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New law requires Arizona schools to teach about Holocaust to older students
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New law requires Arizona schools to teach about Holocaust to older students

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State Rep. Alma Hernandez, a Tucson native, sponsored bill that was signed into law requiring Arizona schools to teach older grades about the Holocaust.

PHOENIX — Arizona schools will be required beginning next year to teach students about the Holocaust at least twice between the 7th and 12th grades.

But they won’t be given a controversial list of statements and actions that some say is evidence of antisemitism.

On Friday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed the education legislation crafted by Rep. Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson. She told Capitol Media Services that a state mandate is both appropriate and necessary.

“It’s troubling that two-thirds of millennials don’t know the Holocaust happened,’’ she said. “We must teach the atrocities of the past to make sure that it never happens again.’’

The move, however, came over the objection of Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, who complained the bill does not include what he said is a necessary definition of antisemitism. And Boyer questioned the usefulness of teaching about the attempted extermination of Jews by the Nazis.

“Obviously, there is little value to Holocaust education if we don’t teach students to identify antisemitism when they see it today,’’ he said in a prepared statement. And he lashed out at Hernandez for refusing to include the definition he wanted in her bill — and for Democrats in refusing to go along.

The fight is over a definition that was adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It includes as antisemitic things like applying a double standard by requiring Israel to behave in a way not expected or demanded of other democratic nations, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, and claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Boyer contends that the Holocaust education bill, absent that definition, is both insufficient and actually could provide an avenue for teaching discrimination.

He also said there are antisemites in the Legislature. And while not calling out anyone individually, Boyer accused Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, whose father came to this country from Palestine, of “antisemitic blood libel’’ in a 2019 House floor speech where she said her father, as a child, was kidnapped by Israeli military on his way to school and “they’re doing it to children today.’’

Salman said Friday her comments came during a debate about whether Arizona should have a law denying government contracts to those who support the “boycott, divest, sanction’’ movement designed to pressure Israel to change its policies about occupied territories and the people that live there.

“I felt that, in the context, it was both important and relevant that I share what happened to my father,’’ she told Capitol Media Services. And she said the definition of antisemitism that Boyer was pushing was being turned “into a bludgeon to silence voices raising legitimate human rights concerns.’’

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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