The pedagogy of apartheid

Israel/Palestine
on 30 Comments

Two months ago, Israel’s education ministry introduced a compulsory four-part question in civics matriculation exams. Students are asked to give their opinion on a “controversial public issue”, including for example “allowing different population groups to live in separate neighborhoods”. In the circulation to teachers, it was stated that since teachers “sometimes encounter inflammatory or racist statements against groups or individuals” on the exam, “It’s important to make clear to the students that racist or inflammatory statements in any part of the question will disqualify the entire answer” (which is worth 11 points out of a total of 100).

But last week, the head of the ministry’s pedagogical secretariat, Moshe Weinstock, overruled the ministry’s civics supervisor and rescinded the rule. An update was sent to teachers, wherein the ban on racist statements was dropped, and the fourth part of the question was eliminated, in which students had to defend their position in light of their own values.

This story was first noted by Haaretz (by Or Kashti) on Wednesday, and on Thursday by Times of Israel (Stuart Winer) with a few extra details.

In order to understand what is behind the decision, it is necessary to analyze the reasons given for it as reported. Close scrutiny reveals they are disingenuous.

Let’s first look at the nature of the proposed 4-part question, as noted in Haaretz:

Sample topics included fluoridating water, allowing different population groups to live in separate neighborhoods, the size of the government’s child allowances and reserving slots for women on Knesset tickets. The student, after stating his opinion, must give one argument in favor of it and one against it. Then he must explain why he considers the argument in favor more convincing. Finally, he must ground his argument in his “interpretation of reality, the values in which he believes and his personal preferences in the emotional-personal realm.”

It’s in conjunction with that final section (“interpretation of reality”), that the ban and penalty concerning racist statements was made. The ministry took out that fourth part, together with the ban on racism. It thus used the question itself as a pretext to throw away the racism ban as a whole – but as we have seen, that ban relates to “any part” of the four-part question. So, effectively, the ministry was flushing out the baby with the bath water, expecting us not to notice the baby.

The Ministry’s update said this reversal was due to a need “to make the change” — that is, to introduce this new type of question — “gradually.” It promised that after the ministry sees how the question works, “we’ll consider how best to expand it”, as Haaretz reported. But this refers to the question itself, not to the ban on racism. The Times of Israel confirmed the claim: the removal “stemmed from the need to gradually assimilate the change in order to enable the students to deal with the question in the best possible manner.”

But the students are still being asked to argue for and against, as well as elaborate on why they find the one argument more convincing than the other. There is ample opportunity here for racist answers, even when the fourth part of the question is taken out. The clause concerning racist answers was meant to avert that.

Was that extra clause regarding racism just a theoretical exercise in averting racism?

Haaretz quotes a civics teacher:

“Many students write racist things in the matriculation exam: Arabs are a fifth column, there’s no problem with expelling Arabs from Israel, it’s permissible to discriminate against Arabs compared to Jews, and it’s possible to annex territory without giving civil rights,” he said, adding that exam graders had been complaining of this for a long time. “As long as there isn’t an a priori instruction that any racist response will be disqualified, this constitutes official encouragement of racism.”

Weinstock, the head of the ministry’s pedagogical secretariat, who is cited by Haaretz as the one having actually rescinded this rule on the ostensible grounds that “we need to inculcate the change gradually”, did this without consulting with his advisory committee, although several of its members are quoted supporting his decision. Haaretz cites committee members arguing, in the aftermath, that the original circular was “poorly phrased” and that “the concern was that with such a sweeping instruction, teachers were liable to interpret a million and one things as racism.”

So here we are, finally the issue of racism is addressed. Yes, that is the actual issue we are speaking about here, all the rest is just ancillary.

