Israel Israeli Arabs Middle East peace process Palestinians

Give Israel’s Education Ministry credit: new text acknowledges Palestinian narrative

Yuli Tamir, Israel’s Education Minister, gets it. She and her staff have taken a tiny step towards a goal that has never been a priority for either Israel or the Palestinian Authority/PLO: acknowledging that there are two very different narratives at work here, two different ways of looking at the same set of events. Those narratives can’t be reconciled. But right now, they aren’t even understood. Except in isolated dialogue groups and a few private educational initiatives, the knowledge that decent, reasonable people on both sides accept different versions of the narrative is not disseminated. Neither is the fact that it is possible to acknowledge and appreciate at least part of the “other side’s” narrative.

So give some Israeli officials credit for trying to do something about this problem by introducing a textbook that (how shocking! how innovative!) acknowledges that Palestinians have suffered as a result of Israel’s creation. But don’t get too excited. Alas, this is being done in a textbook only for Israeli Arab children. Will it be the start of something more ambitious? Will Tamir get away with even this tiny step? Here’s the AP story:

For first time, an Israeli textbook offers Palestinian narrative of the country’s creation
The Associated Press; July 22, 2007

JERUSALEM: A new third grade textbook for Israeli Arab students acknowledges that Israel’s creation was a tragedy for Palestinians, Israeli officials said Sunday — a rare statement that remains explosive six decades after the country was founded.

The books issued by Israel’s Education Ministry for the upcoming school year describe the events of 1948 and 1949, when Israel’s creation drew an invasion by Arab armies, resulting in fierce fighting and the displacement of some 700,000 Palestinians.

The new textbooks give the Jewish narrative of the war, pointing out the Jews’ historical connection to the Holy Land and their need for a state because of persecution in Europe, said Dalia Fenig, an Education Ministry inspector. But they also offer the Arab version of the war for the first time, she said, explaining why its results were tragic for Palestinians and referring to the Arab defeat as “al-Naqba,” Arabic for catastrophe.

“The new approach says, why should you hide anything? That won’t make it disappear, and … the issues can be debated,” Fenig said.

Click to read the whole article

26 thoughts on “Give Israel’s Education Ministry credit: new text acknowledges Palestinian narrative

  1. Jeez. You don’t give up, do you? I really do admire you and Tamir and those who agree with you for trying to change a fundamentally racist ethos from within. It can’t be very comfortable to be a decent person in the belly of this particular beast. Hats off.

    But the most important part of this story is that even a few honest paragraphs about the Naqba for Palestinian children living in Israel are treated as daring and controversial. After all of this time, most of official Israel can’t even bring itself to admit that the Palestinians suffered, let alone that the Zionists caused the suffering.

    Teddy and Tom Mitchell and your other fans call attention to the Arab armies who invaded in 1948, the “pogroms” in Jaffa and Hebron and all of the other problemmatic behavior by Arabs confronting an invasion by European Jews intent on setting up their own state. And from this, the Zionist left concludes that there are “two sides” to the narrative and both need to be acknowledged and honored.

    But the ethnic cleansing and the outright atrocities perpetrated by the Zionists were far more reprehensible than anything the Palestinians and other Arabs did. Anyone who looks objectively at the “different versions” of history understands that.

    What has to happen is not that both sides realize that decent people can accept and believe in a contrary narrative. What has to happen is that Israelis and all of their bankrollers overseas acknowledge that a crime was committed against the Palestinian people. Then, and only then, can any progress be made.

  2. I agree, Marco. There is no comparison between Zionist behavior and what the Nazis did. But the Germans have spent decades doing a lot of soul-searching and paying reparations. Why can’t the Israels and Jews in America do at least a little soul-searching and look at themselves in the mirror? I think the world would be better if they did 1/10th of the soul-searching the Germans have done.

    Also, the Brits eventually began to realize that their empire was based on egregious colonialism and exploitation. I’m a Canadian but I’ve lived in England and know that they came to terms with their past by acknowledging the evils of their ancestors. Why can’t the Jews?

