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Comments in 2012 and 2011



All Israeli schools to teach same Zionist values

To read Uri Avnery’s definition of post-Zionism, see From idealism to corruption, Zionisms all the way
This posting has 3 items:
1) Ynet news State mandates schools to teach Zionist values;
2) Ha’aretz editorial McCarthyite education;
3) Arutz Sheva  Dismissed Civics Head Claims Smear Campaign;

State mandates schools to teach Zionist values

With school year fast approaching, Education Ministry orders schools to put emphasis on national anthem and symbols

By Tomer Velmer, Ynet news
August 13, 2012

The Education Ministry has instructed teachers across the country to put an emphasis on Zionism during the upcoming school year. Schools have been mandated to focus on Israel’s national anthem and symbols in order to instill Jewish and democratic values in students.

As part of the initiative, kindergarteners are to be introduced to the Israeli flag and the menorah, and are to sing the anthem on public holidays. Elementary and high school students are to learn about Zionist icons and prominent events that shaped the national symbols during civics and history classes; furthermore, they are to study about the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

Avi Midan, the principal of Tel Aviv’s Holtz High School, welcomed the Education Ministry’s move, even though he noted that schools have long been required to teach the highlighted content.

“The Israeli people are divided on many issues, but the national symbols and the sense of belonging unite us,” he said.

Midan said that the high school staff hangs posters of national leaders in the courtyard each year, and concludes each school function with the anthem “in order to familiarize the students with their history and teach them that the state was built on much blood and tears, and that nothing should be taken for granted.”

Indoctrinating solidarity

Aliza Bloch, the principal at Branco Weiss High School in Beit Shemesh, added that creating a common Israeli identity is one of the education system’s primary roles.

“In order to make kids want to enlist in the army when they get their first draft summons at age 17, we must start teaching them about social solidarity in kindergarten,” she said. “Even kids must be familiar with the state and its symbols, and not only through history class but also through music and travel.”

Professor Asher Cohen, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University who also heads the Education Ministry’s Civics Committee, said that the role of Israel’s symbols is to express a contexture of feelings that generate group identity and social cohesiveness.

“When the students learn the anthem’s lyrics and are exposed to the longing for the Land of Israel, it creates a kind of a unity that puts an emphasis on the common national values and not on the division of the people,” he said.

McCarthyite education

Adar Cohen’s dismissal is an example of an Education Ministry seeking to wipe out any independent thought or doubt.

Haaretz Editorial
August 07, 2012

The Education Ministry’s decision to fire its civics supervisor, Adar Cohen, is another example of the mean-spirited atmosphere prevailing among the ministry’s leadership, which is seeking to wipe out any independent thought or doubt.

Cohen was dismissed because he dared to instruct civics teachers, and through them the students, that it is their right to raise questions about Israeli democracy, including its less enlightened parts. Cohen’s dismissal indicates that the Education Ministry heads are not interested in this approach.

The decision not to give Cohen tenure, and thus to fire him, was made by Education Ministry director-general Dalit Stauber, but the minister, Gideon Sa’ar, is responsible for it. Sa’ar failed to support Cohen over the past two years when rightists inside and outside the ministry conducted a campaign of smears and delegitimization against him. Now Sa’ar is hiding behind the move to oust Cohen on the pretext of “professional failures.” It is difficult to accept such an attempt at feigned innocence.

Cohen served in his post for four years. During this time civics education has undergone a fundamental change. In recent weeks, as it transpired that the Education Ministry leaders were targeting Cohen, he has been supported by senior civics and political science academics. No less important, Cohen has received encouragement from hundreds of teachers from various education streams, who mobilized to attest to his commitment and professionalism. The Education Ministry chose to ignore all these.

On Sunday night, shortly after he was notified of his dismissal, Cohen released an open letter to the civics teachers.

“We weren’t afraid of touching the painful, ruptured points in Israeli society, because our educational approach is intended to mend and include, not to divide and slander,” he wrote.

Cohen’s letter is a worthy educational legacy, but it is doubtful whether Sa’ar and his subordinates will fulfill it. Their goal is completely different – to remove any obstacle in the way of subordinating the public education system to nationalist political stands. The decision to fire Cohen is anti-educational and reflects an anti-pluralistic worldview.

