Anti-Israel coursework controversy continues

Ramona Chrapot in the Mount Scopus Memorial College library. Photo: Peter Haskin

FALSE, denigrating claims about Israel in study materials for Victorian students came under the blowtorch this week as Caulfield MP David Southwick demanded the Andrews government move more quickly to safeguard students from false information in VCE coursework.

In an adjournment debate in State Parliament on Tuesday, the Liberal MP expressed frustration that he has had no response from Education Minister James Merlino for four weeks, after a statement claiming Israel persecuted Arabs and destroyed their homes simply because they were Muslim was discovered by Mount Scopus Memorial College student Ramona Chrapot, in a study kit.

As reported in The AJN, the coursework tasks produced by the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) included a sample response claiming, “An example of an individual being persecuted for their religion could be the Arab families living in Israel who practise the Islam religion rather than the Jewish religion. Including unlawful demolition of homes and forced displacement and detainment of these families.”

After contacting ACHPER and receiving a response stating it was issuing a recall and had not anticipated the materials “would offend any individual or group”, Mount Scopus principal Rabbi James Kennard wrote back to say the issue went beyond offence and was about disseminating falsehoods to young minds.

In an email to Rabbi Kennard last week, ACHPER CEO John Stokes stressed that ACHPER had publicly stated they do not support bias on socio-political issues, had immediately withdrawn the resource and had launched an internal review to ensure “issues of this nature do not occur again”.

However, Rabbi Kennard responded that he and his colleagues “remain disappointed and frankly baffled why, one month after the incident, ACHPER has not seen fit to issue a public apology and a statement that ACHPER does not believe Jews persecute non-Jews; nor has ACHPER confirmed that action has been taken against those who disseminated, or facilitated the dissemination, of antisemitic libels under ACHPER’s name”.

Southwick called on Merlino to withdraw financial support from ACHPER until it apologises in writing, advises what action will be taken against the disseminators of the material, and what measures it will take to prevent a recurrence.

PETER KOHN