  3. Interesting point, Victoria. I never thought of it that way. How about 1/20th of the soul-searching the Germans did? And don’t forget how many Americans realized that their country was built on the bones and backs of slaves, and at least acknowledged the evils of their ancestors…

  4. Marco,
    Yea I guess what the Israelis did was worse than the suicide bombers, the terrorist bombs in cafes, the snipers shooting at civilians in Jaffa in 1939-39, etc. Why? Because the Israelis won.

    The Nazis murdered six million Jews, they invaded most of the countries in Europe, and they killed millions more in warfare in the wars they began. Those killed by the Israelis number less than 100,000 and the vast majority of them was in combat in the Arab quest to stamp out the Jewish state. So purely on a numerical basis the Israelis wouldn’t need to do 1/10th or 1/20th the soul-searching.

  5. Tom,

    I was careful not to equate the crimes of the Israelis and Nazis. Only a fool would do that. But confronting the past and the moral crimes of one’s people involve the same process wheter you are Israeli or Turkish or German or American or British or Syrian. The Israelis did more than physical violence. They wiped out all traces of Artab villages and pretended that they never existed. They destroyed mosques and built housing on Muslim cemetaries. They expropriated Arab land after the War of Independence, They expanded this expropriation after ’67 when they got the chance. And if they did 1/100th of the soul searching done by the Germans it would be more than they do now!

  6. Victoria,
    I’m sure that when the conflict is over there will be plenty of soul searching. But what soul searching have the Palestinians done? They want Israel to admit an unqualified “right of return” to the 1948 refugees and their descendants on a trust us basis that few will apply for compensation. In the discussions on refugees the Palestinians want Israel to carry the entire burden of responsibility for the exodus without admitting any responsibility on their part and that of the Arab governments. This is like a lawyer for one party in a car accident asking the other party to admit that the accident was entirely his/her fault, when the accident was really the fault of both. And he/she is supposed to take the word of the lawyer that he won’t then sue for punitive damages!

    You should also look at all the Jewish property that was expropriated in Arab countries. Jews were hanged after show trials in Iraq and Syria. Have the Arab countries done much for preserving the history of the Jews there, except to say that the Jews had no problems. Maybe Israel might have to admit that they didn’t treat Arab property better than the Arabs treated Jewish property. But where are the tears for what was done to Jews in Arab lands after the conflict began, and before?

  7. As Dan notes, this is only for Israeli “Arab” (Palestinian) textbooks. Although this is clearly part of a strategy on the part of the Israeli Ministry of Education to show some consideration to the Palestinian population of Israel, it’s much more noteworthy that any aspect of this narrative is absent from the Hebrew language books sent to Jewish schools.

    From the NYT: “But the Hebrew version of the third-grade book does not include the Palestinian version of the events of 1948. Ms. Fenig said that while the Arabic translation was adjusted to address Arab sensitivities and culture, Jewish third graders were considered too young to cope with the conflicting narratives.”

    The culture of denial continues in full effect.

  8. Kevin, I agree with you. I also agree with Tom, at least to some extent, because the Israelis are not only the ones in denial. But I am not sure what the expulsion of Jews in Arab countries has to do with this particular issue.

  9. As an aside… the word is Nakba not Naqba. Hebrew speakers can’t say this word very easily (although it is eminently pronounceable to English speakers) so they say Naqba. But now a whole range of Anglophone writers and speakers have picked up the Hebrew mispronunciation, and I’m seeing it come up all over the place. It’s like American newscasters saying Khamas instead of Hamas. Hebrew speakers have to say Khamas, ok. But English speakers can say it right – Hamas!

  10. Hamas is spelled chet-mem-alef-samech (in Hebrew) and pronounced
    chamas or kchamas

    Naqba is spelled hey-nun-chaf-bet-hey (in Hebrew)
    there is no sound like a chaf in English it’s between a ‘q’ and a ‘k’.

