Nakba Umm al-Fahm
Israeli Arabs in Umm al-Fahm marking Nakba in 2009. Photo by AP
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The Arab Pedagogic Council has recently completed the formulation of a statement of principles under the heading "The Aims of Education and Teaching of the Palestinian Minority in Israel." The council was established by 30 academics more than a year ago, with the encouragement of the heads of Arab local councils and the Supreme Arab Monitoring Committee.

The introduction to the document states: "Like the other peoples of the world they [the Palestinians] based the building of Palestine in the city and the village ... Then the Nakba [the Palestinian 'catastrophe' of 1948] occurred, and is still happening. The Zionist movement's project to establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine by means of violent and racist actions of scaremongering, uprooting, demolishing, stealing and ethnic cleansing have brought destruction down on the Palestinian people. This process has led to the development of new and intersecting Palestinian experiences and identities, both in the diaspora and in the homeland."

The document lists 10 aims constituting "a practical step toward the fulfillment of the national, cultural and linguistic uniqueness of the Palestinian minority in Israel," and its authors intend to distribute it in Arab and Jewish society and to schools.

Among the aims presented in the document: "To deepen the Arab-Palestinians identity as a national identity, taking pride in its culture, and maintaining constant and effective contact with its Arab and Islamic roots. This identity will be based on solidarity among members of the Palestinian people, on the strengthening of the Palestinian memory and narrative, on holding firmly to the historic and political rights of the Palestinian people and on cultural, religious and social pluralism. To instill the values of dialogue with the Jewish Israeli other and the search for a horizon of a joint life in a single homeland, without the control or supremacy of any side."

The document further states: "The purpose of this educational project is on the one hand to combat the discrimination on the part of the state and its obstructive effects on Palestinian society in Israel, and on the other hand it is also a struggle against the violence of certain patterns of thinking and behavior, and against some of the ills in Arab society ... In order to achieve these goals it is necessary to develop an independent Arab Palestinian educational and cultural system."

The Education Ministry has responded: "The document has not been submitted for professional approval at the ministry. Therefore the material has not been approved for teaching in the education system."

According to Prof. Muhamad Amara, the chairman of the council, "If the Education Ministry ignores us and refuses to conduct a dialogue on the matter, we will conduct it in other circles of Israeli society. The education system does not reflect or ignores the culture and history of the Arabs, and therefore there is a feeling of estrangement and alienation from the system."

"We are calling on the ministry to adopt the principles and recognize the Arab Pedagogic Council," says council member Dr. Ayman Agbaria. "It has risen as an alternative civic body in response to the ministry's ignoring of the need to establish a council within the ministry itself and under its supervision, similar to the state religious education council."