raed salah 248.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
It may be a commonplace that education embodies our future, but it is no less true. What is imparted to impressionable young minds does affect the possibilities of living together in peace.
Israel, therefore, rightly strives to draw attention to anti-Israel incitement in the region's classrooms, especially in the Palestinian Authority.
But while we justly focus on the dissemination of hate beyond our frontiers, are we equally vigilant towards what happens in Arab schools within our own jurisdiction?
We fear that our government and educational authorities have been negligent in this sphere. A quasi-autonomous alternative system is gaining clout under the formal auspices of our own Education Ministry, demanding budgets while thumbing its nose at its guidelines and values. That system has become, certainly not overnight but with increasing openness, hostile to notions as basic as the legitimacy of Israel's national existence.
Alongside ostensibly welcome news about increasing numbers of Arab students electing to participate in programs about the Holocaust, it is becoming evident that these sometimes become jumping-off points for likening the decimation of European Jewry to the plight of Israel's Arabs or to the "Nakba" - the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation.
Arab students attending Holocaust classes at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot have heard lectures drawing parallels between the Holocaust and the Nakba, Israel Radio reported on Friday. The kibbutz has washed its hands of the matter by noting that the Nakba discussions occurred after the formal sessions, while the ministry reiterated that such comparisons are spurious and go against its policies. Nevertheless, there is every reason to believe that such a trend, if not replaced with an alternative paradigm, will become the norm.
The Holocaust is not the only historical subject that is being exploited to promote hatred of Israel. A ministry-sponsored lexicon defining 100 basic Zionist terms has elicited a contrary booklet from the Arab Municipalities Monitoring Committee, Ibn Khaldoun Association and the provocatively named "Center Against Racism."
Predictably it brands the security fence "the racism wall." It makes no mention of the Arab invasion of newborn Israel. The Nakba is presented as: "The expulsion, destruction of Palestinian political structures, economy and culture in 1948, when the Palestinian nation was driven from its home and lands in favor of the establishment of the Jewish state. The Zionist movement occupied most of Palestineâ€¦ [and] wrecked the country's original Arab character by superimposing a European landscape upon it."
The Education Ministry says it will not allow this lexicon to be used in schools, but 72,000 copies of the booklet have been printed to be distributed to Arab homes.
As Ibn Khaldoun Association director As'ad Ghanem explained to The Jerusalem Post, "The Education Ministry and the schools were never the place where our children received a national education. But we believe parents can have an equal influence in shaping national consciousness."
The issue here is not whether Israeli Arabs should be compelled to become Zionists or deprived of their own history, pride, and identity. The question is whether their "national consciousness" must be built upon a rejection of the legitimacy of the national narrative of the state in which they live and vote.
Jewish and Arab narratives need not be a zero-sum game, particularly at a time when the Israeli government and consensus has come to endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 1947, immediately after the 1967 war, through the 1993 Oslo Accords, at the 2000 Camp David summit, and today, the Jews of Israel endorsed partition of the land in exchange for peace, and each time were violently rejected.
This too is part of history, and it is dishonest for the Arab narrative to ignore it. Israeli Arabs belong to two nations: that of their history, language and religion; and that of Israel, the democracy in which they live.
The Israeli Arab leadership must choose between imbuing its next generation with an identity that pits one national identity against the other, and finding a way to harmonize between the two.
Our educational system should not, out of laziness or to avoid confrontation, give up on influencing this choice.