnic studies curriculum

(JTA) – Several Jewish groups are suing a large school district in Orange County over an ethnic studies curriculum they allege is antisemitic and was approved covertly in violation of California law requiring public participation in decision making.

The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Anti-Defamation League, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the American Jewish Committee and Potomac Law Group, with support from StandWithUs, seeks to bar the Santa Ana Unified School District from implementing the recently approved curriculum.

The lawsuit is an early entrant into what could become a crowded field now that California has delegated decision making over mandated high school ethnic studies to hundreds of school districts. That decision followed a bruising fight over the handling of Jewish issues in a statewide curriculum.

At issue is material that the groups say promotes a biased narrative of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and portrays Israel as illegitimate by applying labels such as “settler colonial” and “racist” to it. The lawsuit alleges that the school board robbed the public of opportunities to object when it held discussions about the curriculum in private, in apparent violation of a legal requirement for open meetings, and failed to give enough notice before public deliberation. When it did allow public comment, the lawsuit says, the board allegedly failed to protect Jews who spoke against the curriculum from harassment and intimidation.

“It’s clear that the Santa Ana Unified School District violated the law in their rush to approve antisemitic content within their ethnic studies curriculum,” said James Pasch, a senior director of national litigation for the ADL. “Closed-door discussions prevented input from marginalized communities — in direct contrast to the goal of the ethnic studies program, which is to support marginalized communities.”

The district, which educates about 45,000 students, doesn’t comment on pending litigation but a spokesperson provided a previously released statement about the curriculum controversy. The district says it has developed its curriculum with input from the Jewish, Palestinian and Muslim communities and that the approved material falls within academic norms and adheres to state guidelines.

“The goal is to provide balanced, multiple perspectives from all groups involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the district’s statement says.

Not all Jews in Santa Ana agree with the position of the lawsuit that the curriculum is antisemitic.

Shira Klein, a local Jewish parent who chairs the history department at nearby Chapman University and researches antisemitism, said she read the curriculum approved by the school district from cover to cover and found little that was objectionable.

Klein, who recently helped organize an open letter calling on protesters against Israel’s government to focus more on Palestinians, said she thought the criticism of Israel appearing in the material is appropriate and should not be conflated with antisemitism.

“I see nothing in this unit that is antisemitic and nothing that strays from mainstream academic findings,” Klein said. “I can well imagine a Jewish student in Santa Ana feeling uncomfortable in class, and it pains me, but to change that, we need to change the reality in Israel, not the curriculum.”

Meanwhile, Robin Gurien, another local Jewish parent, who teaches communications at Cal State Fullerton in Orange County, said she supports the lawsuit calling content in the curriculum “antisemitic” and “inaccurate.”

“Until now, the district has been unwilling to address these concerns, and this lawsuit is an important and necessary step to make sure that this dangerously biased content is removed from Santa Ana classrooms,” said Gurien, who spoke against the curriculum in public meetings before its adoption.

The dispute in Santa Ana represents the next phase in a fight over mandated ethnic studies in high schools that started at the state level and went on for years before lawmakers gave hundreds of local school boards power to decide how to handle curriculum decisions regarding the mandate.

Jewish groups successfully lobbied state lawmakers to get content they said was aligned with the Israel boycott movement out of a proposed state curriculum and lessons about antisemitism added in.

But rather than make the curriculum mandatory for all school districts as originally planned, state lawmakers were persuaded to further change their legislation and recommend the curriculum developed by the state while allowing local boards freedom to create their own ethnic studies materials instead.

That outcome ended the state-level fight but opened up battles in Santa Ana and other places where school boards went on to pick curriculums that Jewish groups thought they had successfully mobilized to strike down.

The post Lawsuit alleges that California school district illegally approved ‘antisemitic’ ethnic studies curriculum appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin said he would end the war in Ukraine only if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow. Kyiv swiftly rejected the demands as tantamount to surrender.

Putin demands that Ukraine transfers to Russia four regions, including a 300,000 city of Kherson and 700,000 Zaporizhzhya as a “precondition” to “peace talks”. This man is delusional, and those in the West who speak of “negotiations” or “cease fire” are enemies of the free world.

— Sergej Sumlenny, LL.M (@sumlenny) June 14, 2024

“The conditions are very simple,” Putin said, listing them as the full withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the entire territory of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Putin’s maximalist conditions apparently reflect Moscow’s growing confidence that its forces have the upper hand in the war.

He restated his demand for Ukraine’s demilitarization and said an end to Western sanctions must also be part of a peace deal. He also repeated his call for Ukraine’s “denazification.”

“He is offering for Ukraine to admit defeat. He is offering for Ukraine to legally give up its territories to Russia. He is offering for Ukraine to sign away its geopolitical sovereignty,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, rejecting the demands as “absurd.”

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Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah

Illustrative. Some rises after an Israeli strike as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

i24 NewsEarly this morning, tragedy struck in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a devastating explosion, marking the deadliest incident for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the region since January.

The IDF has confirmed the casualties, with one soldier identified as Captain Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander from Beit Jann in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion.

The names of the other seven soldiers will be released after their families have been notified.

According to initial reports from the IDF, the soldiers were traveling in a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) as part of a convoy around 5 a.m., following a successful overnight operation targeting Hamas militants in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. During the operation, troops under the 401st Armored Brigade reportedly neutralized approximately 50 gunmen.

The convoy was en route to buildings captured by the army for the soldiers to rest, when the Namer CEV, which was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, was struck by a powerful explosion. The nature of the explosion remains under investigation, with possibilities ranging from a pre-planted bomb to an improvised device placed on the vehicle by Hamas operatives.

Initial findings suggest that explosives stored on the exterior of the Namer CEV may have contributed to the severity of the blast. Normally, such explosives are designed to minimize harm to troops inside if detonated.

The IDF probe indicates there was no gunfire preceding the explosion, and the vehicle was not stationary at the time of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy have prompted intensified scrutiny into the safety protocols and operational procedures during military movements in hostile territories.

The deaths of these eight soldiers bring the total number of IDF casualties in recent ground operations against Hamas to 307. This figure includes a police officer killed during a recent hostage rescue operation and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor also slain in the conflict.

This is a developing story 

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U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Avi Ohayon

i24 NewsRecent actions by both Israel and Hezbollah have sparked growing concerns among U.S. officials, who fear that the situation could escalate into a full-scale war, according to reports from CBS News.

The tension has intensified following a series of Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese territory, which some American authorities believe are laying the groundwork for a larger military operation.

Sources within the US government have expressed worries that such a move could trigger a conflict that might strain Israel’s alliance with Washington.

Hezbollah, in response to recent events including the assassination of senior commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, has escalated its own actions. The group has begun launching daily rocket attacks targeting northern Israeli communities since October 8, citing solidarity with Hamas amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

US officials cited by CBS News have highlighted concerns over the potential unintended consequences of Hezbollah’s increased attacks. They fear that these actions could provoke Israel into launching a significant military assault, further exacerbating the volatile situation in the region.

The developments come amid ongoing international efforts to de-escalate tensions and prevent a wider conflict. Diplomatic channels remain active, with calls for restraint and dialogue from various quarters.

The United States, a key ally of Israel, has historically played a crucial role in mediating and influencing regional conflicts. Officials are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of avoiding actions that could escalate tensions further.

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