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Not just ‘good Arabs’

Real education involves confronting difficult narratives, being exposed to challenging ideologies and being ready to really hear the Other
Image taken from Wikipedia
Image taken from Wikipedia

We need to bring Palestinian speakers to speak with our educational tour groups. Diaspora Jewish students need to be exposed to alternative voices, which support narratives which compete with the conclusions which they probably drew from their Israel education. In order to more fully understand Zionism and Zionist history and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and perhaps even in order to move toward becoming a changemaker who believes in peace, they need to hear such speakers.

We should not fear our charges hearing from speakers who define themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel, as opposed to Israeli Arabs. We need not protect them from anti-Zionist voices, which see our national liberation movement as racist and discriminatory, and which seek to reconstitute Israel as a state of all its citizens. Speakers who feel equal (or even more) affinity with the Palestinian flag as the Israeli flag, and who don’t sing Hatikvah when everybody around them is doing so, do not need to be excluded from speaking to Israel program participants.

We should not be dispensing “kosher certificates” to speakers, ensuring they accept Israel as a Jewish democratic state as a starting point for discussion, vetting their social media profiles to ensure that nothing that they have ever written, thought or said might be seen as legitimizing terrorism, or checking they do not lionize Yasser Arafat as the grandfather of their national movement, before granting them “legitimacy” to speak to our groups. (One Palestinian citizen of Israel who spoke to a group of mine told me that she thought of Ben-Gurion the way that most Israeli Jews and Zionists think of Arafat.)

Not every viewpoint raised in our educational programs in Israel necessarily needs to be supported by the establishment – board members, program administrators, educators or counselors. Real education involves confronting difficult narratives, being exposed to challenging ideologies and being ready to really hear the Other, on her terms, and not on ours.

We need to be less fearful of potentially alienating partners and donors, parents, staff and the students themselves, and to be confident in our ability to educate our students toward independent, criticial and analytical thought, and in their ability to apply these skills in relation to new content knowledge. Of course, Palestinian speakers might well decide themselves to present different messages to different audiences and the same speaker might alter his content, tone and delivery style to target different audiences. This would be his choice.

Palestinian citizens of Israel who serve as “coexistence NGO” speakers, and who come to the table with a willingness to at least acquiesce to the status quo within Israel proper and even in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and who are even willing to be critical of the problems in their own society (e.g. violence, misogyny, etc.), have a role to play in Israel education. But real Israel education involves exposure to other Palestinian voices — not just those of “good Arabs.”

About the Author
Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide and teacher.
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