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Hebrew University
[HUJ, Edu] Nurit Peled-Elhanan: Israeli education is racist. Palestinian can't be because it is monitored by the world

Editorial Note:
Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a radical political activist; she has supported academic boycott against Israel and the†Right of Return†of Palestinians to Israel. In 1997 she lost her daughter in a suicide bombings for which she blames Israel's oppression of the Palestinians rather than the Palestinian perpetrator of the attack. Peled-Elhanan is a member of a movement †of "critical linguists" who accuse Western scholars of using demeaning and racist terms to describe Third World people. Her new book purports to show that Israeli text books are using†stereotypes†of†Arabs and Muslims that incite Israelis to†war and wanton murder of Palestinian. At the same time she finds Palestinian text books to be free of stereotyping. Even by the standard of critical scholarship,†Peled-Elhanan†writings†stand out as an extreme†example of using scholarship to support a political agenda.

Kelly James Clark interviews Prof. Nurit Peled-Elhanan:

Elhanan: My name is Nurit Peled-Elhanan and I teach language education at the university.And for the last five or six years, I have been engaged in the analysis of Israeli textbooks and especially the racist discourse of Israeli education, both in class and in textbooks.††And more specifically, in the representation of Palestinians in textbooks and my book about it is going to be published soon.

Clark: In Israel?

Elhanan: No, in London.††Towers Publishers.But I think that my life work is about educational discourse, where ever it entails.So, this was a phase.††I actually started the study because I wanted to see how these books use scientific language for theological purposes really.††I didnít know that I would fall upon so much racism.††

Clark: Yah.

Elhanan: What I found was that all of the racist categories that you could imagine or that are in the literature about the racist representation of people, both verbally and visually, is there in Israeli textbooks.††And I thought that it was very important to say that because the whole world slanders Palestinian education, without even knowing anything about it, including Hillary Clinton.††And nobody controls and monitors the Israeli education.††Now Palestinian education cannot be racist because it is so controlled and monitored by the world, even if they wanted to.††So I looked into that and I started to look into Israeli books, and I found where Palestinian textbooks can say the Zionist enemy kills our children and demolishes our houses, which is not racism but fact, in Israel, Palestinians are, if they are represented at all, usually they are not represented at all, twenty percent of the population are Palestinian citizens.††Not talking about the non-citizens.They are not represented at all, as if they donít exist.††Nothing of their culture, customs, nothing!††Only as problems and to represent people as a problem is racism!†††So, visually, you do not see in all Israeli books and you have a lot of them because it is a private industry.††They are trade books.And in none of them can you find a photograph of a Palestinian person.††You see a teacher, doctor, whatever.††Nothing!††You only find these racist icons of the Ali Baba kind ofÖ.

Clark:These cartoons.

Elhanan: Cartoons with a camel.

Clark: They are not real people.

Elhanan: And the primitive farmer.††All of these icons when you look at the literature of racist representation are there.I mean really they are the most racist icons of representation of the Third World.††And it exists in other countries too, regarding the Third World, but in Israel I think that itís crucial to understand that because this is all the children know about their Arab neighbors.

Clark: Because they donít meet them.

Elhanan: They never meet them and they are drafted to the army right after school and this is what they know.††They know that they are a problem that should be solved, illuminated, that they are intruders, that they are deviant, criminal, primitive, shouldnít be here.

Clark: Enemy.

Elhanan: And of course enemy, yah.Enemy, all of the Arabs, but the Palestinians and the Palestinian citizens are second class, third class citizens because they are primitive, because they are clannish, because they are the enemy from within, so on and so forth.††So you have this whole industry and a very sophisticated one that really makes them disappear because if you see graphs or diagrams, you donít suspect that they are not objective.You donít suspect scientific representations not to be scientific.††So you always have this little asterisk saying that the graph only represents the Jewish population, which is un-scientific, not only racist, or maps.††None of the maps in Israel if you go to post offices and banks and schools show the real borders of the state.They donít know the real borders of the state.††They donít know there is occupation.††People here think that the whole Greater Israel is ours and if it is not it should be.††And they present it as a geographic entity, with the use of the Bible, archeology, and all these tricks.††The whole discourse in Israel, as you have already felt, is very racist.††People ask you if you are Jewish or not Jewish.††But children are initiated and then they are educated into this discourse to the extent that they do not even know that it is racist.††They are not equipped to distinguish between racism and you know tolerant kind of speech.††They donít think that anything is wrong about that. And I have students who are teachers.††My students are teachers.††And when they see what I show them, they are shocked.††They are really shocked, because racism doesnít stop with the Arabs.It goes into Jewish ethnicities too, like Jews who came from Arab countries, discriminated in the state but also in education they are not represented anywhere.††And they never see anything wrong with it.††Like integration means that they have to lose themselves in order to commit cultural suicide and that is why I think that it is really important to teach that and to show teachers to teach them how to read that.And once they know, they cannot ignore it any more.I donít know what they do with it later on, but they cannot ignore it anymore and they react.They react vehemently to this discovery.So, that is why I think that it is important, such a study.As much as it may cost me I donít know what, publicly, socially, academically, and so on.I think that it is an important study.

Clark: Can I talk about the cost just quickly?††It is pretty clear that if you defend Palestine, you are portrayed as an enemy of Israel or an anti-Semite or a hater of IsraelÖ.

Elhanan: Self-hating Jew.

Clark: But your father was a general, you live here in Jerusalem, you havenít moved out.

Elhanan: What, my father was a general, but he was also the first and greatest peace activist in Israel.††He was the first to go to Tunis, his guide was a woman and to meet Arafat.††And he paid a horrible price because he was really outcast, really outcast by his friends, by everyone.††He could have been a minister, or he could have been whatever he wanted, but he was outcast.

Clark:For meeting with Arafat.

Elhanan: For betraying the code, yah.††For betraying the code!††Rabin finally realized that he was right, but he paid a horrible price.††My mother also, they were outcast, all of their friends, everybody.††And almost all their friends, so for my mother it was really hard; for a time, we were threatened, my children were threatened.††They had to be protected, really.††I guess that I do pay some price.††I didnít get tenure at the university and I am sure this is one of the reasons.††But I donít really care for that.††I find myself not really caring for that.††It could be nice, but it is not a reason to not do what you think to do.††So you do what you have to do.†††††††††



Nurit Peled-Elhanan interviewed for the book "Abraham's Children." Preorder the book here:http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=0300179375

Nurit and Kelly will be appearing at the upcoming conference "Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict" scheduled for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in Washington DChttp://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/events/liberty-and-tolerance-in-an-age-of...

Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a Lecturer in Language Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem specializing in discourse in Israeli education with emphasis on visual and verbal presentation of Palestinian and non-western Jews. Since the death of her 13 year-old daughter in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, Israeli peace activist Peled-Elhanan has worked to promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. She and her family work with the Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families for Peace. Her two elder sons are active in the peace movements of the Refusenik and Combatants for Peace, a new movement of Israeli and Palestinian ex-fighters. Peled-Elhanan is the recipient of the European Parliament 2001 Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and Freedom of Speech. She is the daughter of the late Maj. Gen. Mattityahu ("Matti") Peled, a military commander and politician who later advocated a two-state solution.

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