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Nurit Peled-Elhanan on Israeli textbooks: ‘I didn’t know I would fall on so much racism’

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Nurit Peled-Elhanan discussing her new book Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education:

Peled-Elhanan: I didn’t know I would fall on so much racism…..

Palestinians are, if they are represented, usually they’re are not represented at all……….they don’t exists, nothing of their culture/customs nothing only as problems..and to  represent people as problems is racism. Visually you don’t see even in all Israel books….in none of them can you find a photograph of a Palestinian person..a teacher a doctor whatever nothing you only find racists icons of Ali Baba

Clark: Cartoons?

Peled-Elhanan: Cartoons with the camel and the primitive farmer. All these icons when you look at the literature of racist representation they are there….the most racist icon or the representation of the 3rd world. It exists in other countries too regarding the 3rd world but in Israel it is crucial to understand that becasue this is all the children know about their Arab neighbors.

Clark: Because they don’t meet them?

Peled-Elhanan: They never meet them they are drafted into the army right after school. ..they know they are a problem that should be solved, eliminated, that they are intruders, that they are deviant, criminal, primitive, shouldn’t be here.

Clark: Enemy?

Peled-Elhanan: And of course enemy…whole..industry, and a very sophisticated one that, really make them disappear. Because if you see graphs or diagrams you don’t suspect they are not objective. You don’t expect scientific representations not to be scientific so you always have this little asterix saying that the graph represents only the Jewish population which is unscientific not only racist. Or maps…..none of the maps in Israel, if you go to post offices and hospitals and  banks and schools and school books, show the children the real borders of the state..they don’t know the real borders of the state, they don’t know there is occupation. People here think the whole, what is called  ‘greater land of Israel’ is ours and if it is not it should be and they present it as a geographic entity with the use of the bible and archeology and all these tricks and I really think the whole discourse in very racist..but children are initiated and then they are educated in discourse to an extent they don’t even know it’s racist. They are not equipped to distinguish between racism and tolerant kind of speech, they don’t know anything is wrong with that.

Racism doesn’t stop with the Arabs it goes into Jewish ethnicities too like Jews who came from Arab countries are discriminated in the state but also in education, they are not represented anywhere. They never see anything wrong with it , integration means they must loose themselves to commit cultural suicide.

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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