Politics and Education in Israel

By Shlomo Swirski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

Three Communities on the Periphery of European Capitalism

Mainstream narratives of the Israeli school system tend to follow the line of development of the Zionist settlement in Palestine, which began in the 1880s with the arrival of the first “pioneer” settlers from Eastern Europe, through the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and to the great expansion of the school system that followed the arrival in the new state of a large number of Jewish immigrants and the incorporation of the Palestinians who came under the state’s jurisdiction in 1948 (see, for instance, Kleinberger, 1969). Historians of education follow, in this sense, mainstream social histories (see, for instance, Eisenstadt, 1967).

Such renditions rely, of course, on the solid logic of the historical balance of power. There is a discernible line leading back from the current configuration of the Israeli educational system to the thoughts and actions of the early Zionist settlers. The national project within whose contours those settlers operated did in fact evolve and come to fruition in 1948, with the establishment of the sovereign state of Israel. And the Israeli school system does evince the hegemony of the Zionist project—that is, the institutional structure, the ideational content, and the language of instruction developed by the settlers and by those who followed in their steps.

Still, the Zionist narrative severely limits our understanding of the contemporary structure of Israeli schools—especially the high degree of segregation that exists between Jews and Arabs, and, among Jews, between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews, as well as the degree of inequality between and among those groups. The hegemonic narrative tends to apply to the Mizrahim the paradigm of “nation of immigrants,” which contains within itself the notion that the newcomers need to go through a

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