“For me, personally, Arabs are something I can’t look at and can’t stand. I am tremendously racist. I come from a racist home. If I get the chance in the army to shoot one of them, I won’t think twice. I’m ready to kill someone with my hands, and it’s an Arab. In my education I learned that…their education is to be terrorists, and there is no belief in them. I live in an area of Arabs, and every day I see these Ishmaelites, who pass by the [bus] station and whistle. I wish them death."
Above: right wing protesters carrying a sign calling for revenge against Arabs, Jerusalem, July 2014 (file photo)
Israel’s High Schools Bastions Of Racism, New Israeli Book Claims
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
“For me, personally, Arabs are something I can’t look at and can’t stand. I am tremendously racist. I come from a racist home. If I get the chance in the army to shoot one of them, I won’t think twice. I’m ready to kill someone with my hands, and it’s an Arab. In my education I learned that…their education is to be terrorists, and there is no belief in them. I live in an area of Arabs, and every day I see these Ishmaelites, who pass by the [bus] station and whistle. I wish them death,” a 10th-grade girl from a high school in central Israel is quoted as saying in “abominable Hebrew” in a forthcoming book on Israeli schools, “Scenes from School Life” by academics Idan Yaron and Yoram Harpaz, Ha’aretz reported.
The book is based on observations Yaron, a sociologist, made over a 3-year period in a six-year secular high school – “the most average school we could find,” coauthor Harpaz, a professor of education, said.
The pair’s work shows that remarks like those made by the student quoted above are commonplace and are a component of the average student’s identity. And this shows how little Israel’s education system cares about fighting racism, the authors claim, and point out that teachers and school administrators who do try to fight racism and educate against it are in the minority.
Much of the book’s chapter on racism revolves around Bible lessons given in a ninth-grade class. The theme of those lessons was revenge.
“The class starts, and the students’ suggestions of examples of revenge are written on the blackboard. [A student named Yoav] insists that revenge is an important emotion. He utilizes the material being studied to hammer home his semi-covert message: All the Arabs should be killed. The class goes into an uproar. Five students agree with Yoav and say openly: The Arabs should be killed,” the teacher told Yaron.
One student says he heard in synagogue on Shabbat that “Aravim zeh erev rav” (“Arabs are the [biblical] mixed multitude,” that escaped with the Israelites from Egypt and then caused trouble for the Israelites afterward) and are also “Amalek [the biblical archenemy of the Jewish people Jews are commanded to wipe out], and there is a commandment to kill them all.”
Another student responds that he would take revenge on anyone who murdered his own family, but wouldn’t kill all Arabs.
“Some of the other students are outraged by this [too kind response]. The student then makes it clear that he has no love for Arabs and that he is not a leftist,” the teacher told Yaron.
Another student, Michal, professes shock at what she is hearing and says she believes that the desire for revenge will only provoke a cycle of death and destruction. Not all Arabs are bad, she says, and they all don’t deserve to die. “People who decree the fate of others so easily are not worthy of life,” Michal concludes.
“The students all start shouting. Some are personally insulted, others are up in arms, and Michal finds herself alone and absorbing all the fire – ‘Arab lover,’ ‘leftist.’ I try to calm things down. The class is too distraught to move on to the biblical story. The bell rings. I let them out and suggest that they be more tolerant of one another,” the teacher says.
In the hall, the teacher sees a crowd of 9th graders has surrounded Michal and are taunting her, “Fie, fie, fie, the Arabs will die!”
The teacher broke up the students and took Michal to the teacher’s lounge and watched as she broke down in tears.
Six of the students who taunted her are suspended for two days. But Michal continues to suffer.
“She continues to be laconic. This is what always happens, she says. The opinions are racist, and her only regret is speaking out. I just want to hug her and say I’m sorry I put her through this trauma. I envy her courage to say aloud things that I sometimes am incapable of saying,” the teacher said.
For his part, one of the racist students from class, Yoav, says Michal said, “too bad you weren’t killed in a terrorist attack,” when she spoke out.
“As soon as I heard about the quarrel with that leftist girl [Michal], I was ready to throw a brick at her head and kill her. In my opinion, all the leftists are Israel-haters. I personally find it very painful. Those people have no place in our country – both the Arabs and the leftists,” the first student who professer her desire to kill Arabs told Yaron later in the year.
“Racism is part of our life, no matter how much people say it’s bad,” another student told Yaron.
In an anti-racism workshop, the moderator asked the students how they thought racism might be wiped out.
“Thin out the Arabs,” a student immediately responded.
“I want you to leave here with the knowledge that the phenomenon exists, for you to be self-critical, and then maybe you will prevent it,” the moderator responded.
Another student shot back dismissively, “If we’re not racist, that makes us leftists.”
The moderator, now desperate, looked for something small, any positive step students could take away from the workshop. “I’d like it if you took at least something small from this workshop.”
A student replies, “That everyone should live the way he wants, that if he thinks he’s racist, let him think what he wants, and that’s all.”
Yoav, one of the racist students quoted above, said that the opposition to racism is an outgrowth of Ashkenazi hatred of Sefardim and Mizrahim (Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries) – a hatred Yova says is still flourishing.
There is “discrimination between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim. We were severely punished for the incident [with Michal, who is Ashkenazi], but if it were the other way around, that wouldn’t have happened,” Yoav insisted.
He later told Yaron that he found the common saying, “What’s this, a shuk [open-air market]?” offensive, because his whole family works in the local produce market.
“Our business has existed since the state was established,” Yoav said. “I am proud of my father, who is a man of the market. What are they trying to say, that my father isn’t cultured? When people say something about ‘Arabs,’ it’s considered a generalization, but when they say ‘market,’ that’s all right. When people say ‘market,’ they are actually talking about Mizrahim. We need to change the prejudices about the market and about the Mizrahim. People say I am a racist, but it’s just the opposite,” Yoav insisted.
“There is no discussion about the topic of racism in the school and there probably will not be. We are not prepared for the deep, long-term process that’s necessary. Even though I am constantly aware of the problem, it is far from being dealt with. It stems in the first place from the home, the community and the society, and it’s hard for us to cope with it. You have to remember that another reason it’s hard to deal with the problem is that it also exists among the teachers. Issues such as ‘human dignity’ or ‘humanism’ are in any case considered left-wing, and anyone who addresses them is considered tainted,” the school’s principle told Yaron.
According to the Ha’aretz report, along with the school system’s weak handling of the racism issue, there is a whole longer series of subjects that are not recommended for discussion in schools at all in order to maintain quiet. Among those subjects are Palestinian claims that the founding of the State of Israel (“the Nakba” or “catastrophe” as Palestinians call it) hurt Palestinians by forcing many to flee their homes and become refugees, and human rights and morality issues surrounding Israeli military operations.