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Education Minister Yuli Tamir has been much in the news. Two weeks ago she went on a well-publicized visit to authoritarian Singapore to learn the secret of its school system's success.
Tamir summed up her visit in an interview with Yediot Aharonot, saying,
"What most entranced me about [Singaporean schoolchildren] was that while there is discipline, it doesn't look like repression. I didn't see fear in the children's eyes."
It makes sense that this would be the aspect of Singapore's education system that most impressed Tamir. Her moves back home are all aimed at foisting her political agenda on schoolchildren while blocking all forms of dissent. Dissent, after all, could make her agenda appear repressive.
Tamir's political agenda has been alternately described as pro-peace, anti-Zionist, pro-democracy, anti-democracy, pluralistic and anti-Semitic.
To understand what her agenda actually holds in store for our future, we need to move beyond labels and assess her policies themselves.
Last December, Tamir ordered that from now on, all maps of the country in new textbooks must clearly demark the 1949 armistice lines. As Tamir sees it, the demarcation of the 1949 armistice lines is crucial for advancing peace. Speaking to Ha'aretz, she said,
"We cannot demand that our Arab neighbors mark the borders from 4 June 1967, when our own Education Ministry has erased them from the textbooks and from the students' consciousness."
As one of the founders of the EU-funded radical Peace Now movement, Tamir opposes all Israeli building beyond the 1949 lines. Her animus was given expression this month with the Council for Higher Education of Judea and Samaria's decision to upgrade Ariel College to the status of university center. Immediately after the institute, which confers bachelor's and master's degrees on its 8,500 students, changed its name to the Ariel University Center of Samaria, Tamir pledged to cut off its government funding and to ignore any correspondence with the institution if it referred to itself as a university center.
The Ariel University Center of Samaria's location is not Tamir's only beef with it. Its overt Zionism also sets her off. The school requires all its students to take one course per semester in either Jewish- or Zionist-related subjects. It also requires that the national flag be displayed in all classrooms.
THESE POLICIES fly in the face of Tamir's efforts to suppress Zionist and Jewish education.
This month she supported the Finance Ministry's decision to cut the government's support for pre-army leadership academies by 50 percent. Students at these academies receive a year-long deferment of their military service. During that year they study Jewish history, Zionist history and Talmud. They volunteer for community service. They undergo pre-military physical fitness regimens, and they hike throughout the country. Seventy percent of graduates serve in combat units and 30% become officers. Among the girls, the majority serve as officers.
In short, in the space of a year, the pre-army academies imbue their students with their Jewish and Israeli heritage and the students, in turn, form the backbone of the IDF's combat soldier and officer corps. And Tamir has decided to slash their budgets.
As to the general school system, Tamir is advancing a plan to cut the course load by 30% over the next five years. History and Zionist education will be the areas most immediately affected. As she put it, "Rather than learn a lot of material - we'll learn thinking.Today it is important to process information, not memorize things."
ON SUNDAY, Yediot reported that as part of her plan to limit the materials and control the content of the lessons taught to students, Tamir is moving against Jewish and Zionist studies teachers who teach in the framework of their National Service. Most of the teachers in National Service are Orthodox teenage girls. Due to their religious observance, most Orthodox girls opt to do national service rather than serve in the military.
According to the report, and subsequent follow-ups, Tamir has decided to cut the number of Orthodox teenagers employed through National Service institutions as Jewish and Zionist studies teachers in elementary schools by 50%. As Education Ministry officials put it to Yediot, the girls are "too right-wing," and so they must be removed from classrooms lest they infect schoolchildren with their commitment to the state and to Jewish heritage.
In silencing dissenting voices, Tamir has not been shy about being ruthless.
Take the example of Rabbi Yisrael Shiran. In 2000, when Tamir was serving as tourism minister, Shiran worked as a Jewish studies teacher at the Moriah national religious school in Haifa. He raised Tamir's hackles when he refused an Education Ministry directive to teach slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's "legacy" of the Oslo peace process with the PLO in the framework of his lesson plans for commemorating his murder. As Shiran saw it, Oslo was controversial, and so it couldn't simply be taught in a positive light. Tamir moved to have him fired. Shiran petitioned the High Court of Justice, and she relented.
In 2002, he transferred to another school. Now the parents at Moriah
want him back. But Tamir is refusing to approve his transfer. Just to
teach him a lesson.
TAMIR WISHES to replace Zionism and Jewish studies with "democratic citizenship" studies. As she explained to Yediot, "In Israel there is a real lack of democratic citizenship studies. As I pledged, the school system is moving this year to teach the subject of citizenship at a level of two credit units [for the high school matriculation exams]. In the future we will continue to expand citizenship classes to the level of three, four and five credits. People aren't born citizens. They are educated to be citizens." Or reeducated.
In Tamir's view, a good citizen is one who gives equal weight to both Israel's actual history and to the Arab world's distorted version of that history. Last month, she approved a third-grade textbook for Arab Israelis that teaches children that Arabs view the 1948 War of Independence, in which the infant state warded off the invading armies of five Arab states determined to annihilate its Jewish population, as "the nakba," or catastrophe.
