Meretz Demands Revisions to Controversial Israeli Civics Textbook

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Israel's controversial new high school civics text book, published in May 2016.
Israel's controversial new high school civics text book, published in May 2016.Credit: Education Ministry

The Meretz Knesset faction has demanded that Education Minister Naftali Bennett shelve a new civics textbook, alleging factual errors and other flaws.

In a letter, the party’s attorney, Dafna Holz-Lechner, asked Bennett to respond within seven days and threatened legal action against the book's distribution.

“The new civics textbook deals a mortal blow to the pluralistic principles of state education by presenting reality in one-dimensional fashion, as a reality with only national religious attributes,” Holz-Lechner writes.

She also  alleged that the book thereby “subordinates the principles” of civics education in the secular schools to the spirit of the religious school system.

“The book sends a clear message that Jewish identity takes priority over civic identity,” the letter continued, while defining said Jewish identity primarily in accordance with “Orthodox, conservative and right-wing positions.”

Moreover, the text “pushes Israeli Arabs, who constitute some 20 percent of the state’s citizens, to the margins and ignores their voices almost completely,” Holz-Lechner wrote.

“Aside from the fact that no Arab participated in writing the book, the book dismantles the Arab minority into a random collection of subgroups that are judged primarily by their attitudes toward military or [civilian] national service.”

The book also “ignores and silences the existence” of different Jewish ethic groups, “aside from three negligible sentences about ‘the ethnic rift’” between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, or Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin, the letter charged.

Similarly, the text contains “no development towns; no slum neighborhoods; no conflicts over land, resources and opportunities; no discrimination and no inequality. It’s clear that the fundamental goal of the book’s authors was to create a quasi-utopian picture of reality in which we’re all Jews living together.”

Meretz’s youth wing has called a demonstration against the textbook for 5 P.M. on Tuesday outside the Education Ministry’s offices in Tel Aviv.

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