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FW: Haaretz: When racist expressions are no longer the exception

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  • Abe Hayeem
    Racism is now out in the open and entrenched in Israeli society. Abe ... When racist expressions are no longer the exception School educators who want to deal
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 23, 2013
      Racism is now out in the open and entrenched in Israeli society.
      When racist expressions are no longer the exception
      School educators who want to deal with the phenomenon head-on sometimes find
      themselves on their own.
      By Or Kashti <http://www.haaretz.com/misc/writers/or-kashti-1.520> | Mar.23,
      2013 | 2:16 AM

      Let's face it: Israel has a racism problem
      acism-problem.premium-1.508926> )
      By Ilene Prusher
      <http://www.haaretz.com/misc/writers/ilene-prusher-1.495270> | Mar.23,2013 |
      2:16 AM | 22

      The nation's schools were asked this week to mark the UN-sponsored
      International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21 ).
      The Ministry of Education's website offered study materials on the subject,
      and Dalit Stauber, the ministry's director general, instructed principals to
      devote a full hour to discussion of a racially motivated assault on two
      female teachers in Jerusalem 10 days ago. (On separate occasions, two Arab
      teachers were assaulted by Jewish teens, for no apparent reason. )

      So, everything is fine. We can relax - anyone who has been unsettled by the
      proliferation of attacks against Arabs in recent weeks may be saying. The
      Ministry of Education is handling the problem. But there could be no greater

      Racism is not restricted to schools with students of any particular social
      background. Teachers in Jerusalem relate that it has infiltrated prestigious
      institutions, both civics and history classes and also schoolyard recesses.
      Once the school day is over, they say, it makes its way into the shopping
      mall and public transportation. This is also the case elsewhere in the
      country. Over the past four years, the Education Ministry has been
      apathetic, at best, to efforts to battle racism and to promote the study of
      coexistence between Jews and Arabs. In other cases, it has even censored
      information relating to more than a few incidents. This was the sort of
      spirit imparted by the commander in chief, Gideon Sa'ar (until this week
      education minister ), within a short period of time. Racism only spread
      under the patronage of this sort of apathy, and teachers and principals who
      see the struggle against ethnic prejudice as part of their educational role
      were left to wage that struggle alone.

      "I am a proud racist," said a teenage boy at Jerusalem's Malha mall, draped
      in a Beitar Jerusalem scarf, shortly before last week's game against Maccabi
      Haifa. "The menorah of Beitar symbolizes the Jewish people. The menorah is
      holy, Jerusalem is holy, and we are holy. That is why no Arab may set foot
      [on the field] in Teddy Stadium. This is a team of Jews and only Jews."

      His friends, standing around him - all high-school students from the
      capital's northern Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood - blurted out that they, too,
      hate Arabs and are proud of it. Added one, "an Arab is preferable to a
      leftist. The worst of all are those from among your own people who defend
      people whose object in life is to slaughter you."

      These statements cannot be considered merely harsh rhetoric spewed out prior
      to a soccer game (incidentally, one that Beitar lost ). Hatred of Arabs is
      constant; it is categorical.

      "I do not want to see Arabs anywhere - not in the streets, not at the mall,
      not on the light railway," says Ron (the name is a pseudonym, as are those
      of the other students ), a 12th-grader at the Sieff and Marks High School in
      Jerusalem's Beit Hakerem neighborhood. "There is a small part within every
      Arab, even those who say they want to live with us in peace, that can
      without warning jump on you and stab you with a knife. There is nothing you
      can do about it: In their roots they are against Jews."

      Sieff is an ordinary, middle-class school, as are its students. Polls
      conducted around the country in the past two to three years offer data
      suggesting that the statements made by Ron and his peers should not come as
      a surprise. In one survey, about one-half of Jewish youngsters responded
      that Israel's Arab citizens do not deserve the same rights as Jews; 56
      percent agreed that they shouldn't be allowed to serve in the Knesset.
      Another poll revealed that 60 percent of Jewish youths believe that strong
      leaders are preferable when it comes to imposing the rule of law, and that
      46 percent do not believe in the possibility of Jewish-Arab coexistence.

      Even if it did not take note of these polls, the Ministry of Education
      should have at least listened to the statements of civics teachers, who
      allege that it's become almost impossible for them to even conduct a class
      discussion about human rights. But the ministry did just the opposite.
      "We have to be strong, and stand up against an environment that doesn't want
      us here," continues Ron. "I would not be willing to have an Arab boy learn
      in my school, because of the part of him that wants to kill me. I have my
      people, that is what is important, and I don't care about anyone else."

      And he is not atypical.

      The sign "Beitar is pure forever" that was held aloft by fans of the soccer
      team a few weeks ago does not shock such high-schoolers.
      "The sign was wrong, but a Muslim should not play on the team," says Nir, an
      11th grader. The issue came to the fore several months ago when the team
      announced that it was taking on two Muslim players from Chechnya. Fans
      reacted with anger and outrage.