    I don’t know the Arabic spellings but I do know that the pronunciations are similar in Arabic.

    Nevertheless, thanks for the interesting retarded theory.

  11. Chris has to get his out somehow… I love it when a bit of logic gets a Zionist all up in a fluster.

    Thanks for pointing out the obvious in any case. I know how the Hebrew is pronouncd – Khamas, Naqba – fair enough, it’s how the language works.

    The Arabic pronunciations are different – they are: Hamas, Nakba. These sounds are not a problem for Anglophones. So Anglophones should stop writing/saying it incorrectly when speaking English.

    By the way, it’s Hummus. Not Khummus.

  12. All,
    I don’t understand the difference between “naqba” and “nakba” since both are pronounced the same in English. I think the difference has to do with transliteration schemes.

    Actually in Arabic there are three “h” sounds: one like the English h or Hebrew ha, one like kh or khaf, khet in Hebrew, and one that is midway in between the two.

    The reason that Jewish refugees from Arab countries are relevant is that the Palestinian Charter/Covenant states at the beginning that the Palestinian people are part of the Arab nation. What took place is a mutual exchange of populations between the Arab nation and the Jewish nation similar to that that occurred in the Indian subcontinent in 1947 or in Asia Minor in 1922-23.

  13. Arabic and Hebrew have the same pronunciations except that there there is no bet (or vet) in Arabia and it is pronounced instead as a ‘w’.

    Hummus is pronounced Khummus the first letter in Hebrew is chet and the the first letter in Arabic is cha (phonetic value /kh/).

    In Arabic ‘moron’ is pronounced ‘Kevin’ and in Hebrew it’s pronounced ‘looser’. But the Anglophobe press confuses the whole issue and pronounces it ‘truth’.

  14. Wow Chris, your insults are as profound as your knowledge of linguistics. Let me offer a lesson for free: the letter that begins the words Hummus and Hamas in Arabic is not pronounced /kh/ – there is a different letter (it has a dot above it) that produces this sound in Arabic. It is indeed pronounced /H/.

    Interestingly the issue isn’t a Hebrew vs Arabic thing, but a colonial vs native thing: modern Ashkenazi Hebrew pronounces the Hebrew equivalent to this letter – chet – as /kh/… but Mizrahim (when not adopting an Ashkenazi accent) would pronounce this as in Arabic, with an aspirated “H” (some say the Mizrahi accent is more “authentic” – I’m not bothered either way). That’s why these words are transliterated by Arabic speakers and scholars with the letter H. If you ever listened to an Arab say these words in English or Arabic, they would very clearly not be saying khummus etc.

    It’s clearly your arrogant narcissism that makes you think that how you and other settlers say the word is correct. Clearly you’ve never spoken to an Arab (perhaps other than to demand his ID). Do you know the imperative “Rukh!”? It’s actually “Ruh!” Any Israeli knows how to bark that at an Arab, but amusingly they always mispronounce it. And remember, when you shout that at an Arab, he’s always laughing at you inside.

    As for Tom’s comment, I guess it’s subjective but Naqba and Nakba sound different to me in English. And in Arabic Naqba means something different than Nakba. My very simple point is why follow the Hebrew (mis)pronunciation (I’m not complaining about modern Hebrew speakers as it’s just how they speak) when it’s easily said correctly in English.

  15. Thanks for the fascinating interchange on pronunciation. Now I don’t know whom to believe. What Kevin says does conform to my much more limited experience in listening to and trying to be understood in both languages.


    I was interested in your use of “colonial vs. native” to describe the development of modern Hebrew. I assume you would use the same shorthand to describe the entire Zionist movement and its relationship to Palestinian Arabs.

