Last Updated: Wed Jun 20, 2012 17:23 pm (KSA) 14:23 pm (GMT)

Inclusion of Israeli politicians in Arab schools’ curricula stirs debate

Arab Israelis have objected to a decision by the Israeli education ministry to include a tribute to late Israeli prime ministers David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin as the “topic of the year” for 2013. (File photo)
Arab Israelis have objected to a decision by the Israeli education ministry to include a tribute to late Israeli prime ministers David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin as the “topic of the year” for 2013. (File photo)

A decision by the Israeli Ministry of Education to include a tribute to prominent Israeli politicians in Arab schools’ curricula stirred the indignation of Arab-Israeli activists and MPs who accused Israeli authorities of disrespecting their culture and identity.

Arab Israelis objected to a decision by Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to include a tribute to late Israeli prime ministers David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin as the “topic of the year” for 2013.

The topic of the year is a project in which students are required to study a specific topic and take part in activities related to it. The topic is changed annually.

Arab Knesset member Jamal Zahalka sent an urgent message to the education minister demanding that the decision to “force the legacy of Begin and Ben Gurion upon Arab students” be revoked.

Zahalka argued that the 2013 project, which includes visits to the prime ministers’ houses and museums that commemorate their history, not only disrespects the identity and feelings of Arab students, but also falsifies their history.

“This project makes students consider criminals as respectable and principled politicians,” said the letter of which Al Arabiya obtained a copy.

“This contradicts Palestinian history and collective memory and in which both Ben Gurion and Begin are the reasons for the tragedy of Palestinians.”

According to Zahalka, the project violates all international treaties that stipulate the protection of the cultural rights of ethnic or religious minorities.

“Minorities have the right to preserve their identity and this project jeopardizes the identity of Arab students through imposing Zionist ideologies on them.”
Zahalka called for exempting Arab schools from this project which he saw as political rather than educational.

The Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education (FUCAE), in charge of monitoring the education process in Arab schools inside Israel, condemned the involvement of the Ministry of Education in politically-motivated issues.

“The ministry has, for a while, been violating the cultural and national specificity of Arab-Israelis through imposing on them the Zionist version of the story,” said a statement issued by the committee.

For Arabs, the statement added, David Ben Gurion is responsible for the expulsion of Palestinians and the confiscation of their lands in the 1950s and 1960s while Menachem Begin is held accountable for pre-1948 terrorist attacks against Palestinians as well as the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon.

FUCAE chairman Mohamed Hayadri called upon the ministry to stop its policies against Arabs in Israel and especially students.

“The ministry is violating the historical rights of around half a million Arab students in Israel.”

He also called upon teachers in Arab schools to exert their utmost effort to acquaint their students with the true story of the Palestinian cause in order to counter the ministry’s attempts at falsifying history.

“We also demand that the ministry consults with representatives of the Arab community in Israel before making any changes in the curricula of Arab schools,” he concluded.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

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