Posted: 1/16/2012 6:09:00 PM
Author: Caroline B. Glick
Source: This article first appeared in the Jerusalem Post (online) of Jan. 16, 2012
Netanyahu’s post-Zionist Education Ministry
by Caroline B. Glick
One of the declared goals of the Netanyahu government is to ensure that Israeli schoolchildren receive a strong Zionist education. To this end, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Gideon Sa’ar as his education minister.
Sa’ar has long distinguished himself as a critic of post-Zionist initiatives to transform Israel’s educational curriculum from a Zionist curriculum which in accordance with the Education Law of 1953 is charged with inculcating school children with “the values of Jewish culture,” “love of the homeland,” and “loyalty to the Jewish state,” into one that indoctrinates Israel’s youth to adopt a post-nationalist, universalist perspective that does not value Jewish nationalism and rejects patriotism as atavistic and even racist.
In light of the importance that the government has placed on Zionist education, it is quite shocking that under Sa’ar, the Education Ministry approved a new citizenship textbook for high school students that embraces the post- Zionist narrative.
This fall, the new textbook, Setting off on the path to citizenship: Israel – society, state and its citizens (Yotzim l’derech ezrachit: Yisrael – hevra, medina v’ezracheya) was introduced into the state’s official citizenship curriculum. In everything from its discussion of the War of Independence to globalization and transnational institutions, to Israeli politics, to the peace process, to Israel’s constitutional debate, to Operation Cast Lead, the textbook adopts positions that are post-Zionist and even anti-Zionist. It champions these positions while denying students the basic facts necessary to make informed decisions on how they relate to their country, their people and their rights and duties as citizens.
In a letter to Sa’ar written on October 4, 2011, Bar-Ilan University law professor Gideon Sapir set out four ways the textbook distorts history and reality. First, in its discussion of the historical background of Israel’s founding, the book gives only passing mention to the international legal foundation of the state – the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine from 1922. The Mandate called for the reconstitution of the Jewish commonwealth in the land of Israel. It granted sovereignty to the Jewish state over all the territory that today makes up Israel, Judea, Samaria and Jordan.
The textbook provides no map of the Mandate.
Instead it suffices with a map of the UN’s 1947 partition plan, a map of the territory controlled by the Jewish forces before the establishment of the state, and a map of the 1949 armistice lines.
Sapir explained, “In the absence of the map of the Mandate, the ’49 map, (i.e. “1967 borders”), is presented as Israel’s maximal legitimate borders, (with the alternative borders being the partition map.”
Second, Sapir noted that the book’s explanation of Israel’s constitutional foundations present the so-called “constitutional revolution” of the 1990s as utterly uncontroversial. Through the “constitutional revolution,” the Supreme Court effectively seized the Knesset’s legislative powers. And as Sapir notes, it justified the move through a distorted interpretation of laws “reading into them rights that were specifically removed from them by the Knesset.”
In hiding the controversy surrounding the “constitutional revolution,” the textbook denies students the ability to understand current events. Without awareness of the controversy, students emerge from high school with no ability to understand the current fight between the court and the Knesset regarding the separation of powers.
As Sapir notes, the textbook demonizes the political Right generally and in Israel in particular.
Ministry’s director-general Dalit Shtauber publicly backed Cohen after the Makor Rishon report was published. Attacking the ministry officials who spoke to the paper off record, Shtauber claimed that their off-record comments were anti-democratic. Notably, Shtauber’s defense of Cohen ignored the post-Zionist content of the textbook he approved.
Following the Makor Rishon report, coalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin called for an urgent hearing on the textbook in the Knesset’s Education Committee. The hearing, which was scheduled to take place on January 4, was canceled.
Ministry officials claim that the Sa’ar asked committee chairman MK Alex Miller to cancel the meeting and claimed he was handling the issue within the ministry.
Ministry officials who spoke with Makor Rishon hypothesized that Cohen may have wished to postpone the meeting until after Zameret left his position at the beginning of November. Sa’ar has yet to appoint his replacement.
If Cohen continues to serve in his position through the end of the year, he will be eligible for – and all but automatically receive – tenure.
Cohen is only in his early 30s. If he is granted tenure, he will be able to continue to control the content of the citizenship curriculum for Israel’s school children for the next 30 years.