The official history curriculum of the Israeli Ministry of Education currently presents the history of Zionism in a highly partial and biased manner, almost completely ignoring the development, desires and fears of the Palestinian people and the heavy price it paid for the establishment of the State of Israel.
Relations between Jews and Palestinians are presented in the curriculum almost exclusively from the aspect of the violent conflict between the two communities, and it tends to naturalize Palestinian hostility towards Zionism and Jews in general as an inherent characteristic of the Palestinian “mentality”, or as an irrational sentiment inspired by “incitement”. Conversely, the curriculum makes little reference to the responsibility of the Zionist movement and Jewish settlers to the development of hostile relations and the recurring and exacerbating deterioration into cycles of violence and bloodshed.
Thus, the current history curriculum contributes significantly to the erasure of the Palestinian past and to a twisted view of the relations between the two peoples inhabiting this country. In fact, it has very little to offer in the way of history, and much in the way of ideology – a monolithic Zionist one. Consequently, in the course of their high-school studies, many Israeli students adopt a one-sided view of past and present reality that combines self-victimization with hostility towards the Palestinians, a worldview that leaves little room for alternative thinking and attempts to find real solutions for the ongoing conflict.
Shuruch – Cracks in History is a teaching kit designed to fill those significant gaps by providing complementary information and insights to students of Unit 4 in the official curriculum for the 11th grade: “Building the State of Israel in the Middle East”. The program is designed to expand on the standard lesson plans and offer alternative approaches to key themes in the official curriculum. In each of the topics selected, we have provided historical information excluded from the curriculum as well as raised critical questions regarding past and present.
The kit booklet is available in Hebrew.
THE CRACKS IN BRIEF
Crack 1: Zionist Orientalism.
What is Orientalism and how does it relate to Zionism? What did the first Jewish immigrants think of the Palestinians living in the country? What kind of National Home did they envision?
Crack 2: One nation promises another the country of a third.
What were the Palestinians’ and the Jews’ expectations for establishing an independent state in Palestine/Israel upon its occupation by the British? Why did Britain ignore the former and chose to issue and implement the Balfour Declaration? Why did the League of Nations and subsequently the United Nations follow this trend? How did Palestinian nationalism develop in the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods?
Crack 3: The race for settlements and the Zionist concept of “land redemption”.
Whom did the Zionist buy land from? How did the transfer of real estate ownership affect the Palestinians who lived and worked on those lands? Was the Zionist movement aware of these consequences? This crack ties together the current struggle of the Jewish inhabitant of Kfar Shalem neighborhood in what is now southeastern Tel Aviv (formerly the Palestinian village Salama) against their evacuation and the history of evacuating Palestinian fellahs or tenant farmers from lands purchased by Jews during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods.
Crack 4: Separatism and socioeconomic segregation.
The separatist policies of the Jewish settler community in Palestine, and Zionist efforts to maintain complete segregation between the Jewish and Palestinian local economies. What emotional reactions were aroused by these policies among the country’s Palestinian inhabitants? Could things have been done differently? This crack ties together the current BDS movement and the 1930s Zionist campaign to boycott non-Jewish products.
Crack 5: The 1929 wave of violence.
The Jewish provocation that led to the escalation and mutual acts of violence, as opposed to the Zionist narrative which presents Jews exclusively as victims and Palestinians exclusively as perpetrators. What does the curriculum choose to tell us, and what does it prefer to conceal? Why is the story told only from one point of view, and what purpose is this designed to serve?
Crack 6: Palestinian awakening: The Arab Revolt of 1936-39.
The reasons for the outbreak of the revolt against the British rulers from the Palestinian point of view; the idea of transferring Palestinians is suggested officially by the Peel Commission established following the outbreak: how did local and international Zionist leaders respond to this idea?
Crack 7: Jewish terrorism.
The debate within the Jewish community in Palestine regarding the appropriate response to the Arab Revolt, which ended with the triumph of the approach calling for Jewish terrorism – as opposed to the prevalent narrative that describes the events of these years as a victory for the policy of restraint (havlaga).
Crack 8: Black Sabbath (Operation Agatha).
The story of Wolfgang (Ze’ev) von Weisl of the rightwing Revisionist Movement, his administrative detention and hunger strike – hunger strike as a tool of political struggle. This crack ties together the current hunger strikes by Palestinian administrative detainees and von Weisl’s hunger strike.
Crack 9: Minority opinion on the Palestinian question.
Dr. Yehuda Leib Magnes’ testimony before the 1947 United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP): the concept of a binational state and its present-day relevance.
Crack 10: The UN Partition Plan.
Critical reassessment of the claim as though the Palestinians have lost their home because they had rejected the Partition Plan: did the Zionist leadership truly endorse the plan, or was it nothing but a diplomatic ruse?
Crack 11: The Nakba.
Information about the expulsion and refugeehood of Palestinians at each stage of the 1948 War; the Haganah’s Plan D and the deliberate planning of ethnic cleansing; information about massacres, rapes and lootings; discussion of the 2011 “Nakba Law” and its prohibition of marking Nakba Day as a day of mourning.
Crack 12: The betrayal of the Palestinians by the Arab countries.
The Palestinians as victims of political interests of neighboring Arab states; King Abdullah of Jordan’s betrayal of the Palestinians and his verbal agreement to divide the Arab State designated by the UN Partition Plan with Israel, and annex “his” territories.
Crack 13: Arab hospitality.
Where did the Palestinian refugees go to? How were they accepted by neighboring Arab countries? Do the Palestinians truly have somewhere else to go to?
Crack 14: Right of return.
Why have the State of Israel consistently refused to allow the Palestinian refugees back to their lands and homes? Why have the refugees consistently refused to give up their right to return? What international legal principles and conventions provide support for the Palestinian demand to return?
Crack 15: The ongoing Nakba.
What happened to the property left behind by the Palestinian refugees? The 1950 Absentee Property Law; continued displacement and dispossession in the years following the establishment of the State of Israel.
Crack 16: Strangers in their own land.
Who are the internally displaced persons? The 1948-1966 Military Government of the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel; the 1956 Kafr Qasim Massacre and the ridiculous punishments meted out to its perpetrators.
Written by Adva Zeltzer
Edited by Amaya Galili
Design: Nirit Binyamini and Gila Kaplan
English version of the Introduction by Ami Asher
Production: Zochrot Education Department
Published by Zochrot, 2016
Photo credit: Zoltan Kluger. “Street scene in Jaffa. In the photo, a Jewish immigrant from Bulgaria talks with an Arab”, October 10, 1949, Israeli Government Press Office.