Israel’s education ministry is requiring all high school students, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, to take a propaganda course and test as a condition for going on overseas school trips.
“The Israeli education ministry is trying to turn high school students into agents of propaganda charged with spreading extreme racist ideology,” Adalah attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi stated.
“This is outrageous and illegal.”
Adalah is acting on behalf of the Masar Institute for Education which runs schools in Nazareth.
One of its schools used to run an exchange program with a high school in Sweden, designed to foster international dialogue and cultural exchange.
But the school had to stop the program as the only way to avoid subjecting its students to the Israeli government’s racist, and specifically anti-Arab, propaganda.
Students are forced to watch a series of videos before being tested.
Questions are designed to inculcate “a radical and racist political worldview that views Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims as terrorists and threats,” Adalah states.
Each question has only one “correct” answer that is a “political stance that the student must adopt.”
“The videos are a kind of blunt brainwashing that attempts to shape the worldview of adolescents as the course designers see fit,” the letter adds.
The course is particularly offensive for Palestinian students, who are “forced to internalize humiliating statements about themselves and their families” in order to pass, which Adalah calls a “blatant insult” and a violation of the law.
The course teaches students that modern sources of anti-Semitism include BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights – as well as what it calls “Muslim organizations.”
In reality, BDS is rooted in universal principles of justice, freedom and equality and “opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”
One question asks students how Palestinian organizations use online social networks. Of the four possible answers, the “correct” one is “for encouraging violence,” according to Adalah.
The course also forces political stances on students related to Israel’s 2005 withdrawal of settlers from Gaza and other matters related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Adalah states.
“The mere fact of presenting in such a one-sided manner questions that by their nature require dialogue conveys a misleading message to the students, and thwarts any attempt to educate them towards dialogue and to examine complex issues from all perspectives before formulating a position,” the letter states.
Park for Jews only
Earlier this month, Shehadeh-Zoabi and her toddler were denied entry into a public park in the northern city of Afula.
The attorney found a sign that states the park is open only to Afula residents.
When a security guard learned they were from the predominantly Palestinian city of Nazareth, the mother and child were barred from entering.
“I felt deeply humiliated by the situation,” Shehadeh-Zoabi said.
“Jewish residents freely walked past me into the very park that I so often enjoyed with my son while I was prevented from entering and forced to leave – simply because I am from the Arab city of Nazareth.”
“The ban was issued following an explicit election promise by Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz to act against what he deigned the ‘conquest of the park’ by residents of surrounding Arab towns,” according to Adalah.
Adalah said the ban was “aimed primarily to block residents of nearby Arab communities from making use of the sprawling facility.”
Following a petition by Adalah, a Nazareth court ordered Afula on 14 July to cancel the ban on non-residents entering the park.
Shehadeh-Zoabi speaks about her experience in this short video:
The municipality is intent on ensuring “that Afula preserves its Jewish character,” council member Itai Cohen told Israeli army radio last month as he intended a rally to protest the sale of a home in the city to an Arab family.
“Anyone looking for a mixed city – Afula is not the address,” Cohen said. “We are a right-wing place with Jewish characteristics.”
Education minister endorses apartheid
Israeli education minister Rafi Peretz, who was appointed last month, signaled his support for a formalization of apartheid.
During an appearance on Israel’s Channel 12 last Saturday, Peretz said he wants Israel to “extend its sovereignty” over the entirety of the occupied West Bank, but without giving Palestinians the right to vote.
“Asked whether this does not constitute apartheid, Peretz didn’t rule out the option that it is,” the newspaper Haaretz reported.
“We live in a very complex reality in Israeli society and in the State of Israel, and we’ll have to find the solutions,” Peretz said.
During the same interview, the minister endorsed “conversion therapy” – a discredited pseudoscientific practice that attempts to change sexual orientation and that can severely harm those subjected to it – and he asserted that he himself has done it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned as “unacceptable” Peretz’s conversion therapy comments but said nothing of his apparent endorsement of apartheid.
Peretz later walked back his conversion therapy comments, calling the practice “illegitimate and severe” and claiming he opposes it.
Thousands of teachers, activists and school associations had signed a petition calling on Peretz to be fired over his remarks if he did not retract them and threatening a strike.
While Peretz’s comments on conversion therapy generated widespread condemnation in Israel, his remarks endorsing apartheid were met with near silence.
Peretz also recently likened the rate of intermarriage among US Jews to a “second Holocaust.”
He made the remarks at a cabinet meeting earlier this month according to the publication Axios.
Hamas condemns anti-Jewish statement
Peretz’s comments on apartheid came the same week as senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad called for the killing of Jews “all over the earth.”
The Palestinian resistance organization distanced itself from Hammad’s remarks, stating that they “do not reflect the official stances of Hamas and its policy, which state that our struggle is only against the Israeli occupation which occupies our land and desecrates our holy places.”
“Again, our struggle is not with Jews elsewhere or with Judaism as a religion,” the group added. “Hamas has condemned and continues to condemn any attacks against the Jews and their worship houses worldwide.”
The organization’s policy document affirms that “its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion.”
It adds: “Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity.”
Hamas also addressed comments made by Hammad regarding the Great March of Return, reiterating that the demonstrations which have been going on since March last year are “peaceful and popular.”
Omar Shakir, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Jerusalem office, condemned Hammad’s statements:
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Middle East envoy, called Hammad’s statement “dangerous, repugnant and inciteful.”
But Mladenov – who said nothing about Peretz’s comments – has previously posed with former Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett, who openly boasts about killing Arabs.