Israeli Educators and Academics Demand Netanyahu Cancel Agreement With Myanmar

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A demonstration of refugees in a Bangladesh refugee camp on the anniversary of the massacre of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, August, 2018.
A demonstration of refugees in a Bangladesh refugee camp on the anniversary of the massacre of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, August, 2018.Credit: MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAI

A group of educators and academicians, led by human rights lawyer Eitay Mack, have appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the Foreign Minister’s portfolio, to cancel an education agreement Israel signed with Myanmar.

Last May, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely signed an agreement of cooperation in education between the two countries, stating “the intention to continue cooperating with our friends around the world.”

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According to the details of this accord, as disclosed at the time in Haaretz, the two countries will jointly prepare study programs, with each country receiving veto rights on content relating to the other in their schoolbooks.

Tzipi Hotovely's tweet.

“It’s inconceivable that while the Burmese junta is busy committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, it has the right to interfere in curricula in Israel”, wrote the protesters in their letter to the prime minister.

The letter further states, “Every program in Israeli schools that relates to Burma must deal with the reality in which this country’s history over the last decades is characterized by genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the denial of basic human rights, and by a military regime which murders, rapes, tortures and makes citizens disappear, particularly directing its crimes at ethnic minorities."

The signatories of the letter expressed intent to fight for the cancellation of the accord, writing, "The accord oversteps the authority of the foreign ministry, bypassing normal procedures of approving curricula by the ministry of education…this is a scandalous accord which shames and sullies the entire Israeli education system…as citizens and as educators and members of the academic world we believe there is a black flag flying over this accord."

Among the signatories are Ram Cohen, the principal of the Alterman TichonNet High School in Tel Aviv; Prof. Orit Kedar from the political science department at the Hebrew University; genocide researcher Dr. Ran Shauli, who teaches about Burma at Bar-Ilan University; Dr. Ran Cohen from the literature department at Tel Aviv University; Kobi Grossman, an educator at the Mevo’ot Eron High School; a high school principal in Jaffa, David Ben-Zohar, and author Dr. Tamar Verta-Zehavi from the David Yellin College of Education.

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