An Israeli Arab advocacy group has accused the Education Ministry of forcing students to undertake a “racist” online “propaganda course” before they are permitted to go on class trips overseas.
The course, which is presented under the headline of “hasbara,” the Hebrew word for Israeli public diplomacy, encourages Israeli students to “be an ambassador” and involves watching several videos and then answering multiple-choice questions.
The course is part of the Education Ministry’s MOOC portal, which contains dozens of enrichment videos for high school students across various subjects, ranging from a class on English prepositions to another on astrobiology, and a third on the Java computer programming language.
But the Haifa-based Adalah group said the content of the course, which both Jewish and Arab students must undergo before going abroad, “promotes racist ideology” among students.
“One question asks, for example: ‘How do Palestinian organizations use digital social networks?’ The correct answer of four possible choices is ‘encouraging violence.’
“Another question asks students to identify the origins of modern anti-Semitism. The exam’s correct answer is ‘Muslim organizations and the BDS movement,'” the group said.
For one school in Nazareth, Masar High School, the mandatory online course led educators to cancel an annual student exchange mission to Sweden this year, as it “refused to allow its students to sit for such an exam which promotes racist propaganda,” Adalah said.
Adalah has notified the Education Ministry that it plans to take legal action against the course, which it argues violates Israel’s public education law.
Watch a promo video for the course (Hebrew)
Charging that the Israeli school system held “racist values,” Adalah accused the ministry of attempting to force Arab students to “assimilate” those values.
“The Israeli Education Ministry is trying to turn high school students into agents of propaganda charged with spreading extreme racist ideology,” said attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi of Adalah.
In a June 18 letter to the Education Ministry, Shehadeh-Zoabi argued the exam “focuses on core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that are the subject of deep political controversy, and students are required to choose specific ‘correct’ positions, as though they reflect an objective factual truth. The course presents a racist ideological perspective that creates an equivalence between Palestinian, Arab, or Muslim identities and violence and terrorism.”
Shehadeh-Zoabi called the clips seen in the course “blatant brainwashing that seeks to mold the outlook of the teenage students according to the views of its creators and speakers.”
She said “the one-sided presentation of questions which in their very nature require dialogue sends a wrong message to students and thwarts any attempt to educate them to [hold] dialogue and to review complicated issues from all sides prior to taking a stance.”
She said Arab teenagers were “being forced to internalize humiliating statements about themselves and their families. This is outrageous and illegal. Political and ideological coercion of citizens radically contradicts the goals of education. Adalah will take all necessary steps to abolish this course that is repugnantly offensive to Arab citizens and students.”