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Spotlight on Israeli Textbooks

Israeli TextbooksAs many of you might know there is a long standing controversy over Palestinian textbooks. The Israelis, their Zionist supporters, and even the U.S. government has lined up to complain loudly and bitterly that Palestinian textbooks do not include Israel on their maps, or they show an Israel that is geographically small. They speak of Zionism as an "enemy ideology" and the IDF as a conquering army. They describe Israeli settlers as "illegal immigrants" or worse. And, particularly in the complaints offered by US government, there is a demand for greater emphasis on "peace and tolerance." The Palestinian text books have to change, according to the critics. Indeed, all of Palestinian education has to be "reformed."

Such complaints may well strike an outside observer as utterly surreal. It is one thing for the ideologues on the Texas state school board to insist on playing fast and loose with the American past. After all, the children of Texas will not exit their school houses into a reality that affirms or contradicts the questionable changes that right wing collective have in mind. On the other hand, the captive audiences in the Palestinian Occupied Territories live within an everyday context that would make instant garbage of the content and style demanded for their textbooks by the occupying power. It is so absurd that only the Zionist mind can think that such changes would "contribute to peace." All they would do is breed even stronger confirmation that the occupiers have their fingers in every aspect of their victims’ lives.
Now comes an interesting revelation about the other side of the coin, about the textbooks of the Israelis. In an article published by Haaretz entitled "First Lebanon war, Oslo Accords missing From Israeli Textbooks" (June 25, 2010) we learn that there are a number of important recent historical events, like Israel’s first war in Lebanon (which gave rise to such organizations as Hezbollah) and the existence of the Oslo Accords (which was a signed "peace" agreement between Israel and the PLO) that are simply missing from that country’s newly issued high school level history books. No Oslo Accords? Well, do the books say anything about the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin? Who knows? No first Lebanon war? Well, I guess they can’t mention Shabra and Shatila, can they. An equivalent of this sort of manipulation would be if those Texas state school board members left out the Viet Nam war.
How could this happen in such an "open," Western society as Israel? Well, Haaretz’s reporter Or Kashi tried to find out. Here is some of the reasons Kashi got:
1. The Education Ministry said that ‘naturally, not all historic events could be included in the curriculum. However, the program does include "the formative historic events of the Jewish people...and [those] which continue to remain relevant today."
2. We are doing better than we use to. "In the past, the Education Ministry generally avoided teaching recent history" at all! The argument here is that "it takes 20 or 30 years to arrive at historical perspective suitable for teaching young people." Now, we are teaching about such things as the peace accords with Egypt and Jordan and Jewish immigration into Israel since 1970.
3. The new history curriculum was put together by the country’s "best historians." Their committees "argued and deliberated before they agreed on a program." And they also took into account "the fewer number of teaching hours allocated to history lessons."
4. A "veteran teacher" gave Haaretz a slightly different explanation. "The Education Ministry doesn’t like [to address] controversial issues. It’s not necessarily political, its more of a desire to avoid confrontation and keep things quiet."
So here we have it. All that complaining about Palestinian textbooks was and is just sheer hypocrisy. The Israelis are, and no doubt have long been, doing the same thing as their adversaries. They are using an idiosyncratic view of history to "map out reality"– that is, to construct a reality that fits their prevailing ideological and nationalist point of view. Why they bother to deny it is beyond me. Using the schools to manufacture simple minded patriots is not such an unusual thing.
What, in the end, is going to help bring down the Zionist state is their consistent use of implausible deniability. It seems there is nothing that the Israelis do, no matter how imbecilic, evil, or just bad in a mundane sort of way, that they do not try to hide with some flimsy cover story. And it is usually so flimsy that only their ideologue supporters and bought off politicians manage to stomach it whole.

When I was growing up Jewish in Elizabeth New Jersey the assumption was that Jews were really smart. They valued education and even had "genes for smartness." Their kids excelled and became doctors. That sort of thing. And, of course, a lot of American Jews were and are smart, as are those in Europe and South America, etc. But Israel seems to be an increasingly notable exception. Go to Israel, become a Zionist, and all the smart areas of one’s brain erode and the resulting vacuum is filled with ideological nonsense. Of all the facts that "continue to remain relevant today" that is the one the Ministry of Education missed.

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