democracy, the jewish-arab cleavage and tolerance education in israel

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  • International Journal of Intercultural Relations

    26 (2002) 215232

    Democracy, The Jewish-Arab Cleavageand tolerance education in Israel

    Dan Soena,b,*aDepartment of Behavioral Sciences; Department of Sociology and Anthropology Kibbutzim School of

    Education, Judea and Samaria College, 5 Gazit Street, Neoth-Afeka, 69 417, Tel-Aviv, IsraelbDepartment of Social Sciences, Kibbutzim School of Education, Judea and Samaria College, 5 Gazit Street,

    Neoth-Afeka, 69 417, Tel-Aviv, Israel


    The starting point of the Paper is the fact that Israel is a bi-national, multi-cultural and

    multi-ethnic society, with Jews constituting in 2000 something around 79% of the population

    and the Arabs about 20%. It goes on to explain that the cleavage between these two sectors is

    both political as well as social and cultural. This fact has severe repercussions in as much as the

    Israeli collective identity is concerned.

    And yet, the dominant Jewish majority has committed itself since the Proclamation of

    Independence in May 1948 to DEMOCRACY, i.e. to equality for all the segments of the

    population. The Jewish majority also pledged to safeguard the minoritys rights.

    The Paper analyzes the negative stereotypes and negative attitudes prevailing among the

    Jewish component of the population against the Arab minority group.

    It moves on to evaluate how well the system of formal education has managed to tackle the

    problem of innate intolerance typical of the majority group in its relations with the minority

    group. It draws on a contents analysis of a sample of primers and readers widely used in the

    primary education system throughout Israel in the 1990s.

    It reaches the unhappy conclusion that these primers and readers fail in their task as vehicles

    for inculcating ethnic tolerance, understanding and mutual respect. It reaches the conclusion

    that the ministry of education has missed the opportunity to try and foster at least a common

    CIVIL identity, uniting Jews and Arabs living side by side in Israel. r 2002 Elsevier Science

    Ltd. All rights reserved.

    *Tel.: +972-3-6-473-432; fax: +972-3-6-473-432.

    E-mail address: (D. Soen).

    0147-1767/02/$ - see front matter r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

    PII: S 0 1 4 7 - 1 7 6 7 ( 0 1 ) 0 0 0 4 9 - 9

  • We do a lot- perhaps too muchFto prepare our students and to train them fortomorrow, which might be a time of war. We do hardly anything, and certainlynot enough, in order to prepare the students and to train them for that sametomorrow which might bring Peace, at least in our regionFfor which we mustbear direct responsibility. (Simon, 1983).

    1. IsraelFa multi-cleavage society

    Israel celebrated its ftieth anniversary in 1998. A year earlier, in 1997 Jewscelebrated the centennial anniversary of the 1st Zionist Congress, convened in Basel,Switzerland. In the wake of that Congress Dr. Herzl, the founder and President ofthe Zionist Organization wrote in his diary the celebrated and prophetic sentence,In Basel I founded the Jewish State (Herzl, 1960/61).Modern immigration of Jews into the territories nowadays constituting Israel

    started in 1881 in a migration-wave lasting until 1903 and termed the 1st Aliyah.From a humble beginning of 25,00035,000 immigrants who entered this country

    at that time (out of whom 4050% departed or emigrated again according to variousestimates) the State of Israel reached a stage in which, in 1996 it embraced 35.1% ofall the Jewish population of the world (della Pergola, 1998, p. 51). Tracing thegrowth of the Jewish population residing in the territory rst under Othman rule,later under British Mandate and nally as an independent sovereign entity one isconfronted with a very unusual picture: in 1800 the number of Jewish residents inPalestine stood at 6700 (Gorny, 1985, p. 15). In the middle of the 19th Century thenumber almost doubled and stood at 12,000 (Rahat, 1983, p. 29). On the eve ofWorld War I the number doubled once again and reached about 24,000 (Gorny,1985, p. 15). At the end of 2000, a hundred and twenty years after the rst modernmigratory wave to the country, the Jewish population reached the 4,952,200 mark(CBS, 2001)Fa 206-fold growth!From this point of view there is absolutely no doubt that Israel could be termed a

    major success story. And yet, one should bear in mind that Israel is also dened bysocial scientists as a multi-problem society. In fact, as succinctly put by Prof.Michael Weltzer (Makowski, 1999), This is a society which is segmented in moreaspects and deeper ways than any other society I know of in the Western worldyTo be sure, the problems are judged to be so grave that they are termed cleavages.