    The pre-State Zionists, certainly tried to take advantage of the colonial regines of the Ottomans and then the Brits. They had some things in common with typical “colonists” and they were certainly perceived as extensions of British colonialism by Palestinian and other Arab leaders. But do you honestly think there is NO important difference between the Jewish national movement and, say, the prisoners who settled Australia or the American colonists or the Brits in India? Isn’t Jewish nationalism a special case? You might reject it outright, but do you see no differences? If you do, what do you think the differences are?

  16. Zionism is a special case, for it combines the worst aspects of politicized ethnic fundamentalism, extremist organic nationalism and racist colonialism.

    Zionism used as it models Prussian treatment of Poles as well as Russian treatment of Muslim populations in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

    How it could have been otherwise?

    After all, the vast majority of Zionist colonist invaders during the pre-State period came from Germany, Austria, historically Polish regions and territories that had belonged to the Czarist empire.

    With what other models did Zionist colonist invaders have experience?

    The theft and ethnic cleansing of Palestine is a far more heinous crime than the Holocaust.

    Racist Eastern European Ashkenazim planned the theft of Palestine in the late 19th century.

    Zionist invaders carried out most of the theft, ethnic cleansing and genocide in the middle of the twentieth century.

    And now in the twenty-first century, Zionist invaders and subversive American Zionists are trying to finish off the job right before our eyes in such a way that 1.6 billion Muslims will hate the USA for centuries.

    In this way Zionists guarantee the USA and the Israeli state will be joined at the hip until the USA collapses under the burden.

    Anyway, the Zionist crime against Palestinians constitutes the archetypal genocide because it has been and remains so cold-blooded and because it takes place across such an amazing time-frame.

    Is there any history of Palestinians coming to Eastern Europe to plunder and to kill ethnic Ashkenazim?

    In contrast, racist Eastern European Ashkenazim were up to their eyeballs in mass murder, genocide and ethnic cleansing long before the mass murders of Jews started after June 1941.

    Modern ethnic Ashkenazi history can only be understood as a whole

    1. in relation to ethnic Ashkenazi collaboration with German and Austrian imperialists in German and Austrian Poland,

    2. in relation to radical Russian Ashkenazi revolutionary criminality in the Czarist and Soviet Empires,

    3. in relation to the murder of Arab Palestine,

    4. in relation to the subversion of the British Empire to serve Zionist goals, and

    5. in relation to the subversion of the USA on behalf of Soviet Communism and on behalf of the Zionism.

    Obviously, we also must discuss the achievements of Eastern European Ashkenazim in literature, the arts, spirituality, and philosophy, but there is no dearth of studies of the admirable aspects of modern Eastern European Ashkenazi culture.

    To really appreciate the good we must look at the dark side as well just as Germans must in their context.

    Here are two short essays on the subject:

    * Nazi Holocaust in Context of Soviet Holosphage and Zionist Holoexaleipsis —

    * The Pattern of Ethnic Ashkenazi Genocidalism: The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkine —

    On the whole in comparison with the other peoples among whom they lived for the last three hundred years, ethnic Ashkenazim have had more education and more liquid assets. It is a combination that makes it possible to do a lot of harm.

    If the terminology of this reply is not clear, please consult:

    How to talk about Zionism, a new improved guide —

  17. Joachim,

    I guess it was only a matter of time before you found me. I became a bit familiar with your perspectives on MondoWeiss, and have since learned that your reputation in this realm precedes my blog or Phil’s. Anyone who cares to Google your name can find your rich and interesting heritage in the Boston area. See, for example:

    But we have a tricky situation here. my friend. If I don’t respond to any of your assertions, then it will be a triumph for the folks at Jihad Watch or the other right wing media monitors. They want to prove that lefty Jews like me are jihadist plants. You see, they will cry, “Fleshler didn’t even argue with him! He’s one of them!”

