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Israel's education minister wants to reduce Jewish history to pogroms

A new committee is tasked with exposing Israeli students to Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish history. The problem? There is more than one narrative.

By Gil Gertel

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett campaigning. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett campaigning. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A committee in Israel’s Education Ministry meant to “expose Israeli students to the cultural, philosophical, social, and historical wealth of Jewish communities of the East and Spain” began its work last week. The Bitton Committee, appointed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, is headed by poet and Israel Prize winner Erez Bitton. It is supposed to find ways for integrating content on this topic in the existing school curriculum. So far the plan sounds great.

The education minister is very proud of his work. “I am proud to fix an historical injustice,” and, “the revolution has begun,” were just two tidbits of praise he lavished on himself last week on social media.

Bennett could not seem to wait for the Bitton Committee to finish its work, it seems, as he hurriedly deliniated the path toward redress in a Facebook status published on Sunday: “A short history text: Have you heard about the Kishinev pogroms? About the 1929 Palestine riots? And what about the riots on Oujda and Jerada in Morocco? Forty-one Jews were murdered in these riots.”

Bennett’s Facebook followers were elated: “I am Moroccan on both sides and I had no idea. Thank you Bennett.”

Inclusive storytelling

For a moment one hoped that Bennett was giving real respect to the stories of Moroccan Jews alongside those of Jews from Russia, such that these stories no longer compete with one another.

I myself am a son of refugees/migrant workers who left the Podolia (present day Ukraine) following the Kishinev pogrom, wandered through several countries until they found work in Tel Aviv in the first years of the 20th century. To my understanding, Jews of Oudja and Jerada have their own story. It is an interesting one that I have much empathy for, even though it is not my own.

I feel the same way for the Palestinians of al-Qubab, a destroyed Palestinian village not far from my home — this too is not my story. I truly believe that all these stories can exist side by side, without disturbing or undermining the existence of those who tell them.

Naftali Bennett, however, comes at this story from a completely different angle.

On the walls of the auditorium where the Bitton Committee held its inaugural meeting hung posters reading: “One nation, that’s the entire story,” to which Bennett added: “We will write one entire story for one nation to guide our education.”

Why one story? Because Bennett doesn’t believe in other stories, not of Jews and definitely not of other people. He’s actually quite clear about his worldview: “There is no such thing as two narratives or two truths. There is a single truth.” I hope that the members of the Bitton Committee see things differently. Otherwise we have achieved nothing. Once again all the sides will compete over the truth, and once again there will be one side that forces his story on the others.

Got pogroms? You’re one of us

If Bennett seeks to unite all these stories into one, one must wonder what that single story looks like. The common denominator Bennett proposes can be found in the word “pogroms,” which repeats itself in his status. Kishinev, Hebron, Oujda — it’s all the same story.

Weak, diaspora Jews who were persecuted by their neighbors for their Judaism, and were massacred as the ultimate victims of their beliefs. On this point we are all one nation. Come join the circle, Bennett tells the Mizrahim, because you, too, were once victims.

Yet the interpretation of the victim is a Zionist-Ashekanzi one.

“For God called up the slaughter and the spring together,— The slayer slew, the blossom burst, and it was sunny weather!” wrote Bialik following the Kishinev pogrom. “What is thy business here, O son of man? Rise, to the desert fee! The cup of affliction thither bear with thee!”

And this is exactly what the Zionists did: they immigrated to Palestine, where they behave as if they are the victims of their fate. But this was not the interpretation of Jews from Muslims lands. At least not all of them.

Funeral for a victim of the 1929 Hebron Massacre. (Photographer unknown)

Funeral for a victim of the 1929 Hebron Massacre. (Photographer unknown)

In his book, Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1929, Israeli historian Hillel Cohen presents us with a scene in which Rabbi Meir Franco — one of Hebron’s Sephardic rabbis — testifies before a British committee investigating the 1929 riots.

“Do you view yourself as a Zionist?” he is asked.

Franco responded: “We are all Zionists. In our prayers we mention Zion’s name three times and hope for its rebuilding. This is our belief. We believe that the messiah will come” (pg. 230).

This is an untold story: most Jews around the world never accepted the Zionist worldview. Whether they lived in the Holy Land or whether they didn’t think that doing so was necessary, even if they prayed for it three times a day.

