Reprinted from Yedioth Ahronoth,of August 30, 1999
THE NEW HISTORY
By Eliakim Haetzni
No American teacher would even consider teaching the Kosovo war from the viewpoint of the Serbs, but in Israel pupils are asked to understand the Palestinian side. A question for the readers who have schoolchildren: Is it conceivable that in an American school the pupils would be presented with a question such as this: "How, in your opinion, did the Serbs relate to the NATO bombings? Could they accept the concept of a 'war to end the Serbian genocide' for the Kosovo war?" I was not the one who invented such an impossible question. I borrowed it from the new ninth grade history textbook by Eyal Naveh, which received the approval of the Israeli Education Ministry: "How, in your opinion, did the Palestinian Arabs relate to the establishment of the State of Israel? Could they accept the concept of the 'War of Liberation' or the 'War of Independence' for the 1947-48 war?" In 1982 Britain and Argentina waged war with each other over the Falkland Islands. Where is the English textbook that will impart to the children of England the Argentinean viewpoint regarding the war? Naveh explained to a New York Times reporter that, until now, "we were not mature enough" to show the Palestinian side to the pupils. Are the Americans and the English also not "mature enough" to educate their children regarding the viewpoint of the opposing side in the current conflicts in which they are involved? There are exceptions, and these, so says Naveh, were before him: "Now we are capable of treating these controversial issues in the manner in which the Americans treat the Indians and the slavery of the blacks." But the blacks were kidnaped, put on ships under horrendous conditions, and sold in the United States in the slave markets. The conquerors of the "New World" did not "return to the home of their fathers." They invaded a foreign land and systematically annihilated its inhabitants. The self-image that Naveh seeks to implant in the pupil is that of the Jews as an occupying colonial power with a formidable advantage in power. The Arabs (100 million, tremendous territory, oil) we interpret as the Indians and the blacks. In short: we are Goliath. This is exactly the Arab nationalist image that regards the slaughter of 1929 and the murder of the children of Avivim and Maalot as "David's slingshot." Also on the question of the flight of the Arabs who were not expelled, Naveh does not express himself, for example, as the conclusion of a European research group from 1957:
"Already in the first months of 1948 the Arab League issued orders to seek temporary shelter in the neighboring lands, in order to afterwards return to their places in the wake of the victorious Arab armies, and to receive their share of the abandoned Jewish property." Naveh tempers this in favor of the Arabs: "Tens of thousands fled to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, in the hope that with the assistance of these states they would sometime return to their places." According to Naveh, the Jews in 1948 had "an advantage over the Arabs," among other respects, "in terms of the number of soldiers." Naveh merely omits a small detail, that we fought with Sten [submachine] guns against tanks, and with rifles against cannon. For Naveh, the terrorist organizations were not "terror organizations," but rather "political organizations" and "fighting organizations opposed to the occupation and to the State of Israel," that also "conducted acts of terror." In a radio interview Naveh explained that Trumpeldor did not fight for the homeland: this was not the homeland, because this was not within the bounds of the Mandate.... For him, Eretz Israel was something archaic. He was a "Russian romantic."
When Naveh was asked whether Eretz Israel is not the inheritance of our fathers, he responded with a question: "Who said so?" The interviewer suggested: "The Bible" (in 1936 Ben-Gurion declared to the Peel Commission: "The Bible is our mandate"). Not so for Naveh: "There are those who do not think so, who do not accept the Bible as unquestionable truth." An exercise in the book by Naveh: "Write about the Six Day war from three viewpoints: an Israeli soldier, an Egyptian POW, and a woman inhabitant of a refugee camp in Gaza that was conquered by Israel." What will be the answer of the pupils who have internalized Eyal Naveh's teachings? They will look at their parents and their teachers with alien eyes, they will regard them as conquerors, oppressors, and dispossessors, and they will relate to Eretz Israel as a land that is not theirs. If this is the generation that we will raise, all that is left to ask is: Why shouldn't we pack our bags and take our children from here, so that they will no longer be able to fight for this land as their homeland?