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A critical look at Zionist education and racism

Zionist narrative expects Israeli children to be imbued with a false sense of nationalism which is instrumental to the preservation of its illegally-acquired land. This abstract narrative, incorporating the unification of Jewish identity contrasted with the orientalist image of Palestinians, forms the basis of a culture based upon indoctrination and violence. The misrepresentation stems from the exclusion of the discourse of peace discourse to divert attention from any possible discussion of Israel's colonial occupation.

Racist discourse is an essential component of Zionist education, creating a dissonance in the social, biological, cultural and demographic representation of Palestinians. The concept of exclusion is ingrained within Israeli collective memory at an early age in order to ascertain a smooth transition into a military philosophy which deems Palestinians as "issues" rather than a population massacred by apartheid laws.

Visually, the enforced elimination of Palestinians from their own history has resulted in a cultural and social vacuum, degenerating into the stereotype of violent, submissive and primitive Arabs. This projection has been expounded upon by the West, whose caricatures, especially within the corporate media, have become a kind of warped justification for ignoring the fundamental problem Palestinians have faced for many decades. Palestinian violence is thus isolated from the narrative of occupation and necessity of resistance. Israeli war crimes, meanwhile, are justified within Zionist discourse as a means of "security" which its citizens and Western governments and international organisations, including the UN, hail as legitimate intervention against a people deemed invisible by Zionism prior to the onset of Israel's neo-colonialism.

Nurit Peled Elhanan, Professor of Language and Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem insists that "the orientalising imagery of the Arab citizen of Israel" fails to correspond to any immediate reality, "except in the imagination of the 19th century painter". Israeli children fail to associate "the Arab" with Arab citizens of Israel, let alone a collective identity of Palestinians under occupation. In their formative years, children are bequeathed with an imaginary Jewish homeland in order to uphold the Palestinians' dispossession. The notion of a suffering people is gleaned through Biblical references allowing for an interpretation of nationhood beyond the existence of the Palestinian state. The impediment to full recognition of Palestinians is restricted further by the imagery of Jews enduring trials and tribulations across many centuries, the recent history of the Holocaust and the "Jewish state" defending itself against Palestinian "terrorism". Palestinians become ephemeral in Zionist narrative; they are either obliterated to suit Israel's public sphere, or else are a tangible threat to security. The concept of Palestinians dispersed by the occupation and rendered as refugees in their own land are "issues" serving the permanent division of society. Furthermore, it reinforces a false projection of misery pertaining to Jewish identity with regard to its hold upon the fictitious homeland.

Elhanan declares the visual dramatisation of history without a concrete foundation as vital to sustaining the Zionist ideological stereotype. Since the education system is based upon the imparting of superiority, racism "functions as part of the ideological and the repressive apparatus of the state". Failure to recognise that racism is actually far more deeply embedded than its manifestation in human rights violations suggests can only strengthen the racist indoctrination of the younger generations of Israelis.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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