What happened following 1929, according to Cohen, was that the Arab attacks forced Oriental Jews that lived in Palestine to join the Zionists and ask for their protection. That is when the Zionism of belief turned into the Zionism of land, when the gap between Sephardic Jews and Arabs was formed.

And this is the issue — the story of the Mizrahim/Sephardic Jews, like the story of Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews, does not fit in the Zionist story. That is why they were silenced and forgotten.

The narrative that counts

If we want to tell the forgotten stories — great. Tell us the story of the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews who did not accept the Zionism of conquest and occupation, who did not think there was a “national problem” and did not see Israel as a solution.

This won’t be easy, since it will quickly become clear that we are surrounded by non-Zionist stories.

But there is no redressing historical injustice by taking the traditions of Sephardic Jews and subjugating them to the Ashkenazi Zionist story. That will only perpetuate injustice. I hope that the honorable members of the Bitton Committee are able to break through our education minister’s narrow worldview.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Carmen

      This could actually be the selling point to use for the advantages of home schooling versus a public school education under Mr. Bennett’s command. However, with Mr. Bennett’s very narrow world view coupled with his very obvious rejection of reality, I can’t see this ending any way but badly. But, as the bagrut will most definitely reflect the change in venue, with easy questions that are yes/no with no need to explain, just memorize the answers, then indeed the lunatics are running this asylum. It horrifies me that this man, who will forever be known for the statement, supposedly out of context or not “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that”, is the same man who is the education minister. I’m guessing in the future he will also be remembered for the deliberate murder of learning for israeli Jewish children.

      “On the face of it, the decision to ban Rabinyan’s novel could seem like an innocent attempt at molding the minds of young Israeli Jews toward a future of Jewish perpetuity. In reality, however, the man in charge of our children’s education is now adopting the rhetoric of Israel’s most unabashedly vile racists. This is how the extreme right — the one we are repeatedly told is on the margins of Israeli society — becomes mainstream.” By Edo Konrad
      |Published December 31, 2015 – The uncomfortable context of Israel’s book ban

      Reply to Comment
    2. carmen

      What is creepier than Mr. Bennett’s “smile”? The micro-size kippa on his macro-size head.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Bennett torpedoed chief scientist’s anti-racism project before ousting him
      Former Education Ministry chief scientist complains of government interference: ‘Things like this happened only in the Middle Ages or in totalitarian states.’

      Yarden Skop, Or Kashti

      http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.705809

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ginger Eis

      As this untold history of the genocide and brutish barbarism inflicted on Jews in Muslim Arab countries by Muslim Arabs is finally being revealed and told to the world, +972mag, our self-styled “Liberals”, “Progressives” are coiling, recoiling and rattling in anger and working separately to make that history never see the light of the day. Indeed, Brood Of vipers masquerading as “human rights” activists, “Liberals” and “Progessives” and revealing their vile nature!

      “ (…). The woman, it turns out, was of Iraqi Jewish ancestry. The building was the iconic United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, astride the East River. The event was in a hall routinely used by the UN Security Council. The day was June 1, 2015. The occasion was the proclamation of International Farhud Day”“ at the UN as a live global event broadcast by UN TV.

      Farhud in an Arabic dialect means violent dispossession. The words I spoke that gripped the woman listening described in detail how the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, leader of the Arab community in Mandate Palestine, organized a blood-curdling massacre by Nazi-allied Arabs against Baghdad’s peaceful Jewish community on June 1-2, 1941. The ensuing mass rape, beheading, murder, burning, and looting spree was the first step in a process that throughout the Arab world effectively ended 2,600 years of Jewish existence in those lands. Ultimately, some 850,000 to 900,000 Jews were systemically pauperized and made stateless in a coordinated forced exodus from the Arab world.
      Many Sephardic Jews consider the 1941 Farhud, which murdered and maimed hundreds, to be their Kristallnacht.

      However, for the past 74 years, neither the facts about the brutal, two-day pogrom, nor the culpability of the Nazified Iraqi and Palestinian Arab perpetrators, nor the expulsion of 850,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab world that followed were topics the UN wanted to hear of. Nor for the past 74 years was this blood-letting and its aftermath commemorated in the vast chronicles of organized Holocaust remembrances. Nor for the past 74 years was this constellation of tragedies commonly known and/or spoken of within the Jewish community. In fact, it took years of highly acrimonious . sometimes, debate with and pressure on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) only recently successful to even induce the USHMM to recognize either the atrocity that occurred, or the Mufti’s role in the killing, as a Holocaust-era persecution.

