Expunging myths from our educational curriculum (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By ALEX MILLER 08/15/12)
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George Orwell once wrote: “Myths which are believed in tend to become
true.” Unfortunately, this appears to characterize the intentions of
those targeting the recent redress of Israel’s educational system,
and specifically its civic studies.
For many years, the Left in Israel made a point of controlling the
education portfolio and inculcated our youth with extreme-Left and
post-Zionist ideals through a creeping ideological annexation of the
Nothing underscored the blurring of the Zionist lines more than the
debate two years ago over the proposed amendment to the Oath of
Allegiance for prospective new immigrants: adding the simple
words “Jewish and democratic.”
The realization of how polarized and popular the post-Zionist
discourse had become shocked many Zionists to the core. The venom and
opprobrium directed at the amendment, setting out a classical Zionist
position, proves that this discourse had permeated the mainstream.
Much of this is a direct result of the classical Zionist positions
being undermined in our educational systems for years by education
ministers such as Yossi Sarid, Shulamit Aloni and more recently Yuli
Now that a nationalist point of view is returning to the curriculum,
some on the opposite side of the political spectrum understand that
their viewpoints will be tested by critical debate. This is creating
intense sensitivity on the Left and leading to all manner of epithets
being thrown at those who are leading the return to a balanced
For too long decisions have been made that far exceeded the
parameters of acceptable discourse in Israel, which saw little
redress, and in some departments of the Education Ministry there was
there was a growing a sense of impunity with regard to the leaving of
rather large ideological footprints on our children’s educational
Only a few days ago, Adar Cohen, who headed the Education Ministry’s
Civics Pedagogical Unit, did not have his tenure renewed. The refusal
to renew Cohen’s tenure was well considered and brave.
Well considered because Cohen had allowed his firm ideological
positions to interfere with his sensitive position, which basically
dictates which textbooks our children will be reading.
Cohen allowed the secondary school civics textbook Setting Off on the
Path to Citizenship: Israel – Society, State and its Citizens, to
pass through his office even though it is replete with inaccuracies
and attacks the constitutional value of Israel as a Jewish and
Any employee in any other profession would have their contract
immediately and permanently rescinded if they allowed something to
pass through their office which was so inaccurate and diametrically
opposed by their employers, who in this case are the citizens of
Brave, because it stood in the face of the shrill, concerted efforts
by Cohen’s fellow ideologues, who mounted a campaign to besmirch
anyone who had the temerity to criticize the crass politicization of
our educational system.
Up until a month ago, as chairman of the Education Committee in the
Knesset, I was lambasted for daring to question the legitimacy of
including educational texts that refer to the reestablishment of
Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel as a catastrophe.
It is unconscionable that any democratic country would advocate a
version of history that stands in abject contrast to its national
narrative. Just over a decade ago, then-education minister Yossi
Sarid proposed that the works of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish be
incorporated into our literature curriculum.
Darwish, a former member of the PLO who resigned his position after
the Oslo Accords, it should be remembered, was accused by former
prime minister Yitzhak Shamir of calling on Jews to leave Israel in
his poem Passers Between the Passing Words with the words “So leave
our land/Our shore, our sea/Our wheat, our salt, our wound.”
However, more problematic for our purveyors of pure thought
and “freedom of speech” was the lack of outrage when, during her
tenure as education minister before Gidon Sa’ar, Yuli Tamir expunged
the teachings of Zeev Jabotinsky from educational curricula.
It was obviously considered acceptable to those who now complain
about ideological interference that important figures from the Right
were not able to corrupt the myths that were being created in the
Where were the voices raised in protest then? It is abundantly clear
from these and many more examples that it is not freedom of thought
and speech, and ideological balance, that worry those whose hackles
have been raised by Cohen’s departure and other recent developments.
It is obviously the idea that other concepts also should be heard,
read and learned by this country’s youth.
The adage in politics that “the Left rules even when the Right is
elected” is finally, after decades, being broken, thanks in large
part to Yisrael Beytenu’s commitment to core values of Zionism.
Yisrael Beytenu’s platform has brought Israel into line with many
democracies around the world in its commitment to the allegiance of
its citizens and their commitment to society.
The tyranny of the minority is ending and the national narrative of
the majority is returning to its place, as befits a democracy.
To teach our youth that their nation was “born in sin” and that our
national character is incorrect and immoral is no longer acceptable.
We must allow our children to hear many differing points of view, but
as in all things, there have to be clear and well-defined boundaries.
To allow today’s myths to place tomorrow’s Israel in an ideological
bind from which it can not free itself must be avoided for the sake
of our nation.
Our educational system has long been an obvious target for those who
wish to move beyond Zionism and build Israel anew with a different
mission and foundation. Clearly and far too obviously, this is what
the current battle is over, and not the reasons raised incessantly by
our former ideological guardians on the Left.
These myths should be set aside before they become a self-fulfilling
The writer is a Member of Knesset for Yisrael Beytenu and was
chairman of the Knesset Education Committee from May 2010 until June
2012. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 08/15/12)
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