Fmr. Chief, Israel Education Ministry,
calls for firing of Tamir
New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed opposition to the new decision by the Israeli Education Ministry to commence teaching next year a course to Israeli Arab third-graders in which the founding of the State of Israel is presented as a tragedy and a catastrophe ( Naqba in Arabic) in accordance with the widespread Arab view of the event. The Education Ministry, headed by Yuli Tamir (Labor), has approved adding the Arab propagandist version to the curriculum in Israeli Arab schools in response to calls by Arab members of the Knesset who requested the ‘Naqba’ version be taught in the schools attended by Israeli Arabs. Tamir, who is a founder of extreme left-wing group, Peace Now, and who has campaigned against subsidies for Jewish religious education while backing Arab nationalist programs, explained her decision by stating that “The Arab narrative deserves to be told in Israel.” Arab MKs congratulated her for her decision, though immediately raised new demands. Arab MK Jamal Zehalka called for “Arab cultural autonomy” under which Arabs would solely determine the historical and cultural content of curricula for Israeli-Arab schools.
The new directive approves a Grade 3 textbook “Living Together in Israel,” which was written by Arabs who left their homes during the 1948 War of Independence and claim that Israel took their land. The textbook notes the Arab rejection of the UN partition plan of 1947, whereby both Jews and Arabs would have received their own sovereign states in the territory of the British Mandate, but nonetheless presents Israel’s establishment as a disaster for Palestinian Arabs (Haaretz, July 22; Israel National News, July 22)
Reactions to the new curriculum decision:
- MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP), a former Director-General of the Education Ministry, called upon Prime Minister Olmert to fire Tamir for making an “anti-Zionist decision that erases Jewish history and denies the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Education Minister gives Arabs the legitimacy not to recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people. This decision marks the ‘Naqba’ of Israel’s education network.”
- Former Education Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) declared that teaching Arab children the “Nakba” version of Israel’s creation will encourage them to later work against the nation.
- Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed Tamir as “expressing not only post-Zionism but also political masochism… The Israel left always complicates itself trying to justify the other side without understanding that there is nothing to justify.”
- MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) said Porush said that Tamir’s decision was shameful and should be retracted and that Prime Minister Olmert, as part of his gestures to PA chairman Abu Mazen, might as well propose that PA officials run Israel’s Education Ministry.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA believes that this a highly significant event, not merely another one of many bad decisions made by the Israeli government. Tamir justifies her decision by saying that ’ The Arab narrative deserves to be told in Israel,’ but this ignores the key question — is that narrative truthful? Schools are for teaching truth, not what some people choose to regard as the truth. Schoolchildren must never be targets for indoctrination of national myths and propaganda versions that the historical record does not bear out. This decision to teach the ‘Palestinian narrative’ as though it were fact will serve to legitimize the rejection of Israel by Israeli Arabs by teaching their children that Palestinian suffering — the ‘Naqba’ — was produced by Israel.
“The idea that Israel’s establishment produced Palestinian suffering is nonsense. There would have been no ‘disaster’ if Arabs had not violently rejected the idea that the Jewish people are also entitled to a state, no matter how small; if Arabs had not rejected the UN partition plan; if Arab armies from five countries had not invaded Israel on its first day of independence; if Palestinian Arabs had not chosen to follow their leaders out of the country to make way for the invading Arab forces in the belief that Israel would be crushed and that they would return safely. If they had no not done these things, then all their losses and suffering would never have occurred. This is a self-inflicted wound, not an injury for which Israel, in fighting for its survival, is responsible. It needs to be said, again and again, that Israel did not have the choice to fight or not fight — only the Arabs exercised that choice and if they had chosen to accept a peaceful outcome instead of resorting to war, all the war consequences that actually followed need never have occurred.”
“If Israel’s founding was truly a disaster for Arabs, if Israel was such a horrible place for Israeli Arabs to live, why did so many stay in Israel and why have so many Arabs settled in Israel over the years? Why is it that when there is talk of the Palestinian Authority taking control over eastern Jerusalem, more Jerusalemite Arabs seek Israeli citizenship? It is also a fact that Israeli Arabs enjoy freedom of speech and press in Israel that their brethren in Arab countries can only dream of.
The Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy, Dr. Daniel Mandel, a historian and author of a book on the UN decision to partition Palestine, said, “The history of the Arab-Israeli wars has been lately the victim of relativist ideas, of which the most durable has been that there exists competing, equally valid narratives that in the interest of truth and justice need to be known. In fact, that has been the way propagandist claims dear to one or another party come to be treated as fact and as such is a disservice to the teaching of history. Popular feelings do not determine what happened. The facts do.
“Arab MK Ahmed Tibi has claimed that, ‘The majority must not be allowed to exist inside its own narrative bubble and deny the existence of other views.’ Yet as soon as this decision was made, his colleague, Jamal Zehalka, could be found calling for Israeli Arabs to be able to solely determine the historical and cultural content of curricula for Israeli-Arab schools and thus create a falsified narrative bubble of their own. One suspects that is the whole purpose of the exercise, but the result would be propaganda, not education. Educational authorities should be concerned that students learn as best and as accurately as possible within the inevitable limitations of a school course the story and essence of a historical subject. This purpose will not be served if propagandist themes are recycled as fact.”