Education ministry revising textbook for being too critical of Israel
Offending book was written in the late 1990s and is used in nearly 90 percent of high schools.
The Education Ministry is rewriting the country's main civics textbook, and the chairman of the ministry's pedagogical secretariat will begin publishing updates on the ministry's Web site as early as the upcoming school year.
The main contention of the chairman - Zvi Zameret - is that the textbook dwells too much on criticism of the state, sources in the Education Ministry who took part with Zameret in discussions on the book told Haaretz.
Zameret has criticized a sentence in the book - "Being Citizens in Israel" - on Israel's Arab citizens stating that "since its establishment, the State of Israel has engaged in a policy of discrimination against its Arab citizens."
Zameret also admitted that he helped write a critical report on civics studies by the Institute for Zionist Strategies, the right-wing think tank that released a paper alleging post-Zionist bias in sociology courses in Israeli universities.
"Zameret is trying to move the emphasis in civics studies from citizenship and democracy to Judaism and Zionism," said the chairwoman of the academic forum for civics instruction, Dr. Ricki Tessler of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "The message coming down from the top is sectoral and non-pluralist."
According to a source on the civics studies committee, "What Zameret cares about today is strengthening Zionism and national patriotism. A lot of this pressure comes out in the subjects of history and civics."
In his capacity as chairman of the pedagogical secretariat, Zameret is responsible for the curricula taught in the Israeli education system.
The textbook in question was written in the late 1990s and is used in nearly 90 percent of high schools. Ministry sources told Haaretz that Zameret has said the book was focused too much on conflicts and social divisions, and that greater emphasis must be put on the history of the state, such as its establishment in 1948.
One of the first chapters to be rewritten will probably be the one on Israel's Druze community. Zameret has harshly criticized the chapter for what he called excessive attention to Druze who define themselves as Arabs.
The chapter describes two approaches on the Druze's national identity. One is based on the view that the Druze are "an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation." The other is that their identity is based on Israeli citizenship rather than Arab nationhood.
The book in its current form stresses that the second concept is the most popular in the Israeli Druze community.
About a year ago, the Institute for Zionist Strategies published a report criticizing civics studies in Israel. The report alleged that the current curriculum damages Zionist and patriotic education, amid flaws that have ideological, moral and social implications that might weaken Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state.
Some months after the report was released, Zameret took part in a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee in which he said that "democracy is based on the demos - the people comes first, the majority comes first, and one of our problems is that we don't hear the majority."
When the chairman of the committee recommended that Zameret read the Institute for Zionist Strategies' report, Zameret replied that he "took part in it."
"The civics studies committee, chaired by Prof. Yedidia Stern, decided to accept a proposal by the ministry's inspector of civics studies to publish a new chapter on the Druze," the Education Ministry said in a statement yesterday.
As for the report by the Institute for Zionist Strategies, the statement noted that the Education Committee meeting took place before Zameret took office as the chairman of the pedagogical secretariat.
"Zameret denies the claims in the media that he participated in the writing of the report by the Institute for Zionist Strategies," the ministry said. However, the introduction to the report lists Zameret as one of the academics who had "read all or some of the position paper, and clarified and commented on various sections."