Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:17 pm (KSA) 16:17 pm (GMT)

Israeli Arab schoolbooks teach “Nakba”

Books say Palestinian land was taken and people expelled (File)
Books say Palestinian land was taken and people expelled (File)

History textbooks for Israeli Arab students this year will for the first time present the Palestinian version of Israel's creation as a "catastrophe", drawing fire from right wing politicians and ministers.

"For these types of events, both the Israeli and Palestinian versions have to be presented," Education Minister Yuli Tamir said in a statement.

Alongside presenting the Israeli interpretation of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the books will also present the version "that is generally accepted among the Arabs, according to which Israel's War of Independence is perceived as a catastrophe (Nakba) by the Palestinians," Tamir said.

The books will also for the first time say that "some of the Palestinians were expelled following the War of Independence and that many Arab-owned lands were confiscated," the education minister’s statement said.

The books also say Palestinian leaders refused the 1947 United Nations partition plan of then British-mandate Palestine into an Israeli and Palestinian state, while Jewish leaders accepted it.

Some Israeli secular history books have for years presented the Palestinian version of the 1948 events, but textbooks for Israeli Arabs have not contained that side of history, which the students heard widely at home.

Conflicting arguments

But the move drew immediate fire from Israel’s right wing and other hardliners of the Jewish state.

Hardline Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, denounced on army radio what he called "the masochism and defeatism of the Israeli left, which constantly seeks to apologize, while we did what we had to."

Israeli Arabs, who represent about 20 percent of the nation's population, are descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who remained inside Israel following the 1948 war, while the rest left or were driven out.

Former education minister Limor Livnat of the right-wing opposition Likud party, said presenting the Palestinian version could "push young Arabs to the conclusion that they have to fight against the Israeli occupation."

Others hailed the move though.

"The majority must not be allowed to exist inside its own narrative bubble and deny the existence of other views," Member of Knesset (MK) Arab-Israeli Ahmed Tibi told Haaretz daily.

MK Hana Sawid of Hadash also hailed the move as a positive step towards boosting the Arab community's faith in the education system. He even called on Tamir to include classical Arabic poetry in the Jewish school curriculum, according to the Israeli daily.

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