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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/29/15

Israel's army and schools work hand in hand, say teachers

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In practice, say teachers, it has led to regular visits to schools by army officers as well as reciprocal field trips to military bases for the children, as a way to encourage them to enlist when they finish school.

Although what takes place during visits is rarely publicized, the Israeli media reported in 2011 that on one simulated shooting exercise children had to fire their weapons at targets wearing a keffiyeh, or traditional Arab headdress.

"Militarism is in every aspect of our society, so it is not surprising it is prominent in schools too," said Amit Shilo, an activist with New Profile, an organisation opposed to the influence of the army on Israeli public life.

"We are taught violence is the first and best solution to every problem, and that it is the way to solve our conflict with our neighbors."

Fear of being sacked

MEE has had to conceal the identities of the teachers it spoke to, because the education ministry requires pre-approval of any interviews with the media.

Most of the teachers were concerned that they might be sacked if they were seen to be criticizing official policy.

All the teachers noted that schools have come under mounting pressure to actively participate in the army program.

Each school is now graded annually by the education ministry not only on its academic excellence but also on the draft rate among pupils and the percentages qualifying for elite units, especially in combat or intelligence roles.

Schools with a high draft rate can qualify for additional funding, said the teachers.

Ofer, a history teacher in the centre of the country, said: "When it comes to the older children, you have to accept as a teacher that the army is going to be inside the school and in your classroom. All the time the students are being prepared for conscription.

"The army is treated as something holy. There is no way to speak against the army at any point."

Rachel Erhard, an education professor at Tel Aviv University, recently warned that Israel's schools risked becoming like those of Sparta, the city in ancient Greece that famously trained its children from a young age to be warriors.

Public hounding

There are additional pressures on principals to participate, note teachers.

Zeev Dagani, head teacher of a leading Tel Aviv school who opted out of the program at its launch in 2010, faced death threats and was called before a parliamentary committee to explain his actions.

The public hounding of teachers who oppose the militarization of Israel's education system, or are simply active outside the classroom in opposing the occupation, has continued.

Adam Verete, a Jewish philosophy teacher at a school in Tivon, near Haifa, was sacked last year after he hosted a class debate on whether the IDF could justifiably claim to be the world's most moral army.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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