Saar Drops 'Nakba,' Angers Arabs

Education Minister Gideon Saar says Israeli schools cannot teach that the creation of the state was a disaster. Arab groups furious.

Maayana Miskin ,

MK Barakeh
MK Barakeh
Israel news photo: (Knesset)

Education Minister Gideon Saar has revealed a number of decisions in recent days that have angered Israeli-Arab advocacy groups. On Sunday, Saar caused a storm by announcing that Arab schools in Israel would no longer be allowed to teach that the creation of the state was a disaster.

On Monday afternoon, the Higher Arab Follow-Up Committee held a news conference in Nazareth, and warned that if Saar's changes were carried out, “the response will be refusal, and rebellion.”

Saar's decision means that the term “Nakba,” or disaster, will no longer be used in textbooks in the Arab sector. Saar's predecessor, Yuli Tamir, decided to allow use of the term.

Arabs living in pre-state Israel experienced a “tragedy” during the War of Independence, when many fled their homes and were left stateless, Saar said Sunday. But the word Nakba cannot be used to describe it, he said. “The creation of the state of Israel cannot be referred to as a disaster,” he told the cabinet.

The Follow-Up Committee was also angered by other recent decisions made by Saar's ministry. The Education Ministry has also announced plans to increase Zionist and Jewish education in the public school system, to require students to recite the national anthem, HaTikva, and to reward schools that encourage military or civilian service.

Arab pupils “have the right to an education that honors their unique national and cultural identity,” Follow-Up Committee members said in rejection of the Education Ministry's plans. Instead of teaching HaTikva and Zionist history, Arab schools will teach Arab history, including the Kfar Kassam shootings, the Land Day riots, and the October 2000 riots, they said.

The “central historic incidents” that the Follow-Up Committee plans to teach are all incidents in which Israeli Arabs were killed by Israeli police or soldiers.

Present at the Follow-Up committee conference was MK Mohammed Barakeh of Hadash, as well as several local Arab politicians. Those present called to establish a separate authority to oversee Arab education.