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Israel's segregated schools: Jewish & Arab kids are reared in separate (unequal) schools, links from Peter Myers

(1) Israel maintains two separate educational systems - one for Jews, one for Arabs
(2) Separate schools for Jews & Arabs justified on Ethnic? No, on Religious grounds
(3) Arab pupils learn mostly in Arabic, and Jews in Hebrew
(4) Israel spends 3 times as much on schools for Jews than on Palestinian schools
(5) Racial segregation in Israeli schools - Ethiopian children are ghettoized

(1) Israel maintains two separate educational systems - one for Jews, one for Arabs

Why Israel's schools merit a U.S. boycott

Daily life in Jerusalem

Saree Makdisi

At its annual convention this week, the Modern Language Assn., which
represents 26,000 language and literature scholars, will become the
latest academic body to consider the merits of adopting a boycott of
Israeli academic institutions. This follows endorsements of such a
boycott by the Assn. for Asian American Studies, the American Studies
Assn. and, most recently, the American Anthropological Assn., which
voted 1,040 to 136 to endorse a resolution to boycott Israeli academic
institutions at its November annual meeting in Denver; the AAA's entire
membership will soon vote on the resolution, which is expected to pass.

The justification for an academic boycott — which targets institutions,
not individual scholars — stems from the peculiar relationship between
Israel's educational system and its broader structures of racism.

The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to
university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer
holes. - Human Rights Watch

--- FOR THE RECORD: Israel: A Jan. 8 Op-Ed arguing for a boycott of
Israeli academic institutions cited a study saying there wasn't a single
high school in Palestinian communities in the Negev desert in southern
Israel. The author and the study were referring specifically to Bedouin
villages that are unrecognized by Israel. — ----

The United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination points out with alarm that Israel maintains two separate
educational systems for its citizens — one for Jewish children and
another for the children of the Palestinian minority — a structure that
reinforces the profound segregation of Israeli society in everything
from matters of citizenship and marriage to housing rights.

According to official Israeli data cited by the human rights
organization Adalah, by the turn of the 21st century Israel was
investing three times as much on a per capita basis in the education of
a Jewish as opposed to that of a Palestinian citizen.

The consequences are obvious: Schools for Palestinians in Israel are
overcrowded and poorly equipped, lacking in libraries, labs, arts
facilities and recreational space in comparison with schools for Jewish
students. Palestinian children often have to travel greater distances
than their Jewish peers to get to school, thanks to a state ban on the
construction of schools in certain Palestinian towns (for example,
according to Adalah, there is not a single high school in the
Palestinian communities of the Negev desert in southern Israel).

These naked forms of discrimination extend into the university system as
well. "The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to
university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer
holes," Human Rights Watch points out. "At each stage, the education
system filters out a higher proportion of Palestinian Arab students than
Jewish students."

Discriminatory policies risk Israel's longtime bipartisan U.S. support

In other words, children denied access to adequate kindergartens do less
well in elementary school; students in dilapidated and resource-starved
high schools find themselves funneled into work as carpenters or
mechanics rather than doctors, lawyers or professors. Indeed, the
university admissions process is the point at which the country's two
separate and unequal schooling systems converge, with calamitous results
for Palestinian students, who fall short on matriculation or
psychometric exams that are weighted toward the Jewish school
curriculum, according to Human Rights Watch.

About a quarter of Israeli schoolchildren are Palestinian. But as a
recent study by the Assn. for the Advancement of Civic Equity points
out, the higher you go in the system, the lower the number of
Palestinian students. As of 2012, according to data published by the
Israeli Council for Higher Education, Palestinians constituted only 11%
of bachelor's degree students, 7% of master's students, and barely 3% of
PhD students. A mere 2.7% of the faculty in Israeli universities are
Palestinian, and the percentage of Palestinians in administration is
even lower.

