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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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As the new school year started this month, parents and city mayors launched high-profile campaigns against two teachers for their anti-occupation views.

Avital Benshalom, who had just taken up her new post as head of the School of the Arts in Ashkelon, was forced to issue an apology for signing a petition 13 years ago supporting soldiers who refused to serve.

Herzl Schubert, a history teacher, similarly found himself facing a storm of protest after he was filmed taking part in a West Bank demonstration in support of the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh during the summer vacation.

Notably, neither Bennett nor Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intervened to support the two teachers' right to free speech.

Racist depictions

Teachers and education experts who spoke to MEE said such incidents had created a climate of fear that was intended to intimidate other teachers.

Neve, a history teacher at a school near Tel Aviv, said: "Teachers are afraid to speak out. The pressure comes not just from the education ministry but from pupils and parents too. The principals are terrified something bad will happen to the school's reputation."

The education ministry declined to respond to the accusations.

Teachers and education experts point to examples of collusion between schools and the IDF in all aspects of the education system.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a professor of education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said her studies of Israeli textbooks showed depictions of Arabs and Palestinians were "racist both verbally and visually."

"They are necessary to legitimize a Jewish state, the history of massacres of Arabs, discrimination against Palestinian citizens and a lack of human rights in the occupation territories," she told MEE.

"The aim is to create good soldiers, those who are prepared to torture and kill and still think they are doing the best for the nation."

Separate studies of maps in textbooks have shown three-quarters do not indicate the Green Line separating Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories, suggesting the whole area accords with the right's idea of Greater Israel.

Revital, an Arabic language teacher, said the army's lesson plans were popular with pupils. "I don't approve of them, but the students like them. They celebrate and laugh when they kill the terrorists."

Revital said she had been disciplined for speaking her mind in class and was now much more cautious.

"You end up hesitating before saying anything that isn't what everyone else is saying. I find myself hesitating a lot more than I did 20 years ago. There is a lot more fascism and racism around in the wider society," she said.

Holocaust studies

Some of the close ties between the IDF and the education system are well known.

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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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