      "There are Arab teams where Muslim players can play. Beitar is a team with a
      Jewish character. If there would be a Muslim player, I would be unable to
      identify with the team," Nir says, adding, "I feel hatred for them, for all
      of them, but that is not racism. Racism is when you hate a person without
      reason. I don't feel safe near them. They brought it upon themselves, with
      all the terror attacks. Because they are here, part of my life is ruined."
      "If they would open an Arabic-studies major at school, no one would take
      it," he continues. "I do not want to get to know Arabs or to come into
      contact with them. True, they live near us, but they are of no interest to
      me and it does not suit me to learn about their culture, because they are
      the enemy. There's no need to learn about them. Only my team, the Jews and
      Judaism, are of interest to me."

      Visitors from Kafr Qassem

      Sieff and Marks High School is one of the institutions that have decided not
      to give in. Its 11th-grade classes recently returned from a Jewish-Arab
      seminar at the Givat Haviva center for democracy education; students from
      the 12th grade visited the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Qassem and also hosted
      students from there. This was not so simple.

      When the Arab students arrived at Sieff, there were pupils who said, "Look
      how low the school has fallen." During the initial moments of the seminar at
      Givat Haviva, several Sieff students wrapped themselves in large Israeli
      flags and sang songs of Beitar Jerusalem, "in order to show the Arabs what
      we think of them," as one of them put it later. When a student hung a sign
      in the hall bearing the slogan "Beitar should be pure," the teachers
      discussed in the classroom how it was that no one - even the most determined
      and blatant opponent of racism in the school - apparently thought to tear it
      down immediately. Educational success will be determined by a reduction in
      the number of students who take part in the next lynching. This cannot be
      discounted, particularly not when the common response to less extreme
      expressions of racial hatred is to look the other way.

      "There are moments during lessons when I am afraid," says a civics teacher
      at another Jerusalem high school. "Subjects such as human rights, freedom of
      expression and majority-minority relations are perceived as being something
      that belongs to leftists, and the discussion very quickly devolves into
      political arguments. It isn't exactly an argument, but rather screaming
      between students and directed at me - how dare I give our enemies an
      opportunity to be heard? There is no tolerance. I leave these classes
      drained and frustrated. I have noticed that this year I am devoting fewer
      classes to these 'problematic' subjects. I no longer have the strength to
      enter this mine field."

      A conversation with young people on these subjects can drive one to despair.
      Fear of every encounter with Arabs dominates a great deal of what they say,
      and it stems from an undermining of the self-identity they have formed, part
      of which has to do with denial of the "other." There is nothing quite like
      fear to ensure obedience and maintenance of the existing order. The
      teenagers express a lack of faith, not only in the chance of reaching a
      political settlement with the Palestinians, but also in the media and in
      some of their teachers.

      Many of them are proud to say that they are repeating things that they have
      heard at home. Lilly Halperin, an educator who developed a program to battle
      racially based violence, which has been implemented in Jerusalem and
      elsewhere, says the tendency to express shock at the racism of young people
      is actually a way for adults to absolve themselves of responsibility. The
      youth are the scapegoat, she says: "They are a weak target that is easy to
      attack, enabling society to avoid the painful coming-to-terms with the true

      Nonetheless, the staff at Sieff refuse to give in to despair. Last year, in
      the framework of a preparatory session prior to the traditional school trip
      to Poland, one student said: "We should do a Holocaust to the Arabs." Other
      students, clearly upset, reacted by saying that one mustn't say such things.
      Ido Plezental, a teacher of civics, history and Arabic, decided to discuss
      these issues rather than stifle them. After they returned to Israel, the
      same student told Plezental that she understood she had been wrong and that
      now she had nothing against Arabs.

      A conference was to be held last Sunday at the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers
      College, in conjunction with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,
      focusing on the war the educational establishment should be waging against
      racism - not only that expressed toward the Muslim athletes on Beitar or
      against Arabs, but against every group, ranging from immigrants from
      Ethiopia to labor migrants.

      "We must dismantle the students' fear," says Amnon Rabinovich, a civics
      teacher at Sieff. "This is an extremely powerful emotion, and there are good
      reasons for it, as well. We have students here who lost family members in
      terror attacks. To get a child to say that he is afraid is the start of an
      educational process, and is the antithesis of everything that these students
      see around them. It is particularly difficult for educators to deal with
      racism. It take a lot of courage to talk about education in favor of loving
      your fellow man."

      "School is the only place where we can deal with racism," adds Plezental.
      "Putting them in jail won't help. The only way is to try to free the racist
      from the classical perception of victims, which is largely based on
      ignorance. That is something that the school can correct."

      And see this scary article on Israeli racism on Facebook:
      ³Castrate them!² ³Burn them!² ³Bullet in the head!²: Facebook Israelis react
      to photo of Palestinian kids
      Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 03/22/2013 - 22:01

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