Were those kids at Yad Vashem who called elderly Palestinian women “sluts” and “whores” just a few “bad apples?” Or were they just a slice of the racist Jewish Israeli majority that agrees with a rabbinical ruling forbidding renting to Arabs and prohibiting Arab-Jewish relationships? Israel’s public high school teachers would know best.
Today, a group of young teachers sent a petition to Education Minister Gideon Saar calling on him to “speak out clearly against expressions of racism that are present everywhere.” The petitioners declared: “We can not remain silent in light of the increasing presence within the walls of schoolhouses of expressions of racism wherever it is directed — against Arabs, immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia, homosexuals and migrant workers. We see ourselves as educators who must issue a warning. A series of studies and surveys reflect the everyday reality that we all experience in encounters with our students: the prevalence of racism and cruelty is growing among young people in Israel. We are witnesses to this growing racism in education.”
You teach the youth about Theodore Herzl. And you said he was a very great man. So you can’t blame the youth…
According to a report in Yedioth which has only been published in Hebrew, the educators blame state-funded rabbis, Knesset members and mayors for “offensive and racist formulations” which are “giving legitimacy to these expressions” by Israeli students, “a phenomenon that makes the educators’ attempts to deal with racism even more difficult.”
Miriam Darmoni, a teacher training specialist who signed the petition, said: “These are idealistic young teachers who see their job as a mission, but they are helpless in the face of rising racism among the youth… The increase in racism in recent years may cause damage to Israeli society, especially when it seems that there is a legitimacy among the general public.”
“The views that students present in the classroom are a reflection of what they hear at home,” said Assaf Matzkin, an Israeli high school teacher. “Instead of expressing permissive liberal opinions, the students have become more nationalistic in recent years.”
The Minister of Education Gideon Saar is among the Israeli officials who are legitimizing the racism that has become so prevalent among the youth. Saar has endorsed recommendations by the proto-fascist student group Im Tirtzu to criminalize professors who support the academic boycott of the Occupation, and has cut the budget for civic education (classes that promote democratic values) in favor of a “Jewish studies” curriculum that incorporates religious texts, Theodore Herzl’s Altneuland, and anything that promotes “the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel.” (This is otherwise known as religio-nationalist indoctrination). Saar has even summoned school principals like Ram Cohen to appear before the Knesset education committee to explain why they told their students to reject the Occupation.
The teachers who petitioned Saar must know they are on their own — against their government, their society, and their students.