NYC DOE spokesman blasted for defending class map erasing Israel

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By Dan Sears

The Department of Education spokesman’s snarky defense of a school map of the Middle East that omitted Israel was “patently antisemitic, nauseating and revolting,” says a former top official at the agency.

Donalda Chumney, the former superintendent of Manhattan’s School District 2, is demanding to know what Chancellor David Banks and other DOE officials will do about spokesman Nathaniel Styer.

“What steps [have been] taken to support him in learning about history, global affairs, antisemitism, or basic respect?” Chumney, now a parent on Community Education Council 15 in Brooklyn, asked in an email fired off this week.

“Or, I could have it wrong altogether. Is it the position of Chancellor Banks and Mayor Adams that Israel does not exist or does not have the right to exist?”

An alliance of Jewish educators has begged Banks to address an “anti-Jewish culture” in city schools amid the Israel-Hamas war and a wave of pro-Palestinian protests.

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Spokesman Nathaniel Styer was forced to backtrack on his remarks after criticism flared over the controversial map. LinkedIn Nathaniel Styer
Chumney fumed at Styer’s response, asking “Is it the position of Chancellor Banks and Mayor Adams that Israel does not exist or does not have the right to exist?”

Among outbursts, students at Hillcrest HS in Queens rioted against a teacher who attended a pro-Israel rally. 

The  “Arab World” map – which labels Israel as Palestine – was displayed in a classroom at PS 261 Zipporiah Mills in downtown Brooklyn, where Rita Lahoud teaches an Arab Culture Arts program funded by the American wing of the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit owned by that country’s wealthy ruling family.

Chumney told The Post she got angry at Styer’s response to a reporter who asked if the map was still tacked on the classroom wall.

“Why would it not be?” Styer snapped. “This is a map of countries that speak Arabic.”

Arabic is the second most common language in Israel after Hebrew, spoken by at least 20% of the population, including Arab citizens and Jews from Arab countries.

“His reply was ignorant, inflammatory, and reinforced antisemitic narratives,” Chumney said.

But after Styer’s comment ran in the Free Press, he backtracked.

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“As soon as we were made aware of concerns regarding the map it was removed,” he said in a statement. “We are committed to fostering a welcoming environment here at NYC Public Schools that supports all cultures and communities.”

Styer, Banks, and First Deputy Chancellor Daniel Weisberg had no comment on Chumney’s email.

When first asked if the map omitting Israel was still on a classroom wall, Styer snapped, “Why would it not be?”

Meanwhile, in the wake of fury over the map, PS 261 abruptly canceled its annual “March on Borough Hall,” in which the students parade through the neighborhood to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington, carrying signs on issues like racism, gun violence, LGBTQ+ rights, and climate change

Last year, kids chanted “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Among the various signs, at least one read, “Free Palestine.”

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