Museum lecture scores low marks with Arab teachers

The always-sensitive issue of Jewish-Arab relations flared up yet again in Tel Aviv last week, with a Jewish teacher sparking the walk-out of several Arab schoolteachers from a lecture on the early stages of the Arab-Zionist conflict, reports The lecture, which was being given at the Etzel (Irgun) Museum in Tel Aviv by museum manager Itzhak Meltzer, was part of an additional-training course for teachers from around Tel Aviv and Jaffa. According to the report, Meltzer's lecture concentrated on the events that took place between the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947. He was speaking about a massacre of Jews by Arabs when one Jewish teacher in the audience objected, saying that history had changed and "now we live in peace with the Arabs." The woman said that raising such issues was humiliating for the Arabs in the audience, and said that if she had been in their place, she would have walked out. A storm erupted among the crowd and Meltzer replied that he was "not changing history, only relating facts." Several Arab teachers then walked out, saying that Meltzer's lecture had humiliated them. Later, Meltzer said the woman had placed the Arab teachers, who until then had been listening to the lecture like everyone else, in "an impossible situation" by suggesting that they should feel humiliated. "I respect Arabs," Meltzer said. "I relate facts, not some 'alternative history.' This is the history, and if someone raises a complaint that something is not factually correct, I am happy to respond... Here at the museum we avoid speaking about politics and political solutions. The Jewish teacher is the one who inserted a political viewpoint and incited the Arabs." The Etzel Museum commemorates the activities of the pre-state Irgun Tzva'i Le'umi (National Military Organization), often called the Irgun, a militant Zionist group that operated between 1931 and 1948.