ISRAHELL UPDATE: Educating toward indoctrination

The minister’s claims of liberalism are disingenuous; under his watch, the national curriculum is whitewashed.

The frequent changes the Education Ministry makes to school curricula share one common denominator. Each smells of the same kind of crass, shallow patriotism that glosses over any complicated issue, forcing students to swallow the same rote, sanitized version of the multifaceted, paradoxical Israeli story and silences all critical thought.

The history books have already been rewritten. The Palestinian perspective of the Nakba – which is apparently at odds with the sterile Israeli narrative offered by Dr. Zvi Zameret, chair of the ministry’s Pedagogic Secretariat – has been censored, leaving only hollow praise for the state’s establishment. The Oslo Accords have been erased, and Holocaust studies have been expanded to “strengthen Jewish identity,” while any reference to the wider context of the rise of European fascism has been omitted.

Now the school system’s main civics textbook will also be modified, because it states that “since its establishment, the State of Israel has engaged in a policy of discrimination against its Arab citizens.” It seems Zameret and his staff do not understand the meaning of civics which, apart from imparting the basics of government and democracy, is meant to offer tools for understanding conflicts within society and nurturing critical thought among citizens.

But like the Institute for Zionist Strategies (where Zameret has been active ), the head of the ministry’s pedagogic secretariat is trying to do away with 50 years of open, critical study of Zionism, the state’s history and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, students are given a patronizing version of the past, one that insults their intelligence and diminishes their ability to understand complex historical developments and identify with the society in which they live, despite its many problems.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar says he would never intervene in course curricula, but these changes conform snugly to his world view. Sa’ar presents himself as a liberal to whomfreedom of expression  is dear, but he remains convinced that students must be inculcated with “national values.” In light of the indoctrination championed by his ministry, it seems he and his staff are less interested in promoting free expression than narrow-minded, isolationist nationalism.

Ref: Haaretz

ISRAELI LOBBY: IRAN IS A THREAT TO PEACE (while we just ethnic cleanse!)

RESISTANCE: Europe remains unwilling to walk in Israel’s shoes

The arrest order issued in Britain against Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni is nothing but one of many symptoms of a deep and long-running problem that is unlikely to be solved as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues.

The apology by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (whose own government would be well advised to deal with the issue, of which it has long been aware) and his government’s plan to tackle the problem through legislation, will not solve our troubles with the European Union.

The root of the problems lies in the fundamental disagreements between Israel and the EU regarding the manner in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved and our conduct vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The conclusions of the EU council of foreign ministers on the peace process, adopted last month in Brussels, and the harsh criticism of Israel voiced by the EU’s new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, are only the most recent examples of the deep gap that has existed for years between us and Europe.

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The disagreements do not stem mainly from economic considerations and interests, although their role in shaping the positions of certain EU members should not be discounted. The reasons are deeper and are linked to the lesson taken by European states from the profound trauma of World War II. The preference for multilateral frameworks, the adherence to the principles of international law, the rejection of the use of force to change political realities, the sanctification of human rights as an absolute value (that is sometimes applied in a manner that leaves behind a sense of double standards) and empathy toward those who are perceived as being weak – all these are part of the principles by which the EU states conduct themselves.

The conduct of Israel, as a state that calls itself democratic, is not perceived by the EU countries as conforming to those principles. European politicians (if we permit ourselves to speak in generalities), not to mention the public, are generally unwilling to walk in the shoes of Israel, which operates as a democracy under threat, and to demonstrate understanding for the motivations behind its conduct. And any small understanding is not reflected in the media.

The threat of terror, which has become an inseparable part of Israel’s quotidian reality, and Israel’s responses – which are covered obsessively – bumps up against a European reality that with the exception of a few instance has not experienced the horrors of terror.

It follows from this that Israel’s responses to terror, which result in unintended harm to civilians, are not only met by a lack of understanding but represent a focus of harsh criticism.

One of the by-products of this criticism is the beginning of an open discussion among some European elites of the nature of Israel’s democracy as well as the extent of its legitimacy as a Jewish state, which is of great concern.

For years the EU has expressed its dissatisfaction with Israel’s political and military conduct with a policy of reward and punishment. When there are unilateral withdrawals and an active peace process, Israel receives a prize; the absence of a peace process and disproportionate military actions lead to punishments.

This pattern, which changes in accordance with the existence of the peace process or lack thereof, is based on a fundamental and mutual lack of trust.

After observing the situation for many years it is hard to escape the conclusion that Israel and the Europeans are conducting not a dialogue, but rather two monologues. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could lay the foundations for a new stage in our relations with Europe. Until that happens we must get used to reality, the expressions of which we have been witness to in recent weeks.

Ref: Haaretz

The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Germany.