In mid-June, the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee held a discussion on the “disappearance and silencing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Israeli textbooks.” The discussion was held following a request by Joint List MK Ofer Cassif, in the wake of a new study by Prof. Avner Ben-Amos of Tel Aviv University entitled “The Occupation in the Israeli Education System: Between Recognition and Denial.”
According to Ben-Amos, and despite what previous studies have shown, Israel’s education system is not ignoring the occupation — it is normalizing it.
The Six-Day War, its consequences, and the internal Israeli discussion on the occupation that has followed, are all somewhat present in high school textbooks. Yet Israeli students learn that the reality of occupation — holding millions of Palestinians under perpetual military rule — is neither out of the ordinary nor especially deserving of students’ attention. They are taught that this is something Israelis can live with.
References to the occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights is prevalent in Israeli social studies — most prominently in history, civics, and geography classes — as well as in informal education activities such as school trips and seminars. Yet when talking about specific subjects, one must distinguish between the national curriculum, the contents of various textbooks, and questions asked on matriculation exams.
The Education Ministry’s “curriculum document” is comprised of a set of guidelines written by a committee of Ministry-appointed experts. The program determines, very broadly, which topics should be taught in every grade.