George Orwell once wrote: “Myths which are believed in tend to become true.”
Unfortunately, this appears to characterize the intentions of those targeting
the recent redress of Israel’s educational system, and specifically its civic
For many years, the Left in Israel made a point of controlling
the education portfolio and inculcated our youth with extreme-Left and
post-Zionist ideals through a creeping ideological annexation of the national
Nothing underscored the blurring of the Zionist lines more
than the debate two years ago over the proposed amendment to the Oath of
Allegiance for prospective new immigrants: adding the simple words “Jewish and
The realization of how polarized and popular the
post-Zionist discourse had become shocked many Zionists to the core. The venom
and opprobrium directed at the amendment, setting out a classical Zionist
position, proves that this discourse had permeated the mainstream.
of this is a direct result of the classical Zionist positions being undermined
in our educational systems for years by education ministers such as Yossi Sarid,
Shulamit Aloni and more recently Yuli Tamir.
Now that a nationalist point
of view is returning to the curriculum, some on the opposite side of the
political spectrum understand that their viewpoints will be tested by critical
debate. This is creating intense sensitivity on the Left and leading to all
manner of epithets being thrown at those who are leading the return to a
For too long decisions have been made that far
exceeded the parameters of acceptable discourse in Israel, which saw little
redress, and in some departments of the Education Ministry there was there was a
growing a sense of impunity with regard to the leaving of rather large
ideological footprints on our children’s educational material.
Only a few
days ago, Adar Cohen, who headed the Education Ministry’s Civics Pedagogical
Unit, did not have his tenure renewed. The refusal to renew Cohen’s tenure was
well considered and brave.
Well considered because Cohen had allowed his
firm ideological positions to interfere with his sensitive position, which
basically dictates which textbooks our children will be reading.
allowed the secondary school civics textbook Setting Off on the Path to
Citizenship: Israel – Society, State and its Citizens, to pass through his
office even though it is replete with inaccuracies and attacks the
constitutional value of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
employee in any other profession would have their contract immediately and
permanently rescinded if they allowed something to pass through their office
which was so inaccurate and diametrically opposed by their employers, who in
this case are the citizens of Israel.
Brave, because it stood in the face
of the shrill, concerted efforts by Cohen’s fellow ideologues, who mounted a
campaign to besmirch anyone who had the temerity to criticize the crass
politicization of our educational system.
Up until a month ago, as
chairman of the Education Committee in the Knesset, I was lambasted for daring
to question the legitimacy of including educational texts that refer to the
reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel as a
It is unconscionable that any democratic country would
advocate a version of history that stands in abject contrast to its national
narrative. Just over a decade ago, then-education minister Yossi Sarid proposed
that the works of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish be incorporated into our
Darwish, a former member of the PLO who resigned
his position after the Oslo Accords, it should be remembered, was accused by
former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir of calling on Jews to leave Israel in his
poem Passers Between the Passing Words with the words “So leave our land/Our
shore, our sea/Our wheat, our salt, our wound.”
However, more problematic
for our purveyors of pure thought and “freedom of speech” was the lack of
outrage when, during her tenure as education minister before Gidon Sa’ar, Yuli
Tamir expunged the teachings of Zeev Jabotinsky from educational
It was obviously considered acceptable to those who now
complain about ideological interference that important figures from the Right
were not able to corrupt the myths that were being created in the educational
Where were the voices raised in protest then? It is abundantly
clear from these and many more examples that it is not freedom of thought and
speech, and ideological balance, that worry those whose hackles have been raised
by Cohen’s departure and other recent developments.
It is obviously the
idea that other concepts also should be heard, read and learned by this country’s
The adage in politics that “the Left rules even when the Right is
elected” is finally, after decades, being broken, thanks in large part to
Yisrael Beytenu’s commitment to core values of Zionism.
platform has brought Israel into line with many democracies around the world in
its commitment to the allegiance of its citizens and their commitment to
The tyranny of the minority is ending and the national narrative
of the majority is returning to its place, as befits a democracy.
teach our youth that their nation was “born in sin” and that our national
character is incorrect and immoral is no longer acceptable. We must allow our
children to hear many differing points of view, but as in all things, there have
to be clear and well-defined boundaries.
To allow today’s myths to place
tomorrow’s Israel in an ideological bind from which it can not free itself must
be avoided for the sake of our nation.
Our educational system has long
been an obvious target for those who wish to move beyond Zionism and build
Israel anew with a different mission and foundation. Clearly and far too
obviously, this is what the current battle is over, and not the reasons raised
incessantly by our former ideological guardians on the Left.
should be set aside before they become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
writer is a Member of Knesset for Yisrael Beytenu and was chairman of the
Knesset Education Committee from May 2010 until June 2012.