Meet the Green Line

In an article published in Haaretz yesterday, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz pointed to Egyptian textbooks as evidence that the country is not looking for reconciliation. "Most textbook maps label the area east of Egypt not as 'Israel' but as 'Palestine,'" Dr. Steinitz wrote.

It would be interesting to know how Steinitz and his right-wing comrades will react to Education Minister Yuli Tamir's instruction that all maps in new editions of Israeli textbooks show the Green Line. Tamir says we cannot demand that our Arab neighbors note the 1967 borders when our education system has erased them from textbooks and student awareness.

The claim that textbooks have been conscripted into the Arab propaganda machines appears (in three languages) on the Web site of the Israel Defense Forces intelligence division, in a section dubbed "the hatred industry." The site analyzes the textbooks distributed by the Palestinian Authority. The writers point out that the maps do not mention Israel's name. They complain that when the Green Line is marked, Israel and the territories are shown in the same color. That is one of the "sophisticated methods of bypassing the problem," the site says. It goes on to explain that this is done to make it easier to confront anticipated criticism for ignoring Israel.

And how do Israelis deal with the criticism that Israeli textbooks disregard the Green Line? They ignore it. Two years ago, we published the main points of a study by Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan of the Hebrew University's School of Education. Peled-Elhanan examined six textbooks published after the Oslo Accords, including some that were officially sanctioned by the Education Ministry. Other books were adopted by many teachers even though they were not officially approved. Among the salient findings were the blurring of the Green Line, the ignoring of Arab towns in Israel, and the presentation of sites and settlements in "Judea and Samaria" (not the "West Bank") as an integral part of the State of Israel.

The study by Peled-Elhanan, like similar research by other scholars, especially Dr. Ruth Firrer of the Hebrew University, have been gathering dust on library shelves. Prof. Yoram Bar-Gal, head of the University of Haifa geography department, says that with regard to maps, we observe the universal rule: "My map is educational, your map is propaganda." He says, "Maps are considered extremely reliable, and the State of Israel and the Zionist movement, like other states and other movements, take advantage of this for their needs."

Bar-Gal has written that politicians who bear responsibility for fateful decisions about war and peace are also responsible for providing today's youngsters with a mental map that will motivate them to protect our borders tomorrow. He says Tamir's instruction that the Green Line be returned to textbook maps will be difficult to enforce, since most textbooks are produced by private publishers who will not volunteer to change the printing blocks at their own expense. Tamir's test will therefore come when the budget is drafted.

Bar-Gal is not sure whether the general public is no longer aware of the Green Line because it was erased from the maps, and to what extent returning it to textbooks would be the decisive factor in setting student opinion. He believes textbooks are merely one place where people are exposed to the image of the Greater Land of Israel. "Has Haaretz put the Green Line on its daily weather map?" he asks.

British citizens who came into contact with former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko are not advised to get too close to Michael Karpin's recent book, "The bomb in the basement: How Israel went nuclear and what that means for the world" (Simon and Schuster). On the other hand, the book is recommended to Israeli citizens troubled by the government's nuclear ambiguity and the danger of a radioactive leak. Karpin reveals in the book that polonium 210, the radioactive substance used to poison Litvinenko, killed several Israeli scientists a few decades ago. The Weizmann Institute scientists were exposed to the dangerous substance, which was found at a number of London sites the late spy had visited, as well as in three British Airways planes that flew the Moscow-London route.

According to the book, in 1957 a leak was discovered at a Weizmann Institute laboratory operated by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Traces of polonium 210 were found on the hands of Prof. Dror Sadeh, a physicist who researched radioactive materials, as well as on various objects in the professor's home. The AEC handled the accident with deep secrecy. After a short investigation, whose results were not presented to even the workers, the lab was hermetically sealed for several months.

A month after the lab closed, a physics student died of leukemia. A few years later, Prof. Yehuda Wolfson, Sadeh's direct supervisor, also died, and Prof. Amos de Shalit, the department's director, died of cancer in 1969 at age 43.

When the leak was discovered, Sadeh was terribly anxious, but tests indicated he was well. But according to Karpin's book, the tests did not include his bone marrow. Sadeh and his wife hid the facts from their family and friends until he died prematurely. The cause of death was cancer.

The Israeli authorities did not admit that the leak and the deaths were connected, but people close to Sadeh confirmed that the state took responsibility for the accident and compensated his family.

"For the first time in many years, we can say the intelligence division carried out its important mission of giving a strategic warning about this war." - former military intelligence head, Major General (res.) Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash) in an interview with Geula Even on Channel 1, November 3.

"I would not call it a warning about the war, because we surprised ourselves. This was not a war the other side started." - Ze'evi in response to a question from Raviv Drucker on Channel 10 about whether a warning had been received about the war, December 3.