The Local Education Authority (LEA) of Gothenburg in Sweden has taken an unusually aggressive decision to expose the city’s schoolchildren to a highly controversial film entitled (in the English translation) “Even the dead have a name” produced by the pro-terrorist Ship to Gaza (StG) organisation.
This is a remarkably insensitive decision, especially bearing in mind that the film is a combination of both subtle and overt anti-Semitism, and also expresses undiluted anti-Israel sentiment.
The unsuitability and questionable legality of disseminating anti-Semitic material in schools should need no further discussion. Nobody who believes in democracy, equal rights and religious equality should have any reason to question the unsuitability of spreading anti-Semitic propaganda. Anywhere. Least of all in schools, to impressionable young children.
The second issue, the film’s unabashed anti-Israel sentiment, bears some examination. Firstly because the film employs classic anti-Semitic clichés in a subtle, subliminal, 80 minute long assault on the sensibilities of the viewer (the LEA intends to show this movie to children as young as 15, remember).
And secondly because the LEA is bound by the Swedish Curriculum for Compulsory Schooling, Lgr11, Parts 1 and 2, and its Code of Statutes (SKOLFS).
Chapter 1, entitled Fundamental Values and Tasks, Section 2 Understanding and Compassion specifically and unequivocally states that “xenophobia and intolerance must be confronted with knowledge, open discussion and active measures”. The same chapter, section 3 Objectivity and Open Approaches, stipulates that “Teaching should be objective and encompass a range of different approaches. All parents should be able to send their children to school, fully confident that their children will not be prejudiced in favour of any particular view. All who work in the school should … clearly dissociate themselves from anything that conflicts with these values”.
These are key considerations because nowhere in the film is there any attempt to offer the young viewing public a balanced view of the Palestinians’ self-inflicted, racist and exceptionally violent conflict with Israel. There is not one single statement throughout the 80 minute film to counter any of the virulently anti-Israel statements made there. This is in direct contravention of the above regulations, the very values that are embodied in the LEA’s own Code of Conduct. A Local Education Authority that so openly flouts its own regulations and uses anti-Semitic tropes to do so ought to be a major concern not just for Sweden’s educational establishment and the nation’s politicians, it should also merit close police attention and the interest of the State Prosecutor’s office.
Youngsters who previewed the film acknowledged that had they watched it without any prior knowledge of the issues involved, they would have emerged afterwards as committed anti-Semites. Jewish youngsters who previewed the film said that had they watched it together with non-Jewish classmates, peer pressure alone would have caused them severe discomfort, perhaps even physical threat or harm.
Not least because of two key phrases and concepts that were given prominence throughout the movie: that people who disagree with the film “have sold their souls for silver” (a clear, unequivocal anti-Semitic trope) and that there are “good Jews and bad Jews” – with the good Jews being those who agree with the political aims of Ship to Gaza (StG). All other Jews are bad Jews. Any Jewish pupil who disagrees with the aims of StG is to be regarded as a “bad Jew” by his or her classmates. This kind of vicious anti-Semitic indoctrination of children, accompanied by underlying threats of being frozen out by one’s peers or even being physically assaulted by them, is not only unacceptable, it is a frightening indictment on an LEA which feels that such material is suitable for children.
Raw political indoctrination, disregard for legal constraints and the fanning of religious hatred have no place in a nation’s educational system.
So far, the Gothenburg LEA has steadfastly refused to withdraw the film from its offering for schoolchildren. With sufficient international pressure the highly politicised adults who are wilfully indoctrinating their young charges will hopefully be forced to acknowledge that “Even the dead have a name” is unfit for purpose, that it has no place whatsoever in an educational environment.
Not least because there is no place for indoctrination in education.