Dismissed Civics Head Claims Smear Campaign

Adar Cohen, dismissed for promoting post-Zionist textbooks: I was the target of a well-orchestrated smear campaign.

By Elad Benari, Arutz Sheva
August 06, 2012

Adar Cohen, current superintendent of civics education in the Education Ministry who was informed on Sunday that he will not receive tenure, has sent a farewell letter to civics teachers in which he claimed to have been the target of a smear campaign.

Education Ministry Director Dalit Shtauber told Cohen, who was still officially on trial period, that he has failed the trial and therefore will not receive tenure. The latest decision means he will have to leave the job.

The decision to rethink Cohen’s employment appears to have been influenced by an investigative report published in the Hebrew paper Makor Rishon and which said that Cohen is suspected of promoting “post-Zionist” textbooks into the Education Ministry syllabus and preventing the entry of textbooks that reflect accepted, traditional Zionist views.

“Four years ago I decided to run for the position of head of civics after much deliberation,” Cohen wrote in the letter, the contents of which were published by Channel 2 News on Sunday night. “The choice of public service, despite the options in academia and teaching, seemed the right thing to do, as an act of Zionism and of commitment to the state and society in which I live.

“I came to you with shining eyes, and I received your back up, cooperation and support, as I did from many of my colleagues and from societies, organizations and many academics. You all know how much I loved my job, how I invested my energy and my time to no end, how I was fully committed to the system, and we made some achievements:

“We were not afraid to touch the sore, torn spots of Israeli society, and that is because the perception of our educational and pedagogical purpose was to nurse and contain, rather than divide and libel. That was the secret of our strength – the knowledge that whoever comes out of truth and confidence will be able to accommodate difficulties and doubts, even of those who are different than him. This is the secret charm of civics.

“Unfortunately, not everyone on a personal level was able to contain this complexity, and the arrows of certain people at the top were directed at me. Over the last two years a well-orchestrated smear campaign was directed at me from outside the Ministry. Hallucinatory and militant factors, who are not a part of the field of education and who made it their goal to finish my career, took every step possible to paint our work in education with political colors, in an attempt to denigrate me – but they actually meant to denigrate us all – those who are in charge of civics education. Unfortunately, many times I suffered from a lack of firm backing by the Ministry against the personal attacks on me.”

Cohen concluded his letter by saying, “Even if it has been decreed that I must leave, I am doing it standing tall and with my head held high. I believe in the righteousness of the Jewish-democratic common path through which we walked together. I thank you for all your support and encouragement, which were so important to me in this turbulent period and which came from a place of true faith in our just cause. I have no doubt that the hundreds of teachers from all sectors who have signed letters of support – all during the summer holidays – have not done so because of personal affection towards me, but from a sense that the destiny of our profession is at stake.”

Yisrael Hayom quoted passages from the textbook approved by Cohen that reflect the alleged “post-Zionist” approach. In one passage, the book says that there is a contradiction between Israel’s definition as a Jewish state and its obligation to give equal rights to all of its citizens. The book also says that “The establishment of Israel in 1948 turned the Arabs in the territory of Palestine-Israel from a majority into a minority.”

It reportedly states elsewhere: “A relationship based on control could harm the freedom and equality of those who do not belong to the majority. This is especially true when the majority espouses a selective demographic policy, which entrenches its status over time.”

This passage is seen as critical of Israel’s Law of Return.

The controversial Yotzim L’derech Ezrachit” (On the Road to Civics) approved textbook says: “The Right is generally more cynical, and supports military solutions as important to national security.The Left is generally more humane, and believes in negotiations as the best way to solve conflicts.”

At another point, the book discusses the Nakba Law, which blocks state funding for groups that mourn the creation of the state. “Representatives from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel believe the law impinges on the rights of the Arab minority,” the book reads. “There are also other proposed laws that, if accepted, are likely to harm the Arab minority in Israel, such as the oath of loyalty to the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

In yet another controversial passage, the book tells students, “The Right attaches great importance to the nation and to national heritage… The Right tends to prefer those of the same nation over those of other nationalities and exalts values connected to nationality, and the Left is more supportive of humanism.”

Cohen’s dismissal was a victory for nationalist-Zionist forces within Israel, who welcomed the decision.

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