Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A concerning civics lesson

Dror Eydar

There is great joy at Haaretz and among its dwindling fanbase. After a long fight which rid us of former civics studies supervisor Adar Cohen, one of his most vocal supporters -- Yael Guron -- has been appointed in his place.
As if this itself weren't enough, after Cohen was kicked out for serious professional faults -- the leftist indoctrination he sought to instill in civics studies, his undermining of his superiors -- he is worming his way back into the Education Ministry via the back door.
He is even putting out articles defending ministry decisions he once opposed, such as combining history and civics studies. Recently, Cohen -- along with other members of Israel's Left Institution for "We'll teach you about democracy" -- was appointed to a committee set up by the ministry to look into the limits of political debate.

But let's get back to Cohen's successor, Guron. A few years ago at the Van Leer Education Conference, she said "Today, there is no official curriculum that expresses the Palestinians' historical narrative ... creating a situation in which a Palestinian pupil can't identify with the material being taught."
Most sane people call the Palestinians Guron mentioned "Israeli Arabs." What historical narrative they should be taught -- the Nakba? [The Palestinian term used to refer to the founding of the State of Israel.] How the plan failed to wipe out the Jewish population in 1948?
More than once, Guron has attacked the Institute for Zionist Strategies as an institution that talks in terms of "monolithic Zionism" -- a code name for Zionism, which sees Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and not as a national base for a number of peoples. Maybe as far she is concerned, no such "monolithic" perception exists in the Israeli Democracy Institute. The Left has always been known for its one-way pluralism: they are ready to die for our right to think like them.
In an argument with the current chairman of the Civics Committee, Professor Asher Cohen, Guron expressed herself as one who thinks that civics studies should be devoted mainly to the study of democracy, since the Jewish element of the State of Israel gets additional time in other subjects. This is the crux of the debate: civics is the very subject in which the democratic justification of a state for the Jewish people should feature prominently. Especially today, in light of attempts to delegitimize us and present the link between "Jewish state" and "democracy" as a contradiction, it is very important that high school education address this issue. And if not in civics, then in what subject?
Here is a quote from a textbook that Adar Cohen approved (and which was later rejected by a panel of experts for its numerous factual errors) and that Guron will probably back: "These two identities (Jewish democracy) often contradict each other when it comes to minorities." This is the key sentence in the book, and the study questions reinforce the claim of a "contradiction" (strong language) that won't be resolved until the character of the State of Israel changes. Even the Law of Return [which gives all Jews the right to Israeli citizenship] is presented as "a clash between civil liberties ... and Israel's purpose as a Jewish state."
Here's more: "There is no question that originally, the definition of Judaism is one of religion only." Other than historical ignorance, how can there be "no question"? Maybe in the Palestinian National Charter there is no such question. Article 20 of that platform reads: "Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own."
In an article published two months ago in the "defeated family" newspaper [Haaretz], Adar Cohen spoke positively about the new minister of education, saying that yes, he's an observant Jew and covers his head with a yarmulke, but that doesn't mean he should be automatically suspected of "religious-messianic indoctrination." Unbelievable. It was said of Balaam that from his blessing, one could learn about his original cursed intentions. It's true that Adar Cohen is a man of the Institute of the Left and a political appointee of [former Education Minister] Yuli Tamir, but neither he nor his replacement should be suspected of "automatic Leftist indoctrination." Really? The appointment of [Guron] as the new supervisor of civics studies gives good reason for concern. In the cultural war over national identity, those seeking to dismantle its Jewish national character have just gotten reinforcements.
My friend, Education Minister Rabbi Shay Piron, why would you give such great influence to a minority group that seeks to change the character of Israel? Democracy is not up for debate, there is no argument about that -- but Zionism and our identity as a Jewish state is. Can you hear the concern of the majority of our society?

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