Former education minister Shai Piron said Monday he believes students at Israeli schools should be exposed to varied and even opposing views regarding the establishment of the State of Israel, including the Palestinian “Nakba” narrative, according to which the founding of the Jewish state in 1948 is considered a national tragedy.
Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv, Piron, a Yesh Atid party MK, said that “political education” requires of teachers to expose their students to a wide range of different narratives and opinions, according to Army Radio.
The statement by Piron broke a long-standing taboo in mainstream Israel, which has traditionally downplayed the Nakba narrative. Recent legislative efforts by nationalist lawmakers have attempted to pull funding from schools that mark the Nakba.
Piron said, though, that exposing students to it in schools would help reduce racist tensions across Israeli society.
“[I was asked] what I thought of Arab [Israeli] students learning the Nakba [narrative] in the education system,” Piron said. “I answered that I’m against it — I’m for teaching the Nakba to all students in Israel. I do not think that a student can go through the Israeli educational system, while 20% of students have an ethos, a story, and he does not know that story.”
“Nakba” is the term commonly used by Palestinians to refer to the catastrophe that befell them when Israel came into existence in 1948 and 760,000 refugees fled the country or were forced into exile.
The issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees to areas which are currently part of the Jewish state has long been a key sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Israel fears that any flexibility on the issue would open the floodgates to millions of refugees and refugees’ descendants, which would pose a demographic threat to the “Jewish and democratic character” of the state.
Palestinians mark Nakba Day every year on May 15.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.