'Provocative' terms in new booklet for Arab schools

'Belonging and Identity' booklet defines 'nakba', 'PLO', and 'racism fence.'

east jlem school 88 (photo credit: )
east jlem school 88
(photo credit: )
"Ahmed Yassin," "Yasser Arafat," "nakba" and "PLO" are some of the 100 terms included in a new booklet written for Israeli-Arab school children. The booklet, "Belonging and Identity," was formerly presented Tuesday at a press party in Nazareth. It was composed by Israeli-Arab academics and writers and produced by the Ibn Khaldun Association, which is devoted to studying and initiating social change in the Arab sector, and by the Center Against Racism. The booklet was also supported by the national committee for heads of Arab municipalities, the monitoring committee for Arab education and the national parents association of Arab students. The booklet purports to offer an alternative narrative to the Education Ministry's official booklet "One Hundred Terms concerning Heritage, Zionism and Democracy," which is distributed in three different versions designed for Jewish, Arab and Druse students. For example, the Education Ministry's booklet contains the term "War of Independence," in which it defines the war of 1947-8 as a war initiated by the country's Arab population against the Jews, and followed by the invasion of five Arab countries. By contrast, "Belonging and Identity" describes the events of '48 as the "Nakba," and defines it as the year during which the Palestinian people was expelled from its land to create a Jewish state. Dr. As'ad Ghanem, who is the director of the Ibn Khaldun Association, also chairs the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Haifa. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, Ghanem said he did not doubt that at least some terms in the booklet would appear provocative to Israeli Jews - including the entries on Arafat and Yassin, the term "nakba," the term "racism fence" (which refers in the booklet to Israel's security fence) and the term "massacre," which the booklet defines as the intentional killing of hundreds of unarmed Arab civilians by armed Jewish forces before, after, and during 1948, in order to cause Palestinians to abandon their villages and cities and pave the way for the creation of a Jewish state. Translating some of the booklet's terms into Hebrew during an interview with Galei Tzahal, Ghanem said the entry on Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, described him as a refugee who founded Hamas, was involved in the conflict with the Israeli occupation, and was killed by Israel "for his involvement in activity that Israel defines as terror." The booklet, of which 72,000 copies have been printed, will be distributed by the associations that produced it to homes in Arab towns and villages. Among the other 21 authors who contributed to the booklet are Dr. Mohammed Amara, of Bar-Ilan University's English department, Dr. Mustafa Kabaha, a historian at the Open University, and the writer Salman Natur. Other terms included in the booklet are Eduard Said, Emil Habibi, the Higher Monitoring Committee, and Jaffa. "The Education Ministry and the schools were never the place where our children received a national education," Ghanem said. "But we believe parents can have an equal influence in shaping national consciousness." According to Ghanem, the Ministry systematically ignores key terms and values that are a formative part of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab history, in order to downplay the national identity of Israeli Arabs. Part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ghanem also said, was a conflict about how to define the past, based on the assumption that such definitions will influence the future. Education Minister Limor Livnat responded to the publication of the booklet by announcing that "The Education Ministry is the only body authorized to determine the content of the education system, and no other body, including the monitoring committee, has the authority to distribute any materials in schools in the Arab sector." Livnat also said she would turn to the attorney general to examine whether the publication of the booklet was in itself illegal.