Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Jay Bennish: Anti-Bush...and Anti-Israel

Many have come out both supportive and critical of Jay Bennish and the lesson (considering everything he said, it was much more than just comments) to his geography class.

There is a transcript of the tape made of Bennish's comments written by Michelle Malkin and she has a link to comments from a former student on a talk show.
You can hear the audio of the class here.

Bennish does more than make comments critical of Bush and the US, he also makes comments about Israel:
So, why does Mr. Bush think that other countries that are democracies won't wanna be like us? Why does he think they'll just wanna be at peace with each other?! What makes him think that when the Palestinians get their own state that they won't wanna preemptively invade Israel to eliminate a potential threat to their security just like we supposedly did in Iraq?! Do you see the dangerous precedent that we have set by illegally invading another country and violating their sovereignty in the name of protecting us against a potential future--sorry--attack? [Unintelligible.]
An odd comparison--considering the Palestinian Arab attacks, bombings, and murders contrasted with Israel's apparently neverending concessions, the Disengagment, and release of murderers--with a country like Iraq that in the past has been aggressive towards fellow Moslem countries, attacking Kuwait and being in a long war with Iran.

Of course Iraq and the Palestinians do have one clear thing in common--the murder of their own people.
...We told--Condoleezza Rice said--that now that Hamas got elected to lead the Palestianians that they have to renounce their desire to eliminate Israel. And then Condoleezza Rice also went on to say that you can't be for peace and support armed struggle at the same time. You can't do that. Either you're for peace or war. But you can't be for both.

What is the problem with her saying this? That's the same thing we say. That is exactly the same thing this current administration says. We're gonna make the world safe by invading and killing and making war. So, if we can be for peace and for war, well, why can't the Palestinians be for peace and for war?!
"We're gonna make the world safe by invading and killing and making war"--I don't recall hearing this as the official US motto. It's not clear whether Bennish is referring to Afghanistan where Bin Laden was hiding or Iraq, which both the New York Post and Investors Business Daily report had, under Saddam Hussein, lied about their WMD program?

His student has a question too...
*Student Sean Allen, who is taping Bennish's rant, speaks up:*

Allen: Isn't there a difference of, of, having Hamas being like, we wanna attack Israelis because they're Israelis, and having us say we want to attack people who are known terrorists? Isn't there a difference between saying we're going to attack innocents and we're going to attack people who are not innocent?


Bennish: I think that's a good point. But you have to remember who's doing the defining of a terrorist. And what is a terrorist?

Allen: Well, when people attack us on our own soil and are actually attempting to take American lives and want to take American lives, whereas, Israelies in this situation, aren't saying we want to blow up Palestine...

Bennish: How did Israel and the modern Israeli state even come into existence in the first place?

Allen: We gave it to them.
Neither the student, nor apparently Mr. Bennish, is aware of the continued Jewish presence in cities such as Safed and Jerusalem and the Jewish immigration into Palestine that started in the latter part of the 19th century.

Bennish: Sort of. Why? After the Israel-Zionist movement conducted what? Terrorist acts. They assassinated the British prime minster in Palestine. They blew up buildings. They stole military equipment. Assassinated hundreds of people. Car bombings, you name it. That's how the modern state of Israel was made. Was through violence and terrorism. Eventually we did allow them to have the land. Why? Not because we really care, but because we wanted a strategic ally. We saw a way to us to get a hook into the Middle East.

If we create a modern nation of Israel, then, and we make them dependent on us for military aid and financial aid, then we can control a part of the Middle East. We will have a country in the Middle East that will be indebted to us.
Dignan's 75 Year Plan blog notes, among numerous other errors and mis-statements of fact by Bennish:
Statement: They [Israel] assassinated the British prime minister in Palestine.

Fact: I assume he's talking about Lord Moyne, Minister Resident for the Middle East, who was assassinated in Cairo, Egypt in 1944.

Statement: Israeli terrorists used "Car bombings, you name it".

Fact: One truck bomb, actually (1/4/1948).
I would also be curious about where Bennish gets his "assassinations of hundreds of people" and who they were.

Of course there is the issue of distinguishing between the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi. It was Ben Gurion who said at the outset of WWII, "We shall fight the war against Hitler as if there were no White Paper, and we shall fight the White Paper as if there were no war" and the Irgun that agreed to help the British by sending a group to Iraq to blow up their refineries in 1941. While the issue is not black and white, it was only Lehi that could be described as a "self described terrorist group." The murder of Lord Moyne resulted in The Hunting Season, where close to a thousand people were turned over to the British--which stands in sharp contrast to the failure of the PLA to keep its obligation to disarm Palestinian terrorists as required by the Road Map. By lumping the 3 groups together, Bennish glosses over an important issue and misleads his students.

Allen: But is it ok to say it's just to attack Israel? If it's ok to attack known terrorists, it's ok to attack Israel?

Bennish: If you were Palestinians, who are the real terrorists? The Israelis, who fire missiles that they purchased from the United States government into Palestinian neighborhoods and refugees and maybe kill a terrorist, but also kill innocent women and children. And when you shoot a missile into Pakistan to quote-unquote kill a known terrorist, and we just killed 75 people that have nothing to do with al Qaeda, as far as they're concerned, we're the terrorists. We've attacked them on their soil with the intention of killing their innocent people.
Besides the issue of Palestinian terrorists purposely hiding among civilians and the extent to which Israel has tried to minimize casualties in these cases, is the simple fact that Palestinian terrorists are purposely trying to kill civilians while Israel is not.

Bennish certainly did not make racist claims about Israel, and he saved comparisons with Hitler for his comments about Bush. To fully appreciate what Bennish's class was like, you should listen to the audio and form your own opinion.

I had a teacher in High School who also taught about US history and policy and discussed American Imperialism. However he used textbooks and homework to make his points--he did not use the classroom as a soapbox for comments that reveal an ignorance of the topics he is supposedly teaching to his class.

In that class, there was never an interchange like this from Bennish's class:
Bennish: Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?!
Student: We are.
Bennish: The United States of America! And we're a democracy. Quote-unquote.
The syllabus for his Accelerated World Geography course does not indicate which textbook he used or what readings would be assigned. The father of the student who taped the class said on a talk show that other students from past years will also come forward to describe what Mr. Bennish's class was like.

Some of Bennish's defenders claim that this is a free speech issue. There are, however, some questions to consider:

1. Was this a lesson or a rant.
2. Was the information he gave to the class actually factually correct
3. Was there an opportunity for rebuttal from the students
4. Was the teacher egged on by the student who taped him (The Lauer defense)

1. If this was all just a rant, then perhaps the worst that can be said is that Bennish lost control and a slap on the wrist may be sufficient.

2. If what he said was factually incorrect--and Dignan's blog goes to great length to point out and substantiate numerous factual errors made by Bennish--then the consequences that Bennish faces should be far more severe. This is more than just free speech--Bennish is a teacher who, unlike a letter to the editor, is expected to maintain a certain level of accuracy.

3. The opportunity for student rebuttal is a point that really does not carry much weight, seeing that we are dealing here with high school students, who generally are very likely to accept whatever a teacher says, as truth--and the more radical the better. It's not clear that Bennish has any better grasp of the facts than his students.

4. Considering that the student does not speak up on the tape until a little less than half way into Bennish's taped remarks, after Bennish's Bush/Hitler comparison, it makes no sense to say he was egged on (assuming the student's question can even be interpreted that way), unless there is some comment the student made previous to the taping. Of course, it also odd for a teacher to say provocative things to his students and then whine when they follow his example.

Why is it that people who try to be provocative get so upset when they are successful?

Crossposted at Israpundit

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