Israeli Educational System: Handmaiden of National Security State
The proposed “nation-state law,” which I call (more accurately) the “apartheid law” would relegate Arabic from a co-equal national language to being a language with “special” indeterminate status.
But in the meantime, Arabic is taught fitfully to Israeli Jews in the public education system. Almost everyone who studies Arabic seriously is doing so for one reason: to train to become an intelligence operative. And this tracking starts early–as early as high school. In fact, the graphic here is a flyer distributed at the local high school of Yahud, a town near Ben Gurion airport. At a night devoted to introducing students to potential academic subjects they might wish to explore, they received this piece of propaganda.
A teacher at the school wrote:
This is what the ministry of education of the State of Israel told students beginning their high school studies about the mother tongue of one-fifth of the citizens of the State and half the residents of our land [ed., including the Conquered Territories]. This insulting text includes words like “terror,” “war” (twice), “army” (three times), “violence,” and “enemy.” Words that are missing: “neighborliness,” “culture,” “education.” It appears that Bibi is correct: there is at least one educational system between the river and the sea which promotes hate, racism, and hostility.
The flyer makes clear that the study of Arabic is embedded in the nation’s military-intelligence apparatus. It states that “the Arabic department is supported by the IDF.” The IDF even hosts a four-day “youth battalion” for 10th and 11th graders. And if you’re really good you earn the opportunity to become an “orientalist!” Shades of Edward Said! Further, the ministry proudly notes that IDF “intelligence corps” activities are embedded in the school itself.
But collaboration between the educational system and the intelligence apparatus goes even deeper. The IDF is heavily involved in preparing the high school Arabic curriculum. And you can be very sure that the material taught has exactly the same Islamophobic flavor of this web page.
Instead of “taking seriously” Islam, its culture and traditions, the ministry calls for “taking seriously Islam and its beliefs on a military level.” You can imagine how much real understanding of Islam this perspective will instill in Israeli students. Arabic is only useful as a means of understand and frustrating the implacably hostile intent of the “Muslim enemy.”
The web page closes with the ominous slogan, more befitting of the surveillance state, “Arabic: wherever you look!”
A knowledgeable Israeli who commented on the Facebook post dedicated to the flyer wrote:
[The teaching of Arabic] begins with the fact that it is taught by Israeli Jews [non-native speakers] and not Arabs. For the former, the language is a dead relic, not living nor developing. That’s because teachers don’t use it for the purposes of day-to-day life, culture, as Arabic is used [by native speakers]. Rather it is as the language is viewed by Israeli Jews, growing from their political relationship (in which they dominate the educational system) to the Arabs of Israel. The focus is certainly on the military-political aspects as it has been throughout the history of the study of Arabic in Israel. And every attempt to paint (even in the most positive fantasies) the study of Arabic by Israeli Jews as something whose purpose is to draw them closer to culture or broader enlightenment [regarding Arabs] is completely naive.
At the university level, the “Arabists” are invariably creatures of the security apparatus. They’re teaching the language to future Shabak and Mossad agents. They are not there in the traditional sense that one expects faculty to research and teach about the full spectrum of their academic field of interest: traditions, culture, language, religion, etc. Bar Ilan’s Mordechai Kedar is an example of such a figure. Aside from his teaching, he frequently represents the interests of hasbara in interviews in the Arab media. Within Israel, his role is to validate the worst Islamophobic impulses of the average Israeli and give them an academic imprimatur. A similar example is the political slogan used by Avigdor Lieberman to promote his election campaign: “he speaks Arabic.” Which doesn’t at all mean what one might think. He doesn’t “speak” Arabic in the traditional sense. But he “understands” the Arab mentality [sic] and knows how to fight it. That is what “speaking Arabic” means in (Jewish) Israel.
When pro-Israel hasbarists cluck about the so-called hate-filled, anti-Israel Palestinian educational curriculum, they fail to look in the mirror at the hate and mistrust they sow in their own educational system. It is one thing to want to learn about a nation or religion which competes with one’s own. That seems prudent and wise. But to have only one purpose in encouraging such learning–to destroy them–is entirely another.
6 thoughts on “Israeli Educational System: Handmaiden of National Security State – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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I have taken an Arabic major in a high school in Haifa some years ago (which is what this web page tries to convince students to do). I think that your description here is a (typical…) demonization of Israeli society.