    Some discern seven basic cleavages (Neuberger, 2000). One is between the left andright in the socio-economic sense. The next is between the so-called political dovesand hawks. The third is between the secular and religious segments of society. Thefourth is between the Ashkenazi (of European descent) and the Oriental (of Middle-Eastern or North-African descent). The fth is between Zionists and non- or anti-Zionists (the latter found mainly among ultra-orthodox religious sects). The sixth isbetween Olim (new immigrants) and vatikim (established citizens). The seventhis the Jewish-Arab/Palestinian cleavage, which refers to the rift between the Jewishand Arab citizens of Israel.

    D. Soen / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 26 (2002) 215232216

  • This latter cleavage is the most crucial, since it is characterized by the clearestdiagnostic dichotomy, namely each of the two national components of the Israelisociety clearly and objectively belongs to one of the two. The distinction is denite,either I am Jewish or I am Arab. There is no place here for a graduated diagnosis ofbeing more or less or dont really belong. That in spite of the fact that the Israeligovernment treated the Israeli Arabs as religious sects or confessions rather than anational minority as part of its policy of control and contain or divide and rule(Zeedani, 2000).What is more, this cleavage is the most loaded from a sentimental point of view;

    the emotional assertion is one of the strongest indicators for the dimension of thesocial cleavage (Kerlinger, 1984).

    2. IsraelFa bi-national society

    Despite its many successes, Israel 53 years after gaining independence remains aJewish beachhead in the Middle East. Three-fourths of Israels infrastructure andJewish population lie along the 75 miles coastal belt from Haifa to TEL-Aviv and 35miles West to East stretch from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. It is worth noting that theJewish heartland rarely exceeds nine miles in width (Rozenman, 2001).As the State of Israel was proclaimed its Jewish population numbered 649,600

    (Schmelz, 1976, p. 1). In the rst population census carried out in Israel in 1948 notlong after the proclamation of independence, the Arab population numbered only69,000 (Lustick, 1985, p. 62). It very quickly grew to 150,000 as the Israeligovernment allowed the return of many refugees.As a result of Jewish immigration and Arab emigration during the rst ve years

    of Israels founding Jews constituted roughly 87 percent of Israels populationbetween 1953 and 1967. Then the consistently much higher Israeli-Arab fertility ratesbegan to close the gap. At the end of 1998 79.2% of the countrys population wasJewish; 20.8% was not (CBD, 2000, Table 2).In addition to the disparity in birth rates the Israeli Arabs are much younger as a

    group than Israeli Jews. No wonder then that according to the CBDs forecast about23% of the Israeli population in 2020 will be Arab (Basok, 1999).Two conclusions of highest signicance arise from these data. Firstly, Israel is

    already a bi-national society, in which the size of the minority group is just over one-fth of the population. Secondly, within one generation the minority group isexpected to reach the size of about one-quarter of the general population.This pluralism merits a word of caution. One should be aware of the fact that a

    certain measure of ethnic pluralism is perceived as legitimate and even benecial tosociety. Nevertheless, while under certain conditions ethnic pluralism contributes tothe existence and the development of society, exceeding a certain boundary may bedestructive (Ben-Sira, 1988, p. 12).Since pluralism denotes diversities found in the study of religious, ethnic and

    national groups, and since pluralism means in effect a state of affairs in which eachethnic group maintains in large measure, a separate way of life, with its own customs,

    D. Soen / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 26 (2002) 215232 217

  • its own supplementary schools, its special organizations and periodicals, and perhapseven its favored secondary languages (Glazer, 1957, p. 8) it is clear that whenever thecultural or national breach between the groups is very deep and whenever there is nowill of mutual accommodation overall social unity might be threatened. In fact,cultural diversity has even been described as the enemy from within (Cummins &Sayers, 1996, p. 4).

    3. The national cleavageFsocio-political implications of Jewish and Democratic

    Israel, then, is effectively a bi-national state. Yet, Israel is at the same time also anation-state in the sense that it had not been created as a state for all its inhabitants.Rather, it had been created specically in order to exercise the right of the Jewishpeople to self-determination (Gavison, 2000, p. 73).As asserted by Klein, as France is French and Spain is Spanish so Israel is Jewish,

    and hence gives preference to Jews (Klein, 1987).This view is taken one step further by A.B. Yehoshua, one of the Is


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