Yariv Oppenheimer sends Letter to Education Minister

Dear Minister Saar

I am writing you this letter following hundreds of calls we have received in the past hour to the Peace Now offices, from ordinary citizens outraged and shocked to read about the new lesson plan for school children, named “Gush Katif Day”, (as published today in the newspaper “Haaretz”).
The teaching booklet distributed to teachers, parts of which featured in the news reports, clearly presents the story of the settlement in the heart of the Gaza Strip from a subjective perspective, while at the same time it omits important facts and is severely misrepresentative for students.

The booklet states unequivocally that establishing settlements in heart of the Gaza Strip was a Zionist act, without any mention of public controversy and lack of consensus on the question of the settlements in general and in particular those in Gaza. The booklet prevents students from receiving a balanced and true picture of the reality that was isolated settlements in the heart of a dense population of a million Palestinians, the Gaza Strip residents. The booklet does not give expression to the heavy price that the State of Israel was forced to pay for staying in Gaza, politically, morally and the loss of lives it entailed.

The whole question of the Israeli occupation and its control over another people remains outside the class, instead students are taught that Gaza was a place of “sand dunes, a place that drew settlers  … to realize the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel.”
Moreover the pamphlet quotes Ronen Shoval, founder of an extreme right wing political association ( Im Tirzu), exposing his political position to students.

On the base of all this the booklet then challenges the students to “grade” public figures according to their level of perceived “Zionistic values” – and then labels the respected journalist Dan Margalit as a leftist extremist!

Worst of all – is the attempt of the Education Ministry to re-write the definition of Zionism and thus correlating Zionism ( as defined in this booklet) as a good deed.

The most apt description of such a booklet is clearly “political brainwashing”, an overt attempt to dictate a one-sided narrative, right-wing and manipulative, to all students in Israel.

Minister of Education, under your administration have managed to make the state education system an advocacy arm of the settlers. Systematically and deliberately you have personally changed the curriculum, approving lesson plans with political content and representing only the right side of the political spectrum.
The Likud victory in the last election does not constitute grounds for curriculum change and transforming the Ministry of Education Ministry into an informational branch of the Yesha Council. Under your leadership you are alienating an entire section of society, destroying the public’s confidence in the education system and the contents learned it.

Therefore, I am asking you to immediately instruct the schools to shelve the lesson plan already distributed and instead to prepare a new, balanced booklet which gives expression to other positions and also reflect other positions in Israeli society.

The Likud and its ministers does not own the concept of Zionism and your office had no authority to dictate to students in Israel, what Zionism is and what constitutes a non-Zionist.

Controversial issues must be presented to students in Israel in a way that comprises of all the relevant information, in a balanced and transparent way allowing the expression of the various positions in Israeli society.

Yariv Oppenheimer
Peace Now