When the nonsense is removed from the arguments, what we are left with is a regret on behalf of the ministry that it had opened up this can of worms called “racism”. The ministry tried to argue that it “condemns any display of racism. Such displays have no place in the schools, including on exams”, as Haaretz noted. But this is not reflected in reality. The Education Ministry, headed by Naftali Bennett (the opponent of “auto-anti-Semitism”), has been introducing egregiously Judeo-centric, messianic and racist policies in the past few years, including banning a novel from the curriculum because it depicts a romance between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian, claiming that “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity.”

That’s Apartheid, in case anyone hasn’t realized it yet. It’s so literally Apartheid, since ‘Apartheid’ literally means ‘separateness’.

Questions like “allowing different population groups to live in separate neighborhoods” are so intrinsically Apartheid, that hardly anyone even registers it as such in Israel. It’s like you’re asking “are you for or against Apartheid?”. If the student answers “yes, I’m for it”, it’s not considered racism as such. This is not a right-or-wrong answer. But it is a can of worms. What if a teacher decides to note that Apartheid is racism?

This is a discussion that is so ‘controversial’ in Israel, they hardly know what to do with it.

A teacher is quoted by Haaretz saying that:

[T]he ministry was apparently “afraid to define what racism is, maybe because too many answers would be disqualified.” In civics, “everything is terribly sensitive,” but the “’Bennett spirit’ is to block almost any possibility of a complicated discussion of reality,” she charged.

One of the supporters of lifting the ban was Yossi Londin of Orot Israel, a religious college of education. He was appointed to the civics advisory committee by Bennett and is affiliated with

Yossi Londin of Orot Israel college.

Habayit Hayehudi, the Jewish Home party. He said that “the wording exceeded the mandate of the civics matriculation exam and was liable to cause more damage.” Nevertheless, he added, no answer would be accepted if it “contradicts the state’s values and laws.”

What values and laws? The racist values and laws? Londin is actually, unwittingly, saying that racism is OK, because it doesn’t contradict the ‘state’s values and laws’. He just doesn’t realize it.

Racist state, racist values, racist laws, and overtly racist education. That’s Israel anno 2017.

And if I was in high-school and answered that on a civics exam, some teacher might very likely disqualify my answer as ‘racist’, or because it ‘contradicts the state’s values and laws’. But they wouldn’t need a special clause for doing that anyway.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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30 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson
    October 15, 2017, 3:28 pm

    RE: “Racist state, racist values, racist laws, and overtly racist education. That’s Israel anno 2017.” ~ Ofir

    MY COMMENT: Smells like teen spirit Jim Crow (circa 1937).

    • Elizabeth Block
      October 18, 2017, 11:07 am

      FYI: You may have heard the saying, “It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” Kate Smith was the fat lady.

      And a family story: In the 1930s, my grandfather, Isaac Bildersee, was superintendent of a school district in Brooklyn. He issued an edict forbidding – wait for it – the compulsory singing of religious Christmas carols in the schools in his district. For this he was attacked, on the radio, by no less a personage than Kate Smith.

      • echinococcus
        October 18, 2017, 2:03 pm

        Elizabeth Block,

        According to the peculiar logic of the Jewish tribal “Palestine solidarity” organizations, your grandfather did the supremely forbidden thing.

        Just as JVP etc. forbid any Goys to attack the ZIonists, your grandfather should have waited for a devout Christian to issue the edict forbidding the compulsory singing of Christmas carols.

  2. JosephA
    October 15, 2017, 6:36 pm

    When is a duck not a duck?

    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

    • RoHa
      October 15, 2017, 8:56 pm

      Sir, you are simply repeating a canard.

      • JosephA
        October 16, 2017, 1:03 am

        What I was trying to say, indirectly, is that the modern state of Israel is a racist, apartheid state. That is not a canard:

        1 a :a false or unfounded report or story; especially :a fabricated report The report about a conspiracy proved to be a canard.
        b :a groundless rumor or belief the widespread canard that every lawyer is dishonest

        Respectfully,
        JA

      • eljay
        October 16, 2017, 7:22 am

        Canard is the French word for duck. RoHa was attempting humour. I was amused.  :-)

      • John O
        October 16, 2017, 7:49 am

        @JosephA

        RoHa was making a joke – “canard” is the French word for duck.

