How the new civics textbook explains the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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How the new civics textbook explains the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

A biased or fair presentation of Israel’s history and the relationship between its Jews and Arabs? Read the excerpts below and decide

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Palestinian protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa compound in the old city of Jerusalem, on August 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Palestinian protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa compound in the old city of Jerusalem, on August 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Israel’s new civics textbook has been accused of being biased, presenting Israel’s narrative with a right-wing, Orthodox, nationalist slant.

Here are selected quotes on the War of Independence, the Six Day War and views of Arab-Jewish ties from the book. Fair or skewed? You decide.

  • 1948: “The results of the war were difficult for both sides… For the Jews, it was an existential war, in which they fought for their lives, with no option for escape, against an enemy that had a large advantage in the number [of troops]. On the other hand, many Arabs fled or were expelled during the war, when their villages and cities were captured, and they became refugees. The numbers fluctuate, based on different assessments, between 500,000-600,000 – some half of the Arab residents of the country in 1948. Most of the refugees found refuge in Judea and Samaria, which were annexed by Jordan and termed the “West Bank” or in the Gaza Strip, which remained under Egyptian military control.” [note: the book uses both the biblical name Judea and Samaria and the West Bank, as have previous editions]
  • “For the Arabs who remained within the borders of the State of Israel it was also a traumatic war. They remained without most of their leadership, their social and economic infrastructure was wrecked, and they went from being a majority to a minority.”
A Palestinian refugee holds a keys which belonged to his previous home, a day before Palestinians mark the "Nakba" or "catastrophe," a reference to the birth of the state of Israel in Ramallah on May 14, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
A Palestinian refugee holds a keys which belonged to his previous home, a day before Palestinians mark the ‘Nakba’ or ‘catastrophe,’ a reference to the birth of the state of Israel, in Ramallah on May 14, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
  • “Although the Palestinian account says that most of the refugees were forcibly expelled, in Israel, the accepted version is that most of the refugees fled and a minority were expelled, and that the expulsion were not part of an earlier plan. In any event, the results of the War of Independence were hard on the Arab public… Hundreds of thousands became refugees in Arab states (some of them in Judea and Samaria, controlled by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip, which was under Egyptian control,) and the problem of Palestinian refugees was born, which accompanies us until today.According to the prevailing Zionist account, the tragedy of the refugees is the consequence of those who refused to accept the UN partition plan and launched a war. The war was the outcome of the Arab leadership, which encouraged fleeing, and the result of the refusal of Arab states to give the refugees citizenship and rehabilitate them, as many other countries did at that period, [including Israel] which absorbed nearly a million [Jewish] refugees from Arab states in the early years after the founding of the state. In this view, they bear the responsibility for the outcome of the war and the suffering of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian claim is that the refugees (and their descendants, which today number over five million people) have the right to return to their homes in Israel.”
Arab Israeli and left wing student activists hold a memorial service during a rally marking the Nakba anniversary at the Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv on May 15, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Arab Israeli and left-wing student activists hold a memorial service during a rally marking the Nakba anniversary at the Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv on May 15, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
      • 1967 and the settlements: “The outcome of the war created a deep divide in Israeli society over how to treat these areas [West Bank, Golan Heights, East Jerusalem], starting with how to define them: occupied territories or liberated territories. Many Jews in Israel view these areas as their homeland, a return to the land of their forefathers, and as areas that lend the state strategic depth and strengthen its security. Many others prefer to withdraw from the areas as part of a peace agreement, due to the problems created by controlling another nation and a large Arab public, to prevent harm to the state’s Jewish character, to prevent Israel’s isolation in the world, and from the desire to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs, in Israel and in the Middle East.”
      • “Many Arab Israelis have relatives in Judea and Samaria and Arab states. The ties with them and feelings of kinship are similar to those between the Jewish citizens of the state and Diaspora Jewry.”
Israeli Bedouin women working at a Bezeq customer service center on July 27, 2015. The call center is located in a mosque, in the Arab town of Hurra. The women have been employed through the Rayan employment center in Rahat. Employment experts want to focus on quality career paths in addition to entry-level positions. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli Bedouin women working at a Bezeq customer service center on July 27, 2015. The call center is located in a mosque, in the Arab town of Hurra. The women have been employed through the Rayan employment center in Rahat. Employment experts want to focus on quality career paths in addition to entry-level positions. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
      • “The outcome of the war (1967) allowed Arab citizens of Israel to renew the ties with their brethren in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. This reunion strengthened their Palestinian identity, which was weaker until then.”
      • “The fact that the State of Israel is defined as a Jewish state and national home for global Jewry creates difficulties among a large portion of Arab Israelis. These definitions include, whether implicitly or explicitly, legitimization and recognition of Zionism, the results of which — intentional or not — come at their expense.”
      • Many Arab Israelis are concerned their cities will be placed under Palestinian control as part of a future peace deal, the textbook notes, while many Jewish Israelis “fear that in the moment of truth, their Arab national identify and Muslim religion will overpower their Israeli identity.”
      • “The concerns and fears naturally lock each community in their [own] blindness and prejudice against the other group, which are an obstacle to mutual understanding. Due to the social divisions that characterize the relations between the two groups, there are nearly no connections that can temper these fears.”
The cover of the new civics textbook "Being a citizen in Israel, in a Jewish and democratic state," published May 2016 (screen capture)
The cover of the new civics textbook “Being a citizen in Israel, in a Jewish and democratic state,” published May 2016 (screen capture)
    • “The vast majority of Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, seek to jointly have a democratic state, on the basis of shared citizenship, equal rights for all its citizens, without consideration of religion, race, gender, and upholding citizen and human rights.”
    • “The gaps between Jews and Arabs in education, employment, and income are deep.”
    • “The representation of Arab Israelis in the media is minimal, and generally in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
    • “The Israeli legislature is inconsistent in its attitude toward Arabic. There are laws granting exclusivity to Arabic, which refrain from giving any status to the Hebrew language; there are laws that give preferential status to Hebrew and a lower status for Arabic; and there are laws that grant Hebrew and Arabic equal status.”

A review of the textbook.

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