Israeli Textbook Tells of Arab Plight

July 23, 2007

Author: Richard Boudreaux

Source: Los Angeles Times, the,1,5423625.story?ctrack=3&cset=true

JERUSALEM — For the first time in its 59-year history, Israel has approved a school textbook acknowledging what the country's minority Palestinian citizens have been learning at home for generations: The Jewish state's creation was a tragedy for them.

The updated third-grade primer stirred controversy Sunday when the Education Ministry announced its approval for Arab classrooms this fall. Israeli rightists rose in defense of the school system's traditional one-sided teaching of history and declared the book itself a tragedy.

Under the title "Living Together in Israel," the book describes events of 1948 and 1949, when Israel's creation by the United Nations in what had been British-ruled Palestine prompted an invasion by Arab armies, fierce fighting and the displacement of about 700,000 Palestinian Arabs.

Previous editions gave only the Jewish narrative of the war, pointing out the Jews' historical connection to the Holy Land and their need for a state because of persecution in Europe.

That version focused on heroism of the victorious Israeli forces and referred to the Palestinian flight as a voluntary escape.

The new edition adds the Arab perspective, noting for the first time that many Palestinians were forced from their homes and became refugees after the war's victors confiscated their lands and barred their return.

"When the war ended, the Jews prevailed, and Israel and its neighbors signed a truce," a key passage reads. "The Arabs call the war the 'Nakba,' meaning the war of catastrophe and destruction. The Jews call it the War of Independence."