Last week, educational publisher Newsela provided an up-to-date 9/11 fact sheet for fifth and sixth grade teachers across the country, but the tone and tenor of the article immediately sparked controversy among educators and parents. So much so that the publisher has been forced to issue an apology for the content, which struck many readers as anti-Semitic in its narrative.
The publisher adapted a History.com article to create the fact sheet, which dove into the world-altering September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That part of the sheet was relatively uncontroversial. It was in the publisher’s quest to define the reasons for the attack that Newsela courted trouble.
In one part of the article, the publication said that the terrorists had ample reason to launch the attack. “They were angry that the U.S. gave money to the country of Israel, an area with a long and shady history in the Middle East.”
It should come as no surprise to see that some people took exception to Newsela’s description of Israel’s history as “shady.”
In another part, the publication said that Bin Laden “thought the United States was too involved in the Middle East. The United States also gave money to Israel. It is a Jewish country in the Middle East. Many Muslims live there. Before Israel was Jewish, the land belonged to Muslims. Bin Laden believed that Jews should leave the land.”
History tells us that Israel’s land most certainly did not “belong to Muslims” prior to the creation of the modern-day state. It was under British rule. Before that, it was part of the Ottoman Empire.
While the Newsela publication was supposedly based on a History.com piece, the original website did not make any allusions to Muslim occupation of Israeli land and it certainly did not point out Israel’s “shady” history.
In an apologetic statement, Newsela said it had used “insensitive and problematic language” in the original piece and the offensive material had been edited to reflect a less judgmental tone.
“We are dedicated to keeping bias and misinformation out of our content,” read the statement. “As a result of this incident we are implementing new review procedures to ensure we have more checks in place for bias for controversial topics. We apologize for this oversight and as a company our intention is to remain as objective as possible.”