      Indeed, the Farhud is most often referred to as the “forgotten pogrom.” I first wrote about this massacre, in fleeting passage, in my 2004 book, Banking on Baghdad. My articles on the subject in the media, drawn from the book, such as those syndicated by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, were typically headlined “The Forgotten Pogrom.” That spawned the 2005 Farhud Recognition Project, which endeavored to bring this brutal-Holocaust chapter into history’s sightlines”.

      http://www.algemeiner.com/2015/06/23/remembering-farhud-day-and-the-arab-pogroms/#

      Reply to Comment
      • SkyHawk

        “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – JFK is reported to have said. The Genocide, the rapes, the beheadings, the beastly barbarism against the Yazidis started with Jews in Arab Countries. Because the “world” kept quiet, that evil persists and is unfolding before our eyes today. In this very moment, an entire Ethnic Group is being wiped out of existence by Muslim Arabs. It started with the Jews, but Jews, though a very tiny ethnic group, were strong enough to survive Muslim barbarism. The Yazidis may not be that lucky. In a few years, there will not be enough Yazidis to guarantee the survival of the Yazidi people. And the saddest aspect of it all is that there is ZERO outcry in the West and the world at large! The Jewish State has complained bitterly about this, but there is nothing our tiny State can do to prevent the ongoing genocide. The so-called “liberals and progressives” you mention are nowhere to be seen. The Idiot In Chief at the WH cannot even call what is going on ‘GENOCIDE’, because of, you know, “legal considerations”. Oh yeah, those “legal considerations”: i.e. if you recognize what is happening to the Yazidis as “GENOCIDE”, you will be obligated to act militarily to put an end to it – and that ain’t gonna happen! This is the free world led by The United States and Europe. The West, led by Barack Obama has Yazid-blood in its hands and is complicit in Genocide against the Yazidis.

        Gil Gertel, you should commend the government and the education minister for their good work in the service of human rights, truth and justice.

        Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        I try to take your point of view more seriously, but starting out your posts with such drama, as you and your compadres often do, makes it difficult to get past the first few sentences of your post without questioning the sincerity of it. Your constant harangue wrt the 972 writers isn’t really necessary for you to make your point, or is it?

        All history should be open for discussion and hopefully in classrooms. This article is about the dumbing down of israeli education and the oversimplification of history by Bennett, reduced to ken or lo answers when we know there are very few questions that can be easily answered with one word.

        Reply to Comment
        • Samson

          Dude, you are posing as a woman and talking about being “sincere”? Boy … that’s kinda rich. I think Ginger just exposed the insincerity of those she mentioned in her post, incl. “+972 columnists”. I guess you would have to be sincere to acknowledge that, but you are not. “+972 columnists” “constantly” publishes one-side and often false accounts and suppresses the other side. I guess you would have to be sincere to acknowledge that exposing that is also “the point”, lol. You have posted anti-Semitic comments on this website and called on Israeli Jews to “move back to New York” where they – according to you – come from. Perhaps you should take a very loooog hard look in the mirror, while calling out loud: ‘insincere hypocrite’!

          While you are at it, don’t let your jealousy and envy get the better of you.

          Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            Your posts are getting more and more cuckoo. I envy no one. I am a woman, no matter how you try to twist that around to fit your logic that Ben/Bruce/Carmen/Eliza are all the same person. You lied about my post wrt Jews going back to Brooklyn and anyway who cares? The basis of the right’s BS is that Palestinians are Jordanians or Egyptians or at any rate, a fabricated people. There’s a huge number of rotten apples from american shores living on settlements; that’s not a rumor, its fact. I think you’re jealous of your alter-ego, Ginger, ‘dude’. At any rate, you’re one twisted sister.

            Reply to Comment
          • Samson

            1. “I am a woman”

            Indeed, Ben, you are a woman with a mustache; and old man posing as a chic online and telling male commenters that he is a woman. An old man that fantazes on what it is like to be a woman. That is the kind of lunatics that are hooked on +972 and daily fixate on- and obsess about Jews and Israel;

            2. “You lied about my post wrt Jews going back to Brooklyn”

            +972: How police can earn the trust of Arab society in Israel:

            Carmen
            Thursday
            February 18, 2016

            How police can earn the trust of Arab society in Israel? Move to Brooklyn?

            http://972mag.com/how-police-can-earn-the-trust-of-arab-society-in-israel/117176/

            3. “and anyway who cares?”