    But if I do respond and start arguing, then I will blow my own cover, as the Mossad and The Elders did not set this blog up to draw out well-known provocateurs like you. They set it up to draw out more subtle, more covert obstacles to our plan to subvert the Federal banking system, ruin American family farms, send our subliminal messages through podcasts and i-Phones, and divert attention from all of our activities by staging the arrests of agents Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

    So I don’t know what to do…The Elders aren’t helping me. They’re just telling me to go to bed now. I can’t find any advice in the Protocols. You could certainly solve my problem by leaving me alone though. How about it, guy? If you go back to Phil’s blog, the Elders will be very happy and so will I.

  18. Hey moron Kevin

    This the the Arabic for hummus:

    (if you can’t read it change your browser to view>encodings>Arabic) in your browser)

    Then look up the Arabic alpha bet:
    That first letter without a dot is ‘h’ with a dot (as hummus is spelled) is kh.

    I can only wonder where a fool like you gets these moronic theories. It obviously has a something to do with the projections that you make about others. I don’t prejudge people, I can only tell that you are moron that babble about things that he does not know about and worse.

  19. Oh yeah, moron Kevin, there are also very distinct accents and pronunciations in Arabic, between each and every country and region.

    A call center in Israel cannot serve Saudi customers becasue they pick off the “Palestinian” Arabic accent in a half a second.

    Are you are mohr-on, a maur-on, a muar-ahn or just a moron?

  20. Chris,
    I work for a living and do this in my free time, so I can’t monitor comments here as frequently as I would like. I need to ask you to stop calling people insulting names. Thus far, the visitors to this blog have generally avoided the kind of personal insults you just hurled at Kevin. Thanks in advance for your help in sticking to the protocol.

  21. Dearest Chris

    As with all Zionists, your eyes fool you: the truth is there in black in white. Look carefully at the first letter of the Arabic script you’ve supplied. There is no dot – the letter is /h/ not /kh/ (check your wikipedia if you need to). Above the first letter, there is a short vowel, called a damma (a small “waw” – which produces the short /u/ sound).

    The word you’ve written out is pronounced in Arabic as hummus. Go down the street to your local Arab owned felafel stand. Say “Sabah al-Khayr” (not Sabakh al-Khayr) and then ask them for some hummus and humble pie. There is no such thing as Israeli khummus.

  22. Transliteration of the 6th and 7th letters of the Arabic alphabet is somewhat arbitrary because neither sound occurs in English. But the transliterations of the two letters should be different because they represent different sounds.

    If I were using Spanish orthography, I would probably write jummuc for chick pea, xaaliq for creator an jamaas for the political movement.

    BTW, hummus is the equivalent of Hebrew himtzah. MIH speakers use hummus for chick pea spread but Arabic speakers do not because in the Arabic language the term is hummus bitihina.

    In any case, transliterating the Arabic word for catastrophe as Naqba seems wrong because the second consonant in the word corresponds exactly to an English k.

    Because MIH koph corresponds to English k in all positions,* the MIH transliteration of the Arabic word uses koph where the tradition Hebrew-alphabet transcription of Arabic/Judeo-Arabic would not.

    Unfortunately, people that try to be precise in transliterating Hebrew map koph onto q and kaph onto k in order to suggest proper Hebrew morphophonemic relationships. This sort of hypercorrectness becomes misleading when transliterating from Hebrew words that have been transliterated from Arabic into Hebrew.

    (*) In Hebrew orthography kaph at the end of a syllable is almost always said kha. One exception is vatevk (and she wept) because this word ends in a consonant cluster. Because of the rule of fricativization of kaph, transliterating nakba from Arabic into Hebrew with a kaph tends to mislead MIH speakers.

  23. Hey maur-on, Arabic is read from the right to the left. Maybe your browser is not set up for right to the left characters showing up correctly, sometimes browsers show the correct characters and reverse the order. What side do you see the dots on- the left or the right?

  24. hoummos and tehina are two different things- hoummous is from chick peas in some places and foohl beans in other places. tehina is from sesame and is usually served in on top of the hoummous, at least in Jordan and Egypt (where they use foohl rather than chick peas)

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