(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The controversy surrounding the Education Ministry’s new civics textbook, To Be Israeli Citizens, continued Wednesday as Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded to criticism by saying he intends to approve the book.
“I will approve the book despite the criticism, the quotations presented in the press are not in the final version,” Bennett said in an interview with Army Radio.
“I expect that in the coming days we will see some more petitions from academics and intellectuals against the book without them even reading it, I say [to them]: ‘Shame on your protests, it’s cold outside,’” he said.
On Monday evening, Ch. 2 news aired a report revealing several controversial excerpts from the new textbook, taken from a letter penned earlier this month by the book’s language editor, Yehuda Yaari, to officials in the Education Ministry, noting several objections to the text.
Among the divisive excerpts included quotations implicating Arab-Israelis in attacks in the terrorism wave and citations that it was never proven that the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was due to incitement.
The book also compared the sinking of the Altalena
ship in 1948, the murder of left-wing activist Emil Grunzweig at a Peace Now rally and the murder of Rabin, blurring the lines between murder for political-ideological reasons and orders given by a government head.
“I instructed that the comparison between the Altalena
and Rabin’s assassination be removed,” Bennett told Army Radio.
Bennett also addressed Yaari, whose letter sparked the controversy, accusing him of distributing “distorted passages” to the press.
“The language editor is acting in breach of trust, circulating part of a draft to the media in order to promote his political agenda – it is unacceptable to me,” he said.
Bennett added that the process of writing the book is a “super-professional.”
“They have been working on this book for five years, it is a book that balances between all of us, between the Jewish state and democracy, there are 14 chapters dealing with democracy and eight chapters dealing with the Jewish state,” he told Army Radio.
Following Bennett’s interview, Herzl Makov, head of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center issued a statement calling on Bennett not to remove the sinking of the Altalena
from the political violence comparison.
was a painful chapter in Israel’s history and is political violence in the full meaning of the word, which was initiated at the order of the late prime minister David Ben-Gurion,” said Makov.