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Dismissed Civics Head Claims Smear Campaign

Adar Cohen, dismissed for promoting post-Zionist textbooks: I was the target of a well-orchestrated smear campaign.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/6/2012, 5:42 AM

Adar Cohen
Adar Cohen
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Adar Cohen, current superintendent of civics education in the Education Ministry who was informed on Sunday that he will not receive tenure, has sent a farewell letter to civics teachers in which he claimed to have been the target of a smear campaign.

Education Ministry Director Dalit Shtauber told Cohen, who was still officially on trial period, that he has failed the trial and therefore will not receive tenure. The latest decision means he will have to leave the job.

The decision to rethink Cohen's employment appears to have been influenced by an investigative report published in the Hebrew paper Makor Rishon  and which said that Cohen is suspected of promoting "post-Zionist" textbooks into the Education Ministry syllabus and preventing the entry of textbooks that reflect accepted, traditional Zionist views.

“Four years ago I decided to run for the position of head of civics after much deliberation,” Cohen wrote in the letter, the contents of which were published by Channel 2 News on Sunday night. “The choice of public service, despite the options in academia and teaching, seemed the right thing to do, as an act of Zionism and of commitment to the state and society in which I live.

“I came to you with shining eyes, and I received your back up, cooperation and support, as I did from many of my colleagues and from societies, organizations and many academics. You all know how much I loved my job, how I invested my energy and my time to no end, how I was fully committed to the system, and we made some achievements:

“We were not afraid to touch the sore, torn spots of Israeli society, and that is because the perception of our educational and pedagogical purpose was to nurse and contain, rather than divide and libel. That was the secret of our strength - the knowledge that whoever comes out of truth and confidence will be able to accommodate difficulties and doubts, even of those who are different than him. This is the secret charm of civics.

“Unfortunately, not everyone on a personal level was able to contain this complexity, and the arrows of certain people at the top were directed at me. Over the last two years a well-orchestrated smear campaign was directed at me from outside the Ministry. Hallucinatory and militant factors, who are not a part of the field of education and who made it their goal to finish my career, took every step possible to paint our work in education with political colors, in an attempt to denigrate me - but they actually meant to denigrate us all – those who are in charge of civics education. Unfortunately, many times I suffered from a lack of firm backing by the Ministry against the personal attacks on me.”

Cohen concluded his letter by saying, “Even if it has been decreed that I must leave, I am doing it standing tall and with my head held high. I believe in the righteousness of the Jewish-democratic common path through which we walked together. I thank you for all your support and encouragement, which were so important to me in this turbulent period and which came from a place of true faith in our just cause. I have no doubt that the hundreds of teachers from all sectors who have signed letters of support - all during the summer holidays – have not done so because of personal affection towards me, but from a sense that the destiny of our profession is at stake.”

Yisrael Hayom quoted passages from the textbook approved by Cohen that reflect the alleged "post-Zionist" approach. In one passage, the book says that there is a contradiction between Israel's definition as a Jewish state and its obligation to give equal rights to all of its citizens. The book also says that "The establishment of Israel in 1948 turned the Arabs in the territory of Palestine-Israel from a majority into a minority."

It reportedly states elsewhere: "A relationship based on control could harm the freedom and equality of those who do not belong to the majority. This is especially true when the majority espouses a selective demographic policy, which entrenches its status over time."

This passage is seen as critical of Israel's Law of Return.

The controversial Yotzim L’derech Ezrachit” (On the Road to Civics) approved textbook says: “The Right is generally more cynical, and supports military solutions as important to national security.The Left is generally more humane, and believes in negotiations as the best way to solve conflicts.”

At another point, the book discusses the Nakba Law, which blocks state funding for groups that mourn the creation of the state. “Representatives from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel believe the law impinges on the rights of the Arab minority,” the book reads. “There are also other proposed laws that, if accepted, are likely to harm the Arab minority in Israel, such as the oath of loyalty to the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

In yet another controversial passage, the book tells students, “The Right attaches great importance to the nation and to national heritage… The Right tends to prefer those of the same nation over those of other nationalities and exalts values connected to nationality, and the Left is more supportive of humanism.”

Cohen’s dismissal was a victory for nationalist-Zionist forces within Israel, who welcomed the decision.