Over the past few weeks, we have been witness to a campaign on the pages of Haaretz condemning Holocaust education in Israel. A visitor from another planet would think that someone was conducting massive brainwashing via the Israel school system, in order to teach Jews how to hate foreigners in the name of the supremacy of the Jewish race. That stranger from outer space would think that because of this Spartan-like brainwashing, thousands of Israeli children are going through some kind of exercise, towards yet a more lofty goal: to conduct suicide attacks against multiple enemies, beginning with Germans, continuing with the Poles and finishing off with Arabs.
The renewed debate over the nature of Holocaust studies began with a news item which reported that The Minister of Education, Shai Peron, had announced his intention to launch holocaust studies from the first grade. This half truth was worse than a lie. The initiative came from Yad Vashem, which wanted to reorganize the time devoted to discussions on the holocaust, also in the first grade, during the annual memorial ceremony on Holocaust Remembrance Day. After all, you have to explain to children why there is a siren, and what the ceremony is all about. Nursery School teachers and grade school teachers have complained for years that they do not know how to deal with this. What should they be saying? How should they explain what happened? The problem was that no one gave them answers. The Israel State Comptroller dealt with this in the past. That is the backdrop to the issue.
In order to better cope with the challenge of Holocaust education, the Minister of Education convened a meeting of experts. Present were representatives of Yad VaShem, who prepared educational curricula appropriate for each age group, which had been tried in some countries. Dr. Arik Carmon of the Israel Democracy Institute also prepared a study on the subject of how to teach the Holocaust. According to the new initiative, in the younger classes there would be an attempt to educate against stereotypes and advocate for better treatment of the other and of the foreigner. In Carmon’s approach, a Nazi was not to be described as a “creature from another planet,” in keeping with the views of the writer, Yechiel Dinor – the witness at the Eichmann trial whose pen name was K. Chetnick – who always claimed that genocide was a danger lurking in every society.
Yet according to the vicious campaign generated by Haaretz, a group of dangerous nationalists were plotting an educational program concerning the horrors of the Holocaust in order to infuse little children with hatred of foreigners. Instead of a public discussion, what we have here is a festival of demagoguery. The facts at hand did not prevent Haaretz from launching a campaign that the “government minister has lost his mind” and the “wicked attack” of this initiative which will cause “an outbreak of hatred and violence”, while their campaign is laced with code words like nationalism, aggression, victimization, along with hatred of foreigners and the other. One participant in the campaign most recently compared Israeli soldiers with the Nazis. People who are in love with lies tend to stick to their lies.
Even without any changes on the subject of humanistic education, a survey was recently conducted concerning the influence of the student trips to Poland, which revealed that 71% of the participants emphasized that these trips allow them to better grasp the universal implications of the Holocaust, while 66% understood the significance of blind hatred of the other, as opposed to only 59% before the trip. In addition, before the trip, 61% supported the idea that “One must see everyone as a resident of the world, without regard to his national origin’. After the trip, support for this position rose to 65%. In other words, what we see here is not “education for fascism,” nor any inculcation of hatred or violence.
What is most interesting is that there is almost a complete overlap between those who condemn Holocaust studies and those who encourage Nakba studies.
In the higher grades in Israeli schools, students do learn about the Holocaust. Yet there is a night and day difference between teaching the memory of the Holocaust and orchestrating a memory of the Nakba. That is because the process used to build collective memory of the Holocaust does not teach the students that they should kill off the Germans. This kind of education does not teach hatred. Jews do not go out en masse, with belts laden with bullets, in order to conduct terror attacks in Berlin or in Poland. In Nakba studies, on the other hand, the opposite is the case. What we have here is a system whose main course is based on hatred and revenge. Indeed, there was a Nakba. It is possible and necessary to learn about the pain of the Palestinians. But that is not the story. Their story is one of education for vengeance. That is what goes on in the UNRWA schools, as revealed of late in the films of UNRWA schools that were produced by the Center for Near East Policy Research.
These are the facts. Yet the HaAretz newspaper carries out a campaign that portrays present Israel as a fascist nation. It is not clear why no one in HaAretz ever bothered to check the facts. It is not clear how they could conduct a campaign when there is not even one word that is true. It is also not clear how they succeed with such ease in taking a curriculum dedicated to humanistic values and distorting it into a project to indoctrinate nationalism and fascism.
Their campaign concerning Holocaust studies does not stand alone as an isolated incident. This phenomenon expresses a new force which has taken over that newspaper. Here is yet another example: Just days ago, one in Haaretz headline: “What is Dudu Topaz doing at a Nazi movie theater?” The article actually dealt with the influence of the Nazi movie industry. But two other things also happened. The subtitle ran: Is there a similarity between the works of Leni Riefenstahl, (the movie producer who worked for the Nazis) and Zionist propaganda? The news story has nothing to do with this equation. Yet this bombastic subtitle leaves the entire matter open to discussion…You know, Nazis and Zionists have to unite by violence, in order to connect the dots…
The English language headlines went even further. Not the subtitle, but the main headline, ran with the title: “Is there any similarity between Nazi and Zionist propaganda films?” Only a question. Such naive people.
There is a web site in Israel known as “Presspectiva”, which uncovers mistakes, lies and purposeful distortion which occur in the news media in Israel, not only in Haaretz, Numerous mistakes occur in the translation of Haaretz that appear in their English language edition. Yet all of the mistakes were in one direction: Incitement against Israel. This is not just “a mistake”, but rather a matter of systematic bias to one side.
Haaretz was once a serious and important newspaper. But something wrong has occurred over the past few years. It is worthwhile to criticize Haaretz, to reveal their lies, with the hope that the newspaper will return to itself.