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Israeli Arabs reject government educational programme

February 20, 2014 at 3:32 pm

The Follow-up Committee on Arab Education in the 1948-Occupied Territories (Israel) has rejected the Israeli Ministry of Education’s plan for the school year 2011-2012; the plan emphasises the “Jewish and Zionist values” of the state. The Committee called on the ministry to approve the Identity Book issued on the 35th anniversary of Land Day; the book includes basic information on the Arab-Palestinians’ 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), the Kafr Kassam massacre and other key events in the recent history of Palestine. The book also provides definitions and text for Palestinian cultural features, as well as suggestions for 40 educational trips across the country.

The head of the Follow-up Committee, Dr. Hala Isbanyoli, sent a strongly-worded message to Israeli Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar, criticizing the ministry’s plan which, she said, ignores the increasing nationalist, racist and anti-democratic tendencies among Jewish students. Dr. Isbanyoli referred to several opinion polls regarding the spread of racism among Jewish youth, including one which revealed that 50% of young Jews reject studying alongside Arab students; 70% believe that Israel’s security should take priority when security conflicts with democratic values; and 50% reject living in the same neighbourhood as Arabs.

The policies of the Israeli government and the Education Ministry add insult to injury, said Dr. Isbanyoli, who highlighted the proposed plan and the changes made to the civics syllabus, school trips for Jewish pupils to the occupied city of Hebron, and the approval of the so-called Nakba Law intended to suppress the Palestinian narrative of 1948 and under which teachers are banned from mentioning the term “Nakba” in schools.

According to Dr. Isbanyoli, such policies reinforce the nationalist and anti-democracy tendencies among Jewish students, which destroy the basis of the democratic system. She demanded changes to the plan so that it has more of a focus on the values of democracy, pluralism and mutual respect between communities in Israel. She also called for the allocation of resources to fight the rising tide of racism in Israeli society.

The Follow-Up Committee called for the Identity Book to be used as a comprehensive syllabus for education in Arab schools, at least until the general secondary exams. “Our students have the right to learn about their national identity, historical narrative and cultural symbols,” insisted Dr. Isbanyoli.