(photo credit: Ch. 2 [file])
Arab educators expressed outrage Monday at Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar's intention to remove the phrase Nakba from textbooks in the Arab education system, and threatened civil disobedience if the ministry follows through on its decision, as well as others in the same vein.
Nakba means "catastrophe" in Arabic and is used by Arabs to describe the creation of the State of Israel.
"In the past five months since its formation, the government, along with the Education Ministry, has announced a number of dangerous decisions," the head of the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education in Israel said at a press conference. "Such as a prohibition to commemorate the Nakba of the Arab people in schools, the changing of road signs, forcing the singing of the 'Tikva' national anthem at schools and setting the promotion of military service or national service as a criterion for rewarding schools and staff."
"We reject these decisions outright," Atef Moaddi said. "And we stress that if an attempt is made to carry them out in Arab schools - the response will be refusal and civil disobedience."
Committee members vowed to continue to fight "for the rights of half a million Arab students to an education that respects their national and cultural uniqueness." They promised to continue to commemorate "central historical events such as Nakba Day, the Kafr Kassem massacre, Land Day and the October 2000 events."
Committee members also attacked the Education Ministry for its "discriminatory policies" towards the Arab sector, which they said kept it lagging behind and perpetuated its socioeconomic dependency. The long-standing deprivation of the Arab education from human and material resources, they said, had created a gap of 20 to 30 percent between the academic achievements of Arabs and Jews.
Sa'ar, who had previously said he was mulling such a move, announced the removal of the Nakba from the curriculum on Sunday during an extensive briefing he gave to the cabinet regarding the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year.
"What Israeli Arabs experienced during the [1948 War of Independence] was certainly a tragedy," Sa'ar said. "But the word Nakba, whose meaning is similar to 'Holocaust' in this context, will no longer be used. The creation of the State of Israel cannot be referred to as a tragedy, and the education system in the Arab sector will revise its studies [regarding this] in elementary schools."
Moaddi told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Sa'ar's decision was nothing less than a "political gimmick" aimed at denying the Israeli Arab community their identity.
"For Israeli Arabs, who consider themselves a part of the Palestinian people, the Nakba is not up for debate, it is a historical fact," Moaddi said. "But if Sa'ar thinks that by taking this narrative out of the textbooks, he will somehow absolve himself - as both a representative of the State of Israel and as a human being - of responsibility for the Nakba, he is wrong.
"Our position has always been that both narratives - the Jewish, Zionist narrative and the Arab, Palestinian narrative - should be taught in both Jewish and Arab classrooms," he continued. "But the Arab pupil is not stupid. He or she will learn about the Nakba from a variety of other sources, be it on the Internet or on the street. But our position is that we prefer for them to learn about it in the educational framework of the classroom."
Moaddi added that principals and teachers from Arab schools had contacted his organization and expressed "dismay and outrage" over the decision.
"It's simply unacceptable to us," he said.