Fixing History

Israel’s Education Ministry announced yesterday that it will release a third-grade textbook that acknowledges the suffering Palestinians endured with the formation of the Jewish state – via the SF Chronicle:

Previous editions gave only the Jewish narrative of the war, pointing out the Jews’ connection to the Holy Land and their need for a state because of persecution in Europe. That version focused on heroism of the Israeli forces and referred to the Palestinian flight as a voluntary escape.

The new edition adds the Arab perspective, noting for the first time that many Palestinians were forced from their homes and became refugees after the winners of the war confiscated their land and barred their return. [Full]

The catch? The new text will only be taught to Arab children, not Jewish students.

I can’t pretend to be informed enough on the Palestine/Israel issue to pass judgment, but the fact that the Education Ministry is even willing to concede the Palestinian viewpoint is evidence enough that it is legitimate on some level. If that’s the case, then why shelter Jewish students from having an open dialogue? Why try to cook the history books in a time when we need desperately to understand each other?

In a related event, Taipei announced plans to “drop references that describe mainland Chinese historical figures, places and artifacts as ‘national,'” the Education Ministry has announced.” (International Herald Tribune)

While I can understand Taiwan’s hesitancy to declare full-out independence (China has threatened military retaliation if it does so), this seems passive-aggressive. If you’re gonna say it, President Chen, then say it.

Meanwhile, Japan still won’t cave on its hardline of ignoring the realities of the past, despite the outrage it has caused. High-schoolers there continue to glaze over the Rape of Nanking (reduced to a footnote) and the oppressive occupation of Korea.

Amid all of this, we must question whether children around the globe are being educated about the social realities of our world. If regimes continue to sacrifice legitimate dialogue for the sake of legitimizing their politicized view, the rifts between us will only continue to fester – we must look back on our pasts honestly, or we will never move forward.

(Revised 07/24/2007)


2 Responses to “Fixing History”

  1. 1 D.M. Macabe July 24, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    And while we’re at it, let’s remember that our country’s Native Americans are still often portrayed as “savages” who scalped white settlers, and that there are folks who want the teaching of evolution to be replaced by the teaching of “intelligent design”. Open, truthful, and unbiased curricula are essentials for open, truthful, progressive educational systems, which are the bedrock for free and open societies…and we would be well-served to start right here.

    Thought-provoking post!!

  2. 2 AZell January 29, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I was in Israel during this whole debate and things are never as easy as we would like them to be. Yes, there is some legitimacy to the Palestinian side to the story, however, in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, one side’s admission of wrong-doing can never go unmatched. The vast majority of Palestinian school books still do not recognize Israel as a country, let alone a legitimate piece of history. Thus, it is extremely difficult for Israelis (even those whom we would label as “radically left”) to take comfort in the idea of metaphorically patting Palestinians on the back while Palestinians still refuse to acknowledge that the Israelis are sitting next to them. All that being said, it would be wonderful if Israel could set a positive example and leave it at that–but that is ignoring the staunch international pressure they constantly receive and weak vocal support outside of the USA. Israelis will continue to criticize and improve their government and daily state issues, the hope has to be that the Palestinians (in the West Bank AND Gaza) will follow suite.

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