            No one cares, because the words of psychotic lunatics like you are just useless. I only want to expose you as a hateful psychopath and make you perhaps realize that your rants here are as important a piece of shit.

            Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            YAWN………

            Reply to Comment
          • Samson

            “YAWN” …. Isn’t that what you have been told before by someone when you posed as “Ben”/”BruceGould”? It is quite easy it is to demolish you and when that happens you start emulating and repeating what others have said to you before, like “yawn”, etc. An old Muslim man posing as a woman and fantasizing about what it feel like being a woman. Sheesh, are you wearing a thong right now? ROFLMAO … !

            Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            I know how it feels to be a woman having been one all my life, moron. Just because you’d rather picture me as an old man, doesn’t make it true. You might want to get that checked out, sounds like a recurring problem. Why are you so weird? I’m guessing you have no idea how a woman feels or maybe you’re jealous of us? That must be the reason you get nasty and all puffed up. And it never fails to amuse me how some of you boyz become unglued when you get a taste of what you so freely and frequently dish out? You then claim you’ve ‘demolished’ me? Is that what your intentions are? How very odd and very disturbing. Natasha Roth did a piece about sexual harassment, surely you trolled it? In case you didn’t maybe you’ll watch this. It’s all about you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuNIwYsz7PI&feature=player_detailpage

            Anyway, Bennett is going to be the ruination of what will laughingly be called education in the zionist state. But it looks like he got to you early!

            Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        Hajj Amin al-Husseini also instigated the Nazis to implement the Final Solution. He might have inspired the Russian pogroms and possibly the May Laws but I’d have to double check that.

        Yes, this is a sarcastic post.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Gott im Himmel, Eis, you keep on reminding me of the comic Emily Litella, which has a screeching inaptness to it that jars my mind and heart, given the serious subject matter here. It seems you have an ability to take any +972 article whatsoever as an excuse to needlessly harangue its writers, and of course all “human rights activists, liberals and progressives” in the bargain, on weirdly false charges. The subject is not “Let’s Forget Pogroms,” Eis, it is actually something like *the opposite*: “Let’s Remember All Pogroms and Not Just Pogroms, Let’s Remember Everyone’s Story, Not Just the Ones Propaganda Minister Bennet Likes, and Let’s Not Use One Story to Deliberately Forget Others We Don’t Like and Force ‘A Single Truth’ on Everyone,” as nicely stated by Gil Gertel:

        “To my understanding, Jews of Oudja and Jerada have their own story. It is an interesting one that I have much empathy for, even though it is not my own.
        I feel the same way for the Palestinians of al-Qubab, a destroyed Palestinian village not far from my home — this too is not my story. I truly believe that all these stories can exist side by side, without disturbing or undermining the existence of those who tell them.
        Naftali Bennett, however, comes at this story from a completely different angle.
        On the walls of the auditorium where the Bitton Committee held its inaugural meeting hung posters reading: “One nation, that’s the entire story,” to which Bennett added: “We will write one entire story for one nation to guide our education.”
        Why one story? Because Bennett doesn’t believe in other stories, not of Jews and definitely not of other people. He’s actually quite clear about his worldview: “There is no such thing as two narratives or two truths. There is a single truth.”

        This is very, very different than the Trumped-up (pun intended) charges you make. You voting for Trump, Eis? One gets a feeling about this.

        Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Thanks. I had made that clear in an earlier response to Ms. Eis and was engaging in shorthand here by referring to “Emily Litella.” I am referring specifically to Radner’s comic harangues about “what’s all this I hear about an eagle rights amendment?! Who cares about eagle rights?!… Oh … Never mind!” Because Ms. Eis in my opinion characteristically parachutes in with a gloriously twisted version of the actual topic in order to harangue the writer and all liberals and “Muslim-Arabs” in one fell commando op and I find the effect comic. That’s all.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Pál Prónay

      I myself am a son of refugees/migrant workers who left the Podolia (present day Ukraine) following the Kishinev pogrom… so your parents stole from Ukraine and you steal from Palestine

      Reply to Comment
    6. Samson

      The Genocide that was BEFORE the Holocaust

      Consider just these FACTS, I repeat: FACTS, and answer this question

      QUESTION:

      What is the difference between (a) “Prophet” Muhammad, (b) Adolf Hitler and (c) ISIS?