According to sociologist Majid al-Haj of the University of Haifa,
Israeli universities systematically fail their Palestinian students.
These students end up feeling alienated in an academic environment that
stubbornly resists integration and seems designed to consolidate rather
than challenge discrimination.

All of this is damning, but there is more: Israel's long-standing
assault on the right to education of Palestinian residents of the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank. Israel has bombed schools and besieged
university campuses; it detains and harasses students and teachers at
army checkpoints; it has restricted the flow of school materials to
Gaza; it has prevented Palestinian students from studying overseas.

One must conclude that Israel's educational system is intended to
consolidate the nation's putative Jewish identity and further dispossess
the Palestinians. This is a process that the Israeli sociologist Baruch
Kimmerling once identified as "politicide." Surely one of its components
could be called educide, which international educators ought to reject
by endorsing the academic boycott of institutions that engage in it.

Such a boycott wouldn't affect individual Israeli scholars, whose
freedom to participate in international conferences, publish in journals
or collaborate with other scholars would not be threatened. Rather, it
calls for a break in institutional cooperation and affiliation. For
example, the MLA would not co-sponsor an event with Tel Aviv University.

Boycotts have been among the most effective means of nonviolent protest
against institutional injustice in the modern era. They played a key
role in bringing about the transformation of the Jim Crow South and the
downfall of apartheid in South Africa, both of which bear an
unmistakable resemblance to the situation in Israel. It is as
unthinkable to turn a blind eye to the racism of the Israeli educational
system as it would have been to disregard those earlier forms of injustice.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at
UCLA and a member of the Modern Language Assn. He presented a longer
version of this piece at the MLA convention in Austin on Thursday.

(2) Separate schools for Jews & Arabs justified on Ethnic? No, on Religious grounds

Schools for Jews and Arabs: Separate but Definitely Not Equal

In one clear step, Israel’s Education Minister has demonstrated that the
separate Jewish and Muslim school systems have nothing to do with
preserving an autonomous space for Jewish and for Arab culture, but
rather - plain segregation.

Rivka Cohen Jun 25, 2012 12:38 PM

In one clear step, Israel’s Education Minister has demonstrated that the
separate Jewish and Muslim school systems have nothing to do with
preserving an autonomous space for Jewish and for Arab culture, but
rather - plain segregation.

In the United States, the infamous phrase "separate but equal" evokes
images of racially segregated drinking fountains, restaurants, and, most
notably, schools. The phrase, which originated in a U.S. Supreme Court
case back in 1896, was eventually superseded by another: "Separate is
inherently unequal," a paraphrase from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling
in Brown v. Board in 1954. The exact wording, that "Separate educational
facilities are inherently unequal," made aliyah in 2009, when the
Israeli Supreme Court explicitly quoted it in a decision against ethnic
segregation in a private religious school.

But until today this ruling has still to be enforced across the whole
spectrum of the Israeli educational system, particularly in terms of the
unequal separation of Arab and Jewish students in Israeli schools. This
need has become even more urgent following this week's insensitive
declaration by the Ministry of Education that students in the Arab
educational sector will be required to study Menachem Begin and David
Ben Gurion in the same way as their Jewish counterparts.

First, some background to the case in Israel that triggered the Court's
co-option of the judgment "separate is unequal". According to Israel’s
Student Rights Law, educational facilities must not be segregated on
ethnic or political grounds. In the case in question, Noar KeHalacha v.
Ministry of Education, a group of Sephardi families protested the
separation of their daughters from their Ashkenazi peers in two
different academic tracks.

However the High Court found that that the separation was not purely on
an ethnic basis – which would have been clearly illegal.

Instead, the Court ruled that a two-track educational system was based
on religious criteria – and judged this to be illegal, even though the
law doesn’t explicitly prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion.
Thus a ground-breaking precedent was born. Yet separation based on
religious criteria is a founding principle of Israel’s education system,
not least in the separation of Arab and Jewish students in both
elementary and secondary schools.

