Two separate public schools are facing criticism for allowing teachers to display maps in their classrooms that erase Israel, instead labeling the region as part of Palestine.
Reports emerged last week of one such map in Brooklyn, New York elementary school PS 261. Rita Lahoud, the Palestinian-American teacher whose classroom contained the map, teaches an Arabic language and culture program funded by the Qatar Foundation International (QFI).
QFI, a nonprofit that operates in schools across the United States and Europe, claims its mission is to make students “more informed, productive, and compassionate citizens of a globalized world.” The organization is owned and managed by the Qatari royal family.
Qatar has long played a complex role in Middle Eastern politics, including the Israel-Hamas conflict. The small nation has served as a refuge for Hamas operatives and has contributed over $1 billion to Gaza’s infrastructure, funneled through the Hamas regime.
New York City leadership has provided mixed information throughout its response to backlash surrounding the map. When asked by a Free Press reporter whether the map remains on display in the school following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, NYC Department of Education Press Secretary Nathaniel Styer responded, “Why would it not be? This is a map of countries that speak Arabic.”
However, Styer later backtracked from his original comments, asserting that the offending map actually had been removed.
“We are committed to fostering a welcoming environment here at NYC Public Schools that supports all cultures and communities,” Styer said.
Despite the city’s attempts to sweep the incident under the rug, local political leaders say they are trying to uncover the truth.
“I am deeply concerned about this issue and we are working to determine why this map is on display, if the map was approved by the [Department of Education], and whether the exclusion of Israel is a part of the class’s curriculum,” Rep. Dan Goldman, D-New York, told the New York Post regarding the school within his district.
“With the shocking rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the city and around the country, it is imperative that our public schools accurately and fully teach our students about the history and origins of the state of Israel,” Goldman added.
A similar map labeling Israel as Palestine was seen in Manara Academy, a public charter school in Irving, Texas. QFI shared photos of the map on display in the elementary school. The school does not publicly advertise any affiliation with or funding received from QFI.