      • RoHa
        October 16, 2017, 7:50 am

        Sorry, just making a joke about ducks.

        https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/canard

      • oldgeezer
        October 16, 2017, 8:41 am

        @JospehA

        psst Canard is the French word for duck :)

      • JosephA
        October 16, 2017, 10:18 am

        Now I feel stupid! I know not a lick of French, other than:

        bonjour, bonsoire
        And
        Tout les garscons, leve-voux.

        …and that is from six weeks of French in middle school, decades ago. Thanks for being funny!

      • Mooser
        October 16, 2017, 12:41 pm

        You try to cross that ocean on a chicken, and you’ll know why a Cunard!

      • echinococcus
        October 16, 2017, 1:27 pm

        Joseph,

        No need to feel stupid. From the Frenchie side, let me assure you that it’s not only a duck, it’s also the “quack” that destroys the melody when a clarinettist misses the proper dosing of his breath. It’s also a pejorative word for newspaper.
        Hence, or so it has been theorized, the English word. Quite appropriate.

        In summary, if it quacks like a duck, it may be a decoy instead of a duck –but it sure is a canard.

      • RoHa
        October 16, 2017, 8:32 pm

        I didn’t know about the clarinetist, but I do know that the word is used in aeronautical engineering. Gives very odd ideas about modern fighter planes.

      • Emory Riddle
        October 17, 2017, 7:27 am

        Canard is a habara word for something true that you are not allowed to say

      • gamal
        October 18, 2017, 8:45 am

        “repeating a canard”

        “Now I feel stupid”

        which makes you the bott of the joke, sadly nowadays most fowl are inflected with conjugation,, butat least i tried, albit only briefly, ….a tree fell on me and no i didn’t duck, but wasn’t grebeously hurt.

        predictably i am the boobie here from heron in i will rail no more, though i believe a wigeon of mercy is pintailed.

        I am one of the few Humans whose representative batting average (School Cricket) was a golden duck, 4 innings last man, out first ball every single time, but i don’t want to make a big teal of it…

      • Mooser
        October 18, 2017, 12:54 pm

        “Gives very odd ideas about modern fighter planes.”

        I always duck when they fly over.

  3. Marnie
    October 15, 2017, 9:57 pm

    “including banning a novel from the curriculum because it depicts a romance between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian, claiming that “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity.””

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee taken off Mississippi school …
    https://www.theguardian.com › Arts › Books › Harper Lee

    Official: ‘some language in the book makes people uncomfortable’
    Story of racism in the US south has been removed from schools before

    “Published in 1960, Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winner deals with racial inequality in a small Alabama town, in the aftermath of an alleged rape of a white woman for which a black man is tried. It has sold more than 40m copies and it was made into a film in 1962, winning three Oscars.

    An email to the Sun Herald from a concerned reader referred to the book’s use of the word “nigger” when it said the school board’s decision was made “mid-lesson plan”. “The students will not be allowed to finish the reading of To Kill A Mockingbird,” the email said “… due to the use of the ‘N’ word.”

    The american south has been in the process of rewriting history and whitewashing it all the way. It’s no wonder the alt-right is so in love with the zionist enterprise.

    • RoHa
      October 16, 2017, 12:05 am

      Let’s see now … Racism, accusation of rape, attempted lynching, perjury, miscarriage of justice, … fine so far …. death of an innocent prisoner, threats to prisoner’s widow, attack and GBH on children, stabbing … still OK …

      Oh. Look. The n word. That makes some people uncomfortable.

      Let’s replace the book with a bit of Shakespeare. Othello, maybe?

    • RoHa
      October 16, 2017, 12:18 am

      Incidentally, what counts as intimate relations? Does replying to comments made by Jews count? What about swapping jokes with Mooser? Is that a threat to his separate identity?

      Do let me know, please. I don’t want to unwittingly offend anyone.

