Last update - 02:35 11/06/2007
Zion fails the Civics examination
By Daphna Golan
In today's Civics bagrut (matriculation exam), pupils will be asked to apply various approaches they have studied referring to the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country when analyzing part of an article. The following segment, for example, will probably not be included on the test: "On May 24, 2007, a day after Hamas agreed to stop firing Qassam rockets if the cease-fire were also extended to the West Bank, Israeli soldiers arrested some 30 central figures in the Palestinian administration in the West Bank. Among those arrested was the Palestinian education minister.
"The minister, Nasser al-din Shaer, does not know what he is accused of, and the Shin Bet security service is preventing his lawyer from receiving an explanation regarding the arrest. The arrest order, which did not include a trial, is valid until December 4, 2007, and the minister is being held under humiliating conditions within Israel despite humanitarian laws expressly forbidding that." To the pupils' joy, they won't have to explain and justify which approach to a "Jewish and democratic" state is reflected in this paragraph.
I'm happy that the occupation has been removed from civics studies in Israel, because my son is taking his examination on the subject this year, and even so can't manage to understand how a state can be both Jewish and democratic when about one-fifth of its population is not Jewish. Why confuse him with almost another four million Palestinians who have lived under occupation without any rights for 40 years already? The bagrut textbook "To be Citizens of Israel - a Jewish and Democratic State" explicitly states that human rights and participation in elections are the basis of a democratic state. But it doesn't say anything about the occupation, or those living in the occupied territories who don't have any human rights or the possibility of electing their leaders.
I also hope that the Civics bagrut will be very successful this year, because it's a shame to waste time and money on yet another committee set up by the Education Ministry to examine why so many pupils fail it. Committees have already been established, recommendations have been made and the education minister has even announced that the civics studies would be expanded. But all of these plans are a waste of time when the minister is party to a government that arrests an education minister and jails him without a trial, while thousands of Palestinian pupils are taking their own bagrut exams.
Along with the Palestinian education minister and 880 other Palestinian detainees who are being jailed without having stood trial are 14
high-school aged Palestinian youth. They also don't know when they will be set free, or why they were arrested. It is uncertain whether they fully understand the relationship among the military officer who signed the order for their administrative arrest, the Shin Bet security service operatives who refuse to let their lawyer know why they were arrested, and the commander of the civilian jail where they are being held. They're lucky they don't have to be examined in the Israeli Civics bagrut. At any rate, they don't have any kind of citizenship. Their leaders have been jailed without trial since they were born. When they were young, their schools were closed for years and their universities were at a standstill. It's unclear whether they managed to study about Palestinian civilian democratic society, which Israel destroyed in the 1990s.
But the future of the youngsters who are sitting in jail, far from their families, is tied up with the future of Israeli youth who are about to take the bagrut exam in Civics. Will they find the way to a respectful citizenship and one that respects all other human beings - which makes it possible for everyone to participate in a democratic way of life and observes their rights as individuals and as part of a group? How I hope that they will find another way to earn citizenship in the country or in countries of peace, and not a life under occupation or in a country that is neither Jewish nor democratic.
Dr. Golan teaches in the Law Faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Futher reading on Daphna Golan-Agnon:
Daphna Golan teaches human rights at the Hebrew University. She takes her students out to the "field", the West Bank, to research specific topics. The right to education, for example. Today, they have been south of al-Khalil (Hebron). The settlers there have been terrorising children on their way to and from school. The kids' journey should take 20 minutes but to avoid the settlers they go by back routes which take them two hours. I ask how old the children are. "Seven or eight. Today they went the short way because we were with them and the settlers could not harm them but we could see that the children were very, very frightened." I ask how the settlers terrorise them. "They beat them. And they are armed. It is very strange," she says. "You know, these are not the settlers that you imagine. These are young people like hippies. Long hair, bright clothes, rasta hats. They grow organic vegetables. They carry their guitars and their guns and they are vicious."
Separate but Not Equal
Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Students in Israel
Daphna Golan-Agnon, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Palestinian Arab education in Israel receives inferior allocations for training, supervision, nature, and art lessons. In general, the physical conditions in the schools are bad and they lack basic study aids. The Palestinian Arab schools have significantly fewer of the unique programs in which the Ministry of Education invests. But discrimination in budgets and "how many" questions cannot lead to an understanding of the whole picture of inequality. Employing questions and methods used by various waves of feminists to explain and combat inequality between men and women, the author asks, How could the education system benefit from equal representation of the voice of Arab leadership? Borrowing from feminist discourse that raises the importance of the diversity of voices and multiculturalism, the author explores and proposes ways of respecting and reinforcing diverse cultural and national identities in the Israeli education system.