To summarize: yes, most students taking Arabic want to serve in the Intelligence (or to get a high grade), yes, the Intelligence seems to be involved to some extent in funding these classes. But this absolutely does not mean that the end result, the curriculum, is “sown with hate and mistrust” as you write. Lets go point by point:
Curriculum – The heart of the Arabic curriculum is written Arabic (Fusha), which should prepare one to reading papers. Here there are indeed many political terms that the students are taught (one knows how to say “PLO” or “UN”, not how to say “Orange”). As for your claim that no “culture” is taught: there is a focus on Koran at 12th grade. I remember we were made to memorize Surat Alfatiha (the only religious text I was made to memorize in high school!!! how would you face this fact? I wounder…), and many Arabs I speak with to this day are very impressed with my ability to recite the Koran (one even said I know it better than many in her village, though this was an exaggeration…). We also studied Hadith and history of early Islam.
As for the involvement of the Intelligence corps – it support allows opening very small classes in schools that otherwise would not open an Arabic class (often in poor neigborhoods). This “youth battalion” that you mention teaches a mixture of Arabic, history and culture – the first time I learned Arabic songs.
I have never encountered any content that made me particularly hate or distrust Arabs or Muslims (well, accept for the story of Banu Qurayza…). Yes, there was a focus on current affairs and we were encouraged to serve in the Intelligence.
@ Michael: Of course the curriculum is sown with hate. Why do you think it says explicitly that Islam is a religion of hate proclaims that it’s God is supreme over all other Gods and religions? Did you miss that?
As for your claims that Arab culture IS taught: you will have to grapple with the views by a professor at the University of Cambridge and scholar on this subject who disagrees with you. Why don’t you read his book featured her via Amazon? I’ve also added to the post an important Israeli comment which I translated which also rebuts your claim.
Your claim that the Koran is taught does not reflect on the teaching of culture. Religion & culture may be related but are not the same. And of course, Israeli intelligence agents do need to know something about religion, culture, etc in order to show the informers they recruit that they understand something about their lives. But this teaching and knowledge is skin-deep. Only what is necessary to put on a good show for the Arabs they will persuade to become spies for them.
This is a variant of a comment often published here by Israelis like you. It goes something like this: “you’re full of crap in what you say about Palestinians because I know one who tells me I’m the greatest Israeli they’ve ever met.” To which I invariably reply: first, I have no idea whether your anecdote is true; second, even if it is, it’s simply the anecdotal experience of a single Israeli Jew. As such it has very limited validity in scientific or evidentiary terms.
You encountered the “content” of this flyer & didn’t find it showed hate or mistrust of Islam??? That rules you out as a fair judge on this question.
And if you decide to comment further in this thread, it’s important as context to know whether you were an intelligence agent and, if so, where you served (AMAN, Shabak, etc.). Please answer this question if you post another comment in this thread. If you don’t, the answer isn’t as important.
So you studied the Koran, but did you study the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish or the novels by Ghassan Kanafani ? No, of course you didn’t. Just as student in the ‘Arab sector’ study Islamic texts and classic Arabic litterature and poetry but aren’t allowed to study their own Palestinian history or Palestinian writeres/poets in their curriculum imposed by the Israeli ministry of education.
If you don’t know how to say ‘oranges’, you should read Ghassan Kanafani’s novel “The Land of the sad oranges” أرض البرتقال الحزين
I read it way back when I was in graduate school (in English translation). It was memorable. If I recall there is an Israeli publisher who’s published Hebrew translations of his work.
Seeing how most Arabs in close proximity to Israel either speak Hebrew or want nothing to do with Israelis…. It is quite logical that military use is quite.
Regarding the current status of Arabic and the “relegation” – the current “official” status (accorded to English too) is by the King’s council (from the Mandate) – in practice the official language of Israel, since 1948, has been Hebrew with Arabic accorded special status (some translation to Arabic. Some services in some places, but not all, offered in Arabic).
Back in the cold war – learning Russian in school, in the United States, was mostly a sign you were headed to the CIA, NSA, or FBI (counter espionage).
@ lepxii:I don’t know what the Arabic status you claim as “in practice” means. And if Arabic, in practice, isn’t accorded equal status to Hebrew this is due to the racism and Jewish supremacism of Israeli society. So your claim is essentially a non- sequitur. It doesn’t prove anything–or certainly nothing positive.
Not at all true. We had and have very highly regarded Slavic Languages and Russian studies programs all over the U.S. They teach the languages for many reasons having little or nothing to do with U.S. intelligence needs. One of my best friends from when I was in grad school majored in it at UC Berkeley because he loved the literature. He runs a bakery and never became a spy or anything remotely similar. How many Israeli Jews have majored in Arab studies because they loved Arabic literature, do you think???