Arab Israeli children will now be taught that from the Arab perspective, Israel's establishment was an act of Jewish aggression. And as Tamir sees it, "I also think it is important for Jewish children to learn about the nakba."
IN HER latest gambit, this week Tamir informed Israeli Islamic Movement leader and MK Ibrahim Sarsour that she will seriously consider his request to make Islamic religion and culture a required subject for Israeli Arabs. While here too, Tamir's move is clearly aimed at advancing the distorted Arab narrative in the interest of promoting her vision of good "citizenship," the fact is that Sarsour does not share her goal of promoting a multicultural Israel.
In February 2006, reacting to Hamas's victory in the Palestinian Authority elections the previous month, Sarsour declared that the Israeli Arab public supports the Palestinian and global jihad forces working to destroy Israel and conquer the Western world.
In his words, "The entire Arab public, but especially the Muslim public, is in the crosshairs. It is the target of global attack. As the Islamic Movement, we wish to see establishment of the Islamic caliphate without borders, and this is what scares the West."
This March, speaking at a conference on Jerusalem in Ramallah, Sarsour called on the Palestinians to conquer Israel's capital city. "Just as the Muslims once liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders, so must we today believe we can liberate Jerusalem. It is not an impossible dream," he said.
Given Sarsour's objective of destroying the State of Israel, Tamir's willingness to consider his demands means that she supports the indoctrination of Arab Israelis to work toward the destruction of the state as a whole. When taken together with her war against Zionist and Jewish education, educators and institutions, it is clear that not only does Tamir's vision involve indoctrinating Israel's Arabs to become its enemies; it also involves indoctrinating (without repression) a new generation of Israelis in a manner that will render them defenseless in the face of the Arab onslaught against the country.
Caroline Glick is deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post and
a syndicated columnist.
This article was published August 20, 2007 in the Jerusalem Post
Caroline Glick is deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post and a syndicated columnist.
This article was published August 20, 2007 in the Jerusalem Post
A comment on the article from a reader
31. Yuli and other delusional leftists demonstrate symptoms of
the Oslo syndrome:
In response to the perpetual pressures of the siege by the Arabs and antisemites they get to the point that they emphatize and symphatize with our mortal enemies. Initially they try to reduce these pressures by rationalization, appeasement and havlaga. Later they move to 'giving advice' to the enemy and knocking down their own people. Eventually they become active and fanatic helpers of the enemy.
See also "Yuli Tamir Goes A-Snipping: defends clitoridectomy"
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Blogs/Message.aspx/2274 or read it here.
Addendum by Think-Israel staff:
The current Education Minister may be over the edge, but Israeli educators have done a poor job in general the past 60 years in teaching the children that they own the Land of Israel by international law.
A well-known information gatekeeper argued with us that the educational system was patriotic, but he saw nothing wrong in teaching Nakba in the schools. (Being prevented from destroying the nascent State of Israel in 1948 was a great tragedy for the Arabs, one they call Nakba.) We argued that Israelis now living in America told us they had never been taught that they owned the Land of Israel. Quite the reverse. Implicitly and explicitly, they were inculcated with the belief that the Arabs owned all of the Middle East and the Jews were invaders/a colonial power/illegal. One such Israeli was stunned when she read Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial. He retorted that this information was coming from "disgruntled" Israelis, who couldn't make it in Israel.
So we asked Israelis living in Israel, Israelis who had quite a bit of public schooling, including graduate work. Here are some letters by middle-aged Israeli professionals in response to the question: "Did you learn about the Balfour Declaration, San Remo, the League of Nations and/or the Palestine Mandate in school?"
From a scientist with academic affiliations:
I know for sure that never in elementary school or high school, or during my military service was I taught about these things and I am all the time puzzled how [that] could be. They did not even MENTION to us that there is such a body as the League of Nations, San Remo, Mandate for Palestine, Jewish rights according to it, the Balfour declaration, and all the related concepts. I only learnt about it by chance when I bought in Europe the book of Julius Stone in the early eighties when I had enough with the anti-Israel propaganda. I talked with many people in Israel to verify that was not unique. Some 6 years ago I met a Tel Aviv University professor who is also very knowledgeable about everything. He told me that he heard about these things for the first time from me. He will try to spread the "good news" among scientists. I asked him to write to you to confirm that others in their school years in Israel were taught nothing about it. I only wish it was indeed the case that it was only my teachers that forgot to teach my classes.
From a professor at a prestigious Israeli scientific institute.
I remember studying these facts and my 4 childeren went through high school and learned it also. True, the conclusion is not that the country is ours. They also teach about the partition plan and then say that the '48 borders are much larger. It obviously implies that we took over Arab land.
There is a big difference between learning the facts and understanding the implications. In this case the facts are there. But look at what the textbooks have to say about the '67 war. They enumerate 3 reasons for the war. One is that the Israeli gov did not respond to the (desperate) arab calls for peace.
