Palestinians push back against Israeli government discrimination in education

Palestinians in Jaffa, Jerusalem, and across Israel are challenging discriminatory Israeli education policies

Palestinian parents in East Jerusalem protest Israeli attempts to impose textbooks with history approved by the Israeli government on 17 September 2022 holding signs which say, ‘no to false curriculum’ and ‘let’s all save our children’s identity’.

Jack Dodson reports in Mondoweiss:

Christopher Karam knows there’s a subject he legally can’t bring up to his students. As a teacher at Tamrat El Zeitoun Waldorf school in Shefa-Amr, about 20 minutes north of Haifa in the Galilee, he finds under-the-radar ways to educate kids about a topic the Israeli government has banned: the Nakba.

“It feels weird every time I say it’s illegal,” he said. “It puts you in a really tight space, you have to be smart about how you talk about it.”

Karam grew up in Nazareth, where he attended an Arab-run private school, and said he learned much more about his culture and history outside of school. As a teacher now, he uses culture to get around the law, he said, which might be a way to indirectly introduce his Palestinian students to their community. The Nakba, the Arabic word for the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians from the region in 1948, often comes up in poems and songs, for example.

He might also wait for students to bring it up on their own, he said, and then encourage them to deepen their engagement with the topic. But even with these work-arounds, some parents — even those of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship — have occasionally come in and complained, arguing that “this is Israel,” not Palestine.

“It’s important for me to help guide them,” Karam said of the students, pointing out that social media can be filled with misleading or fake information that promotes a whitewashed Zionist narrative. “In the end, we’re learning their history, not ours.”

The tightrope walked by teachers like Karam and their students highlights a key issue facing the education of students inside Israeli-funded schools, even if they are in Palestinian communities.

The issue has become a key focus in Palestine this year as community members have organized to challenge the Israeli government’s discriminatory policies targeting them in Jaffa, Jerusalem and across the region.

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