Before Going Abroad, Pupils Must Pass Gov’t Propaganda Course

Israeli authorities now require all high school students – both Jewish and Arab – to study an online governmental propaganda course promoting racist ideology, and then pass a test, before they are allowed to participate in overseas class trips. Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has undertaken legal action to fight this practice.

A screenshot from part of the online course in which students are told that "anti-Semitism in Europe increased with the immigration of Muslims to Europe… from the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan..."

A screenshot from part of the online course in which students are told that “anti-Semitism in Europe increased with the immigration of Muslims to Europe… from the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan…”

The mandatory online course requires students to watch a series of videos after which they must take a multiple choice exam, the correct answers to which promote racist ideology.

For example, one question asks: “How do Palestinian organizations use digital social networks?” Of four possible choices, the only correct answer is “encouraging violence.” Another question asks students to identify the origins of modern anti-Semitism. The correct answer is “Muslim organizations” and the BDS movement.

Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi sent a letter to the Israeli Education Ministry on June 18 on behalf of the Masar Association and the parents of children studying at the association’s school in Nazareth. The school cancelled its annual student exchange mission to Sweden during the academic year, after the ministry’s regulations went into effect, as it refused to allow its students to sit for such an exam, which promotes official propaganda. Previously, some 25 Arab students, all citizens of Israel, participated annually in the exchange.

Adalah’s letter stresses that the Education Ministry’s propaganda exam focuses on core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that are the subject of deep political controversy, and students are required to choose specific “correct” positions, as though they reflect an objective factual truth. The course presents a racist ideological perspective that creates an equivalence between Palestinian, Arab, or Muslim identities and violence and terrorism. Palestinian Arab high school students in the Israeli school system are being asked by this exam to assimilate its racist values.

This mandatory propaganda course violates the values of educational pluralism and contravenes provisions of Israel’s Education Law, which requires consideration of the uniqueness of the Arab minority, citizens of Israel, recognizing its language, culture, and heritage, says Adalah.

The exam’s questions and answers also violate the principle of equality, contradict Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and constitute particularly blatant humiliation of Arab high school students, the organization added.

In its letter, Adalah demands that the Israeli Education Ministry immediately cancel the mandatory course and exam and allow students to freely participate in overseas school trips with the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Adalah also called on the Education Ministry to respond within 30 days.

Commenting on this, Atty. Shehadeh-Zoabi, said, “The Israeli Education Ministry is trying to turn high school students into agents of propaganda charged with spreading extreme racist ideology. This is especially grave for Palestinian Arab teenagers who, with this exam, are being forced to internalize humiliating statements about themselves and their families. This is outrageous and illegal. Political and ideological coercion of citizens radically contradicts the goals of education. Adalah will take all necessary steps to abolish this course that is repugnantly offensive to Arab citizens and students.”