      “Anti-Semitism in the Muslim world can be traced directly to the Koran’s curse upon the Jews for having allegedly slain the prophets and transgressed against the will of Allah. This motif is coupled to Koranic verses that describe the Jews’ transformation into apes and swine – creatures that were “cursed by the tongue of David, and [by] Jesus, Mary’s son.” The Prophet Muhammad himself repeats this Koranic curse in a canonical hadith (a saying attributed to Islam’s founder).

      The Koran catalogues a litany of the Jews’ sins, including a lack of faith; disobedience and corruption; violence against the prophets; disrespect for Muhammad; “perverse” behavior; fraud; deceit; disobedience; distortion; envy; usury; sorcery; treachery; hedonism; and idol worship. These alleged justifications for Jew-hatred have continued to exert a profound influence on Muslims throughout history, right up to the modern era. Muslim exegetic literature on the Koran makes it clear that the Jews’ permanent “abasement and humiliation” has caused them to be “laden with God’s anger.”

      The Prophet Muhammad not only assassinated individual Jews, but also destroyed entire Jewish communities by means of expulsion, mass murder, and enslavement. Just before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of that tribe’s adult males, Muhammad invoked perhaps the most striking justification for the Jews’ debasement when he addressed them as “you brothers of apes,” thus branding them as subhuman. Subsequently, in his conflict with the Khaybar Jews, Muhammad had the male leadership killed and then plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors – industrious Jewish farmers – became prototype subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty. (…).

      As dhimmis in Muslim countries, Jews were given the most degrading tasks — including jobs as executioners, grave-diggers, salters of the decapitated heads of rebels, and cleaners of latrines. Islamic societies exhibited unique forms of severe oppression of Jews, not found in Christian Europe, such as: abduction of Jewish girls for Muslim harems; enslavement of women and children who were unable to pay the jizya, a blood ransom “tax” demanded of non-Muslims; and the obligation in some regions for Jews to walk barefoot outside their quarters. With regard to enslavement, specifically, right up until their mass exodus in 1948, rural Yemenite Jews were literally Muslim chattel. (…)”. http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=41

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        In the main, ISIS is a bit player in a much larger problem, that being the Assad/Russian/Iranian assault on Syria, while Hitler was the primary actor in starting WWII. As for Mohammed, it would be more pertinent to compare him with Moses, since they occupy roughly the same position in their respective belief systems.

        Reply to Comment
        • Samson

          Try again – when you sober-up and are able to rationally deal with not so complex issues.

          Btw. why do jihadis avoid Muslim screen names online as one would avoid poison? Why not be proud of your heritage, “Andrew”? Try ‘Mustafa’, LoL …

          Reply to Comment
    7. Bruce Gould

      It’s 2016. Israel now owns 4-5 million Palestinian serfs (6-7 million if we count the ones with Israeli citizenship). There isn’t going to be any Palestinian state, there isn’t going to be any fantasy confederation with Jordan, the demographers over at the S. Daniel Abraham Center For Mideast Peace believe that the Jewish population in Greater Israel will soon be a minority. Two million Palestinians are in a giant open air prison; Israel even controls the population registry of this correctional facility (http://gisha.org/en-blog/2011/11/14/the-population-registry/ ). Welcome to the future.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Bruce Gould

      No nuance of speech or thought goes recognized here. Below the title of the article we find the phrase “A new committee is tasked with exposing Israeli students to Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish history. The problem? There is more than one narrative.”

      There’s more than ONE narrative. Farshtaist? ( http://jewishwebindex.com/Yiddish%20Sayings.htm )

      Reply to Comment
      • Samson

        Perhaps, YOU jihadi-Ben can tell us how (a) your Arab brothers who fled the war started by your people the Arabs in order to wipe out the few hours old Jewish State off the mad and drive its Jewish citizens into the sea equal (b) the Genocide, the Pogroms, the mass murders, the mass rapes and mass beheadings and other Crimes against Humanity perpetrated for centuries on Jews in Arab countries by your Muslim Arab brothers? Do you see how phony, ridiculous and quite idiotic yours and Gil Gertel’s statements are?

        Reply to Comment
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