Educators teaching the Nakba in spite of political persecution by the Legal Forum for Eretz Israel
By: Eitan Bronstein
Class in a Jewish State // Sivan Hurvitz

Last week, Zochrot held another training for educators on how to teach the Nakba using Zochrot’s kit, "How do you say Nakba in Hebrew?" Again, as in a regular ritual, The Legal Forum for Eretz Israel asked the Minister of Education to prevent this activity organized by Zochrot. The newspaper "Makor Rishon" published an item on this on Friday, 8 July 2011, under the "intelligent" headline: Nakba Studies and Hotel Accommodation for 100 Shekels.

The Forum has complained that Zochrot fails to recycle the state’s official curricula and offers a different, critical perspective on the land’s history. The Forum has also rightly implied that Zochrot would rather live in a state not only for Jews, contrary to what is a "fundamental principle of Israel as a Jewish state", as stated in their appeal.

Along with extensive quotes from Zochrot’s website and from the invitation to the teachers’ training, the Forum misled the Minister of Education in stating that the "Zochrot kit fails to bring additional perspectives on the issue, presenting instead only a one-sided version." Zochrot’s response to "Makor Rishon" (a similar letter has also been sent to the Minister of Education) refutes this claim with a quote from Unit 3 of the kit—dealing with the occupation of the village of Ein Ghazal and the deportation of its residents in 1948—from three perspectives: the UN, Israel, and refugees from the village. Israel's position is represented by an Army General Staff document whose Zionist language is familiar to every Israeli: "The villages disturbed the order … Most of their residents left them before the army’s entry … We expelled only the rioters ...." Could it be that those opposing the study of the Nakba in Israel realize that these worn justifications for the deportation of most of the country's residents in the Nakba are so baseless that it would be better to leave them unchallenged by other narratives?

The Legal Forum continues with this anti-democratic approach in asking the Ministry of Education to see "whether it possesses information regarding the identity of the teachers and educators who participated in the abovementioned course."

In response, Zochrot asked the Ministry of Education "to protect teachers against threats that have no legal basis and whose purpose is to turn teachers into spokespersons of very specific organizations and parties, as in the early days of the state, when leftists or rightists were either banned from the education system or blocked from entering it."

The Forum’s quest is to establish an informant apparatus reminiscent of very dark and violent regimes. People will be asked to expose teachers who understand the importance of studying the Nakba in Israel and actually teach it.

The content of the Ministry of Education's response to The Forum, as well as the identity of the respondent—spokesperson for the religious sector—make it clear that they do not understand why The Forum is bothering them at all on this issue. After making obvious statements regarding the need to obtain the Ministry’s approval for any activity taking place within school premises, the spokesperson notes that "the course in question took place in an external and private framework, outside school premises." Zochrot hopes The Forum will not try in the future to turn to the police, or to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, or to the Ministry of Defense etc. to ask them to prevent training consistent with the freedom of expression.

The mini-scandal aside, the training course was very successful (Thanks for asking:-). Educators who participated noted how important it is to teach the Nakba in Israel as part of our history as citizens of Israel and not because it's "the Other's narrative". Studying the Nakba, they noted, is neither self-deprecating nor a kind of favor to the Palestinians. Learning about the Nakba is an Israeli interest of the first order. Educators, participants in the seminar, told about pupils who had approached them and asked them with embarrassment, "What is the Nakba that everyone is talking about lately?" The teachers learned in this course how to teach with a critical approach towards any brainwashing and concealment. Some of them told how the Nakba had been hidden from them as students and promised not to repeat this mistake as educators.

English editing: Asaf Kedar

The image above was presented at the exhibition "Nakba, who saw? Who heard?"

Zochrot online