From a professor at a major Israeli university
Balfour yes. League of Nations no.
From a scientist with academic affiliations
I studied in a non-religious elementary and secondary school in Israel and I am quite sure the decision of the League of nations was not mentioned. I could understand why it was not mentioned in religious schools, for the reasons Elisha mentions of the real sources of our sovereignty. On the other hand that decision is very important. Even a religious person can see it as the analog of the Koresh declaration, which was in fact invoked later when at the time of Daryavesh the legitimacy of what the Jews were doing was questioned by other nations in the region.
Report of conversations with students by an Israeli-born-and-bred Hebrew speaker:
Hila, age 21, starting her university studies next year:
"She said that the League of Nations was mentioned to them, and they read some part of it. But she answered in the negative to these questions:'Were you told and made aware that the Palestine Mandate (trusteeship) includes the obligation to encourage dense Jewish settlement in Western Palestine, and that only Jews have political and national rights in Western Palestine.?
'Were you made to be aware that these rights are still valid today, according to the charter of the UN? [She said the usual thing that the mandate has ended with the erection of the state; i.e., not making the distinction between the Mandatory, i.e. the UK role as a trustee which has indeed ended, and Jewish national rights according to the Palestine trusteeship which persist in perpetuity.]
'She was not aware that all 52 states of the League voted unanimously for the Palestine trusteeship."
Ran, age 24, starting university studies next year:
"His teaching was exactly like mine many years earlier. That is to say that he is convinced that they never mentioned to him the body called the League of Nations and is not aware that it existed. He also never heard that according to international law
- only Jews got national and political rights in Western Palestine,
- that there is the obligation to encourage dense Jewish settlement in Palestine,
- that all these Jewish rights are still valid during the life-time of the U.N and are enshrined in the UN charter."
A conversation with three religious Israeli boys, Dov, Yossi, and Tani.
Aged 22-23, they are just out of the Israeli Army and are trekking in the USA before applying to University. They had attended religious schools their whole lives.
They were in the tank corps, field artillery and intelligence -- most of the religious boys try for the elite units or other combat units. They estimate 20% of the whole army is religious. But in the combat units -- which make up less than 10% of the army -- the number goes up to 60%. They reasoned it was unlikely that this happens because the religious are more physically fit than the non-religious. It is more likely that they are more motivated to serve the country. They are more patriotic. For some, there is also the urge to combat the perception on the part of the general public that the religious are not willing the serve in the army.
I asked about how much Israeli history they'd studied in school. The short answer was: "not much." Some history is mandatory for everyone. In 10th grade, Israeli schoolchildren choose one or more "major" subjects. But history, when it's a major, doesn't deal much with Israeli history -- the focus is on international history. Even history majors don't study any Israeli war past the 1948 war.
Yes, they'd learned about the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate, and about the UN Trusteeship. Some facts. But conclusions were not sharply underscored. The takeaway essentially was that the Jewish people have a right to a home in Israel. They were taught the Mandate was a big step but it wasn't a contract. They were told their Mandate was of the type that gives the land to the natives. But they were not sure they were the natives. The Declaration/Mandate/documents were treated as declarations, not as a contract. The tone of the teaching about Mandate times: We Jews have the right to settle the country but we didn't have an automatic right to the country. And England could change the rules.
I asked what Homeland means? They'd been given the different meanings it could have. 'Homeland' was a vague term and left much room for interpretation. Did a homeland mean all of Palestine, a part, what? They got no definitive answer. They were not told straight out that Israel belonged to the Jewish people. "That's Politics and politics is not taught in the schools."
I asked if they knew that Nordau had started the use of the term "homeland" because he wanted a less in-your-face way of saying "State of Israel"? No, they didn't.
I asked if they knew that by international law all groups, including Arabs, had humanitarian and civil rights, but only Jews had political rights, No they didn't.
'Were you taught that the obligations of the League of Nations were inherited by the UN,' I asked? No. That's politics. They didn't learn it.
Were they taught that England couldn't legally just hand over (trans)Jordan to the Arabs. So they put the Hashemite king in charge of administering (Trans)Jordan. And eventually, when the Jews didn't protest, the king essentially had "squatters" rights. No, they didn't.
What were they taught about Egypt being given the administration of Gaza by the English, again in Mandate times? Nothing.
I asked if they had social studies where patriotism was stressed. Did they salute the flag? Sing Hatikvah in school? No, they don't teach patriotism in school. The teachers can't talk about politics.
If they didn't learn patriotism in school, why were they patriotic enough to go into the combat units? They learned love of country at home and at youth groups. Not in school. Israel's educational system doesn't go in for politics -- and love of country is apparently a political statement.
The sampling is small, but those questioned saw nothing unusual or out of the ordinary about their educational experiences. What comes out clearly is that even for those that say that they were told of the existence of the League of Nations etc., the significance of this body, and its decisions concerning Jewish rights according to international law, was not taught at all. This holds true for people well-established in their professions over many years and those that have recently gone through the Israeli high schools and are ready to begin university.
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