Bennett Slams Editor of New Israeli Civics Textbook for Pushing 'Political Agenda'

Education minister says divisive sections of new textbook not included in book's final draft, refuses to apologize for wanting to strengthen Israeli education system's Jewish component.

Ilan Assayag

Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded on Wednesday to criticism of Israel's controversial new civics textbook, saying that much of the criticism was irrelevant to the book's final draft.

According to Bennett, the comparison between the 1948 Altalena incident, in which troops opened fire on an arms ship belonging to the Irgun militia, as equivalent to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin or the murder of Emil Grunzweig at a 1983 Peace Now demonstration, was deleted from the book's final version.

The section on the current wave of stabbing attacks, which says most of the attacks “were committed by Arab citizens of Israel,” was also deleted, according to Bennett. 

Bennett slammed Yehuda Yaari, the textbook's language editor, saying "it is inconceivable that a state employee would act in such a violation of trust and leak drafts of a text to promote a political agenda," adding that he refuses to apologize for trying to strengthen the Israeli education system's Jewish component.

Speaking to Army Radio, Bennett said that the textbook, "To be Citizens in Israel," will be approved in the coming days and will be printed in the coming weeks. 

"The discussion isn't about a couple of mistake, we fix mistakes when we find them. The discussion is whether Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, or a state like all others," Bennett said. "There are those who would like to forget or conceal the fact that we're a Jewish state."

On Tuesday, the Education Ministry released screenshots of Yaari's Facebook page in which he is seen sharing posts by Breaking the Silence and Meretz, while accusing him of of being politically motivated.

In an interview Tuesday morning on Army Radio, Yaari said he had prepared for the possibility of "character assassination," and said "they cannot turn me into an enemy of the people. True, a few months or weeks ago I shared  a post of Breaking the Silence, but that is not connected to the question of whether the sinking of the Altalena was political violence."