It’s fair to say, isn’t it, that children are not born racist, but initiated into that particular mindset. This perhaps is particularly true of Israel. Therefore, where a state’s conception of itself rests on racist principles, on Zionist principles, one of its key objectives must be to shape minds at the earliest opportunity. This not only through the formal rigours of the education system, but also indirectly via the propagation of an ethos, of affecting the way the world is interpreted and understood.
This is achieved via many routes, among them the celebration of, and participation in, cultural and religious festivals many of which are based on what Shlomo Sand dubbed mythistory. Mythistory, as I understand it, is the creation of a past designed to act as proof of the rightness or inevitability of current beliefs and power structures; and the justification for intended future actions. And if you read into the past the belief that God was then, and is now, on your side, one’s own beliefs will be taken as axiomatic, unassailable, beyond dispute or contradiction.
To take just two examples that contribute to the toxic web that is Israel’s version of nurturing its children to adulthood, one is Daniel Bar-Tel’s study. He found that generations of Israeli Jews were taught from Hebrew textbooks that portrayed Palestinian-Arabs in a negative and delegitimising way. Palestinian society was presented as ‘primitive, backward and passive.’ Israeli Jewish children were thus subjected to this form of negative and dehumanizing stereotyping, which ultimately conditioned how they perceive Palestinians.
The other example is Nurit Peled-Elhanan book ‘Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education’. In it she describes the depiction of Arabs in Israeli schoolbooks as racist. Representation of Arabs is limited to ‘refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists.’ In hundreds of books, not one photograph depicted an Arab as a ‘normal person.’
In a webinar, Peled-Elhanan said Israeli textbooks teach students that Israel exists primarily to prevent another Holocaust, and as such, Jews are the only ones presented as victims. She added that the curriculum commands students to actively ignore other victims, and that it “Nazif[ies] Arabs.’”