"…An ethnic-cultural nation-state is a basis for strong solidarity among a majority of citizens because of the national connection between them.…[A democratic political culture] does not exist to an equal extent in all democracies and it is not a necessary condition for defining a state as democratic.…[There is] tension between the value of pluralism, which encourages multiple opinions, and the value of agreeing, which strengthens unity…"
Above: Naftali Bennett
Education Ministry Issues Civics Teachers’ Guide That Downgrades Democracy, Promotes “Ethnic-Cultural” Non-Pluralistic “Nation-State” In Which Minorities Are Second Class Citizens
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Three weeks ago, Israel’s Education Ministry, which is now under the control of the right-wing Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party, issued a new teachers’ guide for high school civics. In it the Education Ministry writes that a democratic political culture “is not a necessary condition for defining a state as democratic,” Ha’aretz reported.
The teachers’ guide claims that:
• One of the causes of the “Jewish-Arab conflict” – not the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, Israel and Palestinian Authority, or Israeli Jews and Israeli-Arabs – is “arguments [made by liberal democrats and human rights groups] against the expropriation [of Palestinian] land by the state.”
• Most Israeli-Arabs identify themselves “as part of the large Arab nation.”
• Israel is a “Jewish nation-state.”
• Blames the rift between Israeli-Arabs and Israeli Jews completely on Israeli Arabs, “most” of whom identify “as part of the large Arab nation, and the greater part of them also identify themselves as Palestinians.” (The guide later admits this is not true with regard to Israel Druze and with regard to the majority of Israeli-Arab Christians.)
The guide also:
• Uses the word Jew and its derivatives 111 times but mentions democracy – which is by law very basis of the state’s political life – is only 61.
• Frequently stresses the disadvantages of pluralism while stressing the advantages of uniformity, for example:
An ethnic-cultural nation-state is a basis for strong solidarity among a majority of citizens because of the national connection between them.…[A democratic political culture] does not exist to an equal extent in all democracies and it is not a necessary condition for defining a state as democratic.…
[There is] tension between the value of pluralism, which encourages multiple opinions, and the value of agreeing, which strengthens unity…as it is a Jewish nation-state, Israeli democracy gives significant place to a republican conception [of democracy].
Assaf Malach, the chairman of the civics subject committee at the Education Ministry, defended the teachers’ guide and attacked democracy last week at a conference meant to promote it.
“Democracy has become a religion,” Malach claimed.
“To internalize democracy,” Malach also said, “[students in the state Zionist Orthodox schools] will not be persuaded if they study a bit more Hobbes, Kant or Mill, but only if they are told what Rabbi Kook or Rabbi Uziel said. The more religious the place is, the less [teaching Hobbes, Kant and Mill] is relevant. Similarly, we have no alternative but to have the non-Jewish sector undergo socialization…to [learn to accept] living as a minority in a [Jewish] nation-state. And this is also true with respect to the state’s [secular public] schools: With respect to [those secular public schools] as well it is impossible to give rise to a Jewish culture in a broad way, when [the teaching] is restricted to uniform materials,” Malach said.
The attack on democracy isn’t stopping with Malach. The men who head the Education Ministry’s Zionist Orthodox schools division are reportedly planning to redesign the matriculation (bagrut) exam for civics to suit their needs. Both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs would have to take and pass the test in order to graduate.
Academics lashed out at these attacks on democracy.
“It is clear to us that discussion of the way to teach civics is legitimate. What is not legitimate in our opinion is the continuing attempt to lead to a significant change in the teaching of the subject while excluding entire groups, without transparency and with bias,” the Academic Forum for Civics Instruction, which represents dozens of faculty members in institutions of higher education, reportedly wrote in a letter of protest sent last week to Education Minister Naftali Bennett. At the time of publication, Bennett had still not answered the academics’ letter.
Israel’s primary civics textbook, “Lihyot Ezrahim BeYisrael” (“To Be Citizens in Israel”) has gone through a process of secret editing first reported by Ha’aretz five years ago during an earlier government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuand which is continuing today. At the time the secret editing was discovered, the Education Ministry was under the control of Gideon Saa'ar of Netanyahu's Likud Party.
Two contributors to the original version of the textbook have recently asked to have their names removed from it because, they say, some of what they wrote about minority rights and conflict between Jews and non-Jews has been changed beyond recognition and without their permission.