    • Mooser
      October 16, 2017, 12:36 pm

      ” It’s no wonder the alt-right is so in love with the zionist enterprise.”

      It’s just a short step from allrightnik to alt-rightnik.

  4. JLewisDickerson
    October 16, 2017, 12:10 am

    I think I might be getting a migraine.
    NO, for God’s sake don’t anyone dare say/type anything.
    One Angel can dance on the head of a pen. Two Angels can dance on the head of a pen. Three Angels can dance on the head of a pen. Four Angels can dance on the head of a pen.
    Five Angels can dance on the head of a pen, but only if there is no “dirty dancing”.
    Am I “good to go”, now?
    I guess so.
    Praise be to Allah!

    • JLewisDickerson
      October 16, 2017, 12:48 am

      I could swear I’ve been sitting here for the longest time!
      I distinctly recall periodically looking at the clock and thinking “I’ve been sitting here for the longest time!”
      I further recall periodically agreeing with myself that “yes, John, you have been sitting here for the longest time. I’m absolutely certain of it! In point of fact, there’s not the slightest doubt in my mind.”
      Wait.
      O.K., its coming back to me now.
      I remember thinking that I had better check the definition of pedagogy at Merriam-Webster, just to be on the safe side. I was pretty certain I knew what it meant, but it didn’t look quite right, so I decided to check on it anyway.
      OK, so now I’m going to check on the definition of pedagogy at Merriam-Webster.
      Wish me luck!

    • Annie Robbins
      October 16, 2017, 3:11 am

      Five Angels can dance on the head of a pen, but only if there is no “dirty dancing”.

      yep, only if there is no dirty dancing!

  5. echinococcus
    October 16, 2017, 1:50 pm

    I really have trouble with the following:

    Students are asked to give their opinion on a “controversial public issue”, including for example “allowing different population groups to live in separate neighborhoods”. In the circulation to teachers, it was stated that since teachers “sometimes encounter inflammatory or racist statements against groups or individuals” on the exam, “It’s important to make clear to the students that racist or inflammatory statements in any part of the question will disqualify the entire answer” (which is worth 11 points out of a total of 100).

    In other words, the student is not invited but required to answer to a controversial question;
    he/she is warned, at the same time, that answering sincerely (for over 90% of students) will disqualify the answer.

    If this is not provocation of the highest order, what is?

    Either
    – the guy who drafted this is a mole trying to destabilize/sabotage the Zionist entity (in which case more power to herhim!)
    or
    – the only “groups or individuals” that are contemplated in “inflammatory or racist statements against groups or individuals” are Zionist Jews. In which case the requirement was implementing “the state’s” self-evident “values and laws”.

    • Annie Robbins
      October 16, 2017, 2:11 pm

      “allowing different population groups to live in separate neighborhoods” is code for “preventing certain population groups from living in your town (based on their ethnicity)”.

      to allow = to prevent. orwellian deceit.

      • echinococcus
        October 16, 2017, 8:38 pm

        I still can’t get over this. Really way too crazy.

        Student, you have an hour to write an essay about a fiercely controversial topic. Like Apartheid or genocide by your own government.

        Mind you, if your position on the controversial topic is controversial, and you answer just what the government wants you to think, you’ll fail.

        Somebody please square that Zircle for me.

      • Annie Robbins
        October 17, 2017, 2:04 pm

        “zircle”

        perfect.

      • Mooser
        October 18, 2017, 12:19 pm

        “Somebody please square that Zircle for me.”

        I’m sure an “Israeli history teacher” could do it. But he seems to be absent. Maybe we’ll get a sub.

  6. Maghlawatan
    October 16, 2017, 4:15 pm

    Nurit Peled Elhanan wrote a book on how racist Israeli education is. Israel spends years feeding hate rather than knowledge into Jewish kids. They fall behind in international tests. Israel doesn’t care. It needs ignorant occupation soldiers.
    Israel is a slow suicide.

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