Knesset Rejects Bill Promoting Education Against Racism in Israeli Schools

Lawmakers reject Meretz MK Issawi Freij's proposal by 39 votes to 36.

The Knesset voted down a bill to promote education against racism in schools Wednesday.

The private member’s bill was submitted by MK Issawi Freij (Meretz) following the reports of the Superland amusement park holding separate fun days for Arab and Jewish schools, and would have made anti-racism education a national project. Thirty-nine MKs voted against the proposal, while 36 supported it.

The bill had been rejected Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which meant it went to the plenum without government backing.

Coalition members who voted against it included Ofir Akunis, Miri Regev, Gilad Erdan, and Reuven Rivlin (Likud); Ayelet Shaked and Orit Strock (Habayit Hayehudi), Tzipi Livni, Amram Mitzna and Elazar Stern (Hatnuah) and Yair Lapid, Ofer Shelah, Yael German, Ruth Calderon and Adi Kol (Yesh Atid).

The purpose of the bill was “To eliminate racist outlooks and eradicate the phenomenon of racist violence among Israeli pupils and citizens.” Under the bill, schools would devote one hour a week to issues of tolerance and awareness of racist phenomena and how to cope with them.

“Higher scores on the Meitzav [achievement tests] or the matriculation exams won’t help Israeli society,” the notes to the bill read. “Children grow up in an atmosphere that remains silent about or even bestows legitimacy on expressions of racism and violence. It is thus suggested that significant resources be devoted to eliminating this phenomenon, and that the influence of the educational system be utilized to uproot racist perceptions and negative stereotypes about the different populations that make up Israeli society.”

“Racism gnaws at us, it’s eating us up,” Freij told the Knesset Wednesday. He read out several racist statements that young people had posted on Facebook and added, “I call on all of you to understand: If we don’t stop it, if there will be racism and hatred, there is no chance that Arab society will integrate into the economy and make its contribution.”

Yaron Kaminsky