Israeli Textbooks Anger Nationalists

By Prusher, Ilene R | The Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Israeli Textbooks Anger Nationalists

Prusher, Ilene R, The Christian Science Monitor

When Issa Jaber was teaching civics and history, he tried as much as possible to stick to the books. The texts, issued by the Israeli Ministry of Education, teach the history of the Jewish state's establishment in 1948 from a natural perspective - its Zionist founders.

Except that for an Arab teacher to stand in front of a classroom and speak about Israel's War of Independence and not mention that Palestinians call the same event the Nakba (Catastrophe) isn't so natural. Recognizing that, this week Israel's Minister of Education approved an Arabic textbook mentioning the Nakba, a move that is garnering applause in some corners and outrage in others.

"All the time as teachers we were facing a dilemma: to teach the curriculum as it is, or to teach what we feel inside," says Mr. Jaber, who now runs the education system of Abu Ghosh, an Israeli- Arab town close to Jerusalem with about 1,000 secondary school students per year.

The controversy seems to focus on a few little lines that were written for little people. The textbook in question is written for third graders and was originally written in Hebrew and translated into Arabic.

But the book's importance extends beyond the classroom. To traditional Zionists, teaching children to view 1948 as the Nakba legitimizes the decision of Arab countries to refuse acceptance of Israel's creation as a state. And to many of Israel's 1.2 million Arab citizens, ignoring this term is like denying a piece of their history.

"Now we can express what we know and what we feel. And should do it responsibly, on the level of education and not on the level of politics," Jaber says.

Like so much else in this part of the world, it is a task easier said than done. Many right-wing Israeli politicians, from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to members of the ruling Kadima party, have attacked Education Minister Yuli Tamir's decision to allow references to the Nakba in Israel's textbooks. Several members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, are demanding that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismiss Ms. Tamir, whose reputation as a left- leaning peacenik and civil rights activist has often put her on a collision course with hardline nationalists.

Recently, for example, Tamir tried to mandate the use of maps in Israeli schools showing the Green Line, Israel's pre-1967 boundary with Jordan.

An agenda that might seem logical abroad - making sure Israeli schoolchildren know where the border was 40 years ago and what areas are considered occupied by international law - is deemed unacceptable by some right-wing groups here.

"Using the word Nakba is a political interpretation of reality, and it's an outlook that's been used to delegitimize Israel's right to exist. We need to fight this concept, not accept it," says Zevulun Orlev, a member of Knesset from the National Religious Party. Mr. Orlev said the measure was anti-Jewish and called for the education minister's dismissal.

Different groups, different histories

The word Nakba touches on issues that complicate the lives of educators and would-be peacemakers alike, in particular the status of Palestinian refugees. Palestinians say their ancestors were pushed out by force, while most Israelis say that the majority of Palestinians who left did so under encouragement from Arab leaders who told them to get out of harm's way and allow their armies to drive out the Zionists.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Israeli Textbooks Anger Nationalists


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?