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MK Wants 'Leftist Arabic Fund' Out of Schools

Jewish Home's Yoni Chetboun doesn't like the fact that Abraham Fund is helping schools teach Arabic.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/13/2014, 4:10 PM

MK Yoni Chetboun
MK Yoni Chetboun
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A heated discussion took place Tuesday morning at the Knesset's Education Committee, regarding a leftist fund's involvement in underwriting the teaching of Arabic in Jewish schools.

The participants included MKs Yoni Chetboun (Jewish Home), Masoud Ganaim (Raam-Taal), Basel Ghattas (Balad), Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Nissim Ze'ev (Shas), as well as representatives of the Ministry of Education and the Abraham Fund.

The Ministry of Education has a formal curriculum for teaching Arabic in Jewish schools only for 7th to 12th grades. In grades 7-9, the study of Arabic is required, whereas in grades 10-12 it is optional.

There is no formal program for learning Arabic in the elementary schools, and yet, about 30,000 children do just that. The vacuum created by the absence of an official program from the Ministry of Education is filled by the Abraham Fund, which has initiated a program called "Ya Salam," which is taught in primary schools.

MK Chetboun caused a storm when he said that "learning Arabic is important and welcome and the Ministry of Education should formulate such a curriculum itself. But it is equally important to know who the Abraham Fund is; a political organization with a clear leftist agenda."

He claimed that the Abraham Fund supports the educational syllabus for “Nakba (catastrophe) studies” at the Zochrot organization, supported calls by the organization Mossawa to change Israel's anthem and flag, and partners with organizations such as Adalah and B'Tselem that encourage disobedience and putting IDF officers on trial abroad.

"We must discontinue the cooperation of the Ministry of Education with the Abraham Fund,” Chetboun declared.

In response, the Abraham Fund called Chetboun's statement “baseless mudslinging.”

“The Ya Salam program for integrating Arab teachers in Hebrew schools affects attitudes toward the Arab community,” the Fund said. “We expect the program to be expanded and made mandatory for every school in Israel."

Committee Chairman MK Mitzna (Hatnua) said: "It is too bad that Yoni Chetboun is falsely accusing the Abraham Fund. This fund does important work in many areas, but unfortunately, in Israel, anything having to do with Arabs and Jews devolves into irrelevant directions."