The principal of an Israeli school near Gaza has been summoned before the education ministry over a textbook giving Israel and Palestinian narratives of the conflict, a newspaper said on Monday.
The textbook, “Learning the Historical Narrative of the Other,” covers both Israeli and Palestinian views of the violence around the time of Israel’s birth in 1948, the left-leaning daily reported.
Each page is split into three, with the Israeli narrative on the right, the Palestinian version on the left and a blank column in the middle for students to enter their own thoughts.
“On the second day of the school year the instruction came down not to use the book because it was not approved,” said an unnamed teacher at Shaar HaNegev school near Sderot, an Israeli town once the target of near-daily rocket fire from Gaza.
“This was a knee-jerk response, almost Pavlovian, to any attempt by the educational system to tackle the Palestinian side,” the teacher said, accusing the ministry of not even bothering to ask how the material was being used.
The ministry was not available for comment due to the Succot holiday, but in a statement to Haaretz it said the textbook had been “rejected” five years ago. It was not clear why.
In recent months, a number of Israeli higher education institutes have come under fire for holding allegedly “anti-Zionist” views.
Israelis commemorate the 1948 fighting as their war of independence, when Jewish militias routed five Arab armies to save the newly declared state.
Arabs refer to it as the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe” because some 750,000 Palestinians, the majority of the Arab population of the Palestine Mandate, fled or were driven from their homes.
Last year, the ministry banned the use of the word “Nakba” in school textbooks as part of a larger effort to promote Jewish identity.
Sderot came under rocket attacks almost daily for years until Israel launched a massive war on the coastal enclave in December 2008 which vastly reduced the violence.
Two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are Palestinian refugees.