Ex-Education Minister Piron Backs Teaching Nakba to All Israeli Students

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Shay Piron (right) with Yesh Atid Party chief Yair Lapid, during the party's presentation of its Knesset-candidate list on Jan. 26, 2015, in Rishon Lezion. Piron was quoted as backing the teaching of the Palestinian narrative regarding Israel's War of Independence to all students.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Yarden Skop

Shay Piron, education minister in the previous government, was quoted on Tuesday as backing the teaching of the Nakba - the Arabic word for "catastrophe," which the Palestinians use to refer to Israel's War of Independence - to all Israeli students.

Piron's remarks, in a recording broadcast by Israeli Army Radio, indicated that he supported teaching the Nakba story alongside what he called the "settler narrative."

"In the bilingual schools in Misgav" – a city 45 minutes northeast of Haifa – "I was asked what I thought about teaching the Nakba to Arab students," Piron, a member of the Yesh Atid Party, said.

"I answered that I opposed it. I support teaching the Nakba to all Israeli students. I don't think that a student can reach deep in the Israeli educational system when 20 percent of the students have an ethos, a specific story, and he does not know that story."

`Some see profit in hate'

Piron spoke at the Kibbutzim College, a Tel Aviv institute that trains teachers and therapists.

Specifically, he spoke at the launch of a book by the chairman of the Pedagogical Secretariat within the Education Ministry, Nir Michaeli, called "Yes in Our Schools: "Articles About Political Education."

He later on Tuesday spoke directly with Army Radio about his remarks, saying, "No one ever died from studying, and studying something doesn't mean you agree with it. Studying something, not studying it or ignoring it doesn't mean it does not exist.

"If we don't tell the story [and] children don't encounter it, [does that mean} it does not exist in the media? It does not come up in conversation? Can you truly ignore it?"

He added: "Some people see profit in hate."

A few days before the March 17 election, Ha'aretz had surveyed the parties. Piron responded to questions about returning the subject of the Green Line – the demarcation point to which the Israeli and Arab armies agreed in the 1949 armistices - to Israeli textbooks and about education on the Palestinian narrative within history and civics courses.

Piron said then that educational materials are the purview of the Pedagogical Secretariat, an apolitical entity, and "it's important to separate politics from the educational curriculum and to preserve the secretariat's independence."

Noteworthy is that in his tenure as minister, Piron did not add the subject of the Nakba to the educational curriculum, nor did he return the subject of the Green Line to textbooks.

Piron told Haaretz on Tuesday that he sees no contradiction in his current remarks versus what he said in the survey.

"Essential learning and knowledge are essential even for people who think as I do, that Israel is the Jewish state," Piron said.

"The minister does not set down what students will learn. That’s for professional committees to do. This is proper political education."