Justice Melcer, who sat in the 2009 discrimination case, cited a comment
by MK Silvan Shalom that was made when the Knesset’s passed the Student
Rights Law: "If a Jewish or an Arab child wishes to be admitted to an
Orthodox Jewish school or a religious Arab school, or in a certain kind
of Jewish school or a certain kind of Muslim school, [and is refused
admission] the student cannot say that the reason for the refusal is

What are the consequences of Shalom’s overly broad remarks? They
collapse the differences between what can be understood as a legitimate
preference - filtering school choices according to a strong religious
preference, such as a child seeking admission to "an Orthodox Jewish
school or a religious Arab school" – and what should be seen as a far
wider application of discriminatory entrance policies to an unspecified
range of Jewish or Muslim schools.

These ambiguous criteria would allow Arab students to be excluded from
any Jewish school considered to be "a certain kind of Jewish school,"
potentially including public state secular schools in the Jewish sector.
The same would apply to Jewish students seeking enrollment in Arab schools.

Israelis may well feel incredulity on reading that a Jewish student
might seek enrollment in the Arab sector, or an Arab student in the
secular Jewish one. This itself is a warning sign of the ease with which
widespread segregation is accepted as natural in Israel's schools.

However, there is an even more serious concern. When originally spoken,
MK Shalom’s words were just words. But when Justice Melcer cited them,
they became part of a High Court of Justice ruling, and they were
presented as an example of appropriate segregation. The effect of the
ruling was to say: segregating Sephardi and Ashkenazi children, even if
it is partial and officially voluntary, is illegal, but the
near-absolute segregation of Arab and Jewish students is legitimate.

Aside from legal concerns, a public educational system divided by
religion has clear pitfalls. A study published on Israel’s own
government website Israel notes that "Arab schools – more than any other
educational sector – suffer from a severe shortage of classrooms and
substandard classrooms," and have fewer counseling and psychological
services than in Jewish schools. The study adds that Arab schools suffer
a lower quality of teaching, of classroom conditions, and of academic
results. Just imagine if Jewish students were also enrolled in these
schools: Government funding for more classrooms and better teachers
would surely appear, and quickly.

There can be only one justification for this segregation, bearing in
mind the many disadvantages that Arab students suffer because of it. A
separate school system that is so clearly unequal can only maintain a
pretext of justice if it exists in order to accommodate the different
educational needs of Arab students in a predominately Jewish society.
Yet the Ministry of Education’s recent mandate that Arab students must
study Menachem Begin and David Ben Gurion cuts this justification down
at the knees. The new requirement will force Arab schoolchildren to
celebrate a Jewish-Israeli history that excludes them. The Ministry has,
in one clear step, demonstrated that the separate school systems have
nothing to do with preserving an autonomous space for Arab culture, but
rather plain segregation.

With racism rearing its ugly head in verbal and physical attacks on
African refugees, close on the heels of racist vandalism against one of
Israel’s few integrated schools, we need to pay attention. Forget the
question of whether segregating different religious groups beginning in
kindergarten is just, let alone legal, in the aftermath of Noar
KeHalacha. With rising mistrust and hatred between Israeli Jews and
non-Jews, can Israel afford a "separate but equal" policy that
disregards cultural sensitivities and promotes greater tension and hate?

(3) Arab pupils learn mostly in Arabic, and Jews in Hebrew

Terra incognita: Is separate education working in Israel?

In a sense even the "liberal" voices in Israel accept segregation. A
wall at a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem reads "death to

On Saturday night, as protesters gathered outside the prime minister’s
house to denounce the "Jewish nation-state" law proposal, vandals and
arsonists struck the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Hebrew-Arab bilingual school
in Jerusalem.

They spray-painted graffiti celebrating extremist right-wing rabbi Meir
Kahane and bashing Arabs as "cancer." This isn’t the first time the
school has been targeted. The real message of outrage over this
incident, however, should not just be against hate crimes, but rather a
soul searching about why there are not more schools like Hand in- Hand.

The Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel has been
operating schools since 1998 and currently has five campuses in the
country, one each at Jerusalem (624 students), Sakhnin (130 students),
Wadi Ara (240 students), Jaffa (30 students) and Haifa (70 students).
The last two are preschools.

In 2013 there were 2,008,100 students in Israel. Thus, the percent of
students studying in mixed Arab-Jewish schools is effectively 0.
Catherine Rottenberg, an assistant professor at Ben-Gurion University,
wrote in 2013 that "even though 20 percent of Israel’s population is
Arab, Jewish and Arab children rarely if ever get to know each other as
they grow up. They go to separate schools, play in different
neighborhood playgrounds, and really don’t have an opportunity to meet
one other until, perhaps, university." In 2006 she was involved in
founding an organization named Hagar: Jewish-Arab Education for Equality
to build Israel’s fifth integrated school. Last year around 225 children
were enrolled in this pioneering venture in Beersheba, which she calls
"the only nonsegregated school in the Negev."

I point out these examples to show that although there are a few
examples of schools swimming against the current, the sheer paucity of
these endeavors is extraordinary.

To put it in perspective, around 536 people have been to outer space and
3,500 people have climbed Everest, so you have a better chance of
summiting the world’s tallest mountain than attending a school in Israel
in which Jews and Arabs play together, and you are almost as likely to
have gone to space.

So when everyone expresses outrage at the hate crime perpetrated against
Hand in Hand it would be good to funnel some of that anger into a wider
debate on how everyone takes for granted the total segregation in
Israel’s school system.

Like all things in Israel, the oddity dates from the creation of the
state. Jews were a minority in Mandatory Palestine and at the beginning
of the Mandate the Zionist Executive decided to maintain a
Hebrew-language school system entirely separate from the British
government system in order to inculcate "proper values" in the students.
This system became segmented between Mizrahi- run institutions that
catered to religious Jewish children and Labor-run institutions by the
Histadrut for youth from kibbutzim.

After the establishment of Israel in 1948 the Jewish minority that had
wanted an autonomous education system became the majority. Khalid Arar
writes in a 2012 paper, "Concerning the question of autonomy, it was
argued that since Jews had always demanded educational autonomy wherever
they constituted the minority, they could not deny this right to the
Arab minority."

So when the Knesset passed a Compulsory Education Law in 1949 it
instituted a segregation of the education system into an Arab-only
system for Arabs and a segmented Jewish system of religious, secular and
other streams for Jews.

Some Jews at the time expressed horror at this divisive system. Dorothy
Bar-Adon, writing in The Palestine Post, declaimed that "many parents
had hoped that the new state would bring their children basic education
while the ‘isms’ would be taken care of at home," by which she meant
that school would now instead be used to indoctrinate children to be
religious, secular, Labor voters or Arab nationalists.

Arab education was seen as a priority to bring the minority "up to
Jewish standards" as one newspaper put it, but primarily as a method to
prevent Arabs from becoming a "fifth column". The prime minister’s
special consultant S. Dabon told him in 1957: "What is the goal of Arab
education? It can be assumed: education of its citizens benefits both
the state and themselves, and so that they should not constitute a fifth
column or active potential for surrounding enemies." Arar notes that
over the years, "Some policymakers supported the assimilation of Arab
schools within the general education system while others supported

There was an obsessive fear of having any sort of mixed education.
During the Mandate some Jewish pupils had attended private Catholic
schools that provided some of the best education in the country (as they
still do), but after 1949 one Knesset Education Committee member claimed
allowing Jews to attend non-Jewish schools was "sacrificing them to
Moloch." Fears of Catholic schools led to attempts to ban Jews from
teaching at those institutions and removing Jewish children from them.
This was a time of zealous separation, despite what we are told today
about the utopian, progressive and "egalitarian" aspects of 1950s
"secular" Israel.

Because of the zealous foundations on which education was constructed
there was never a discussion about integration in education.

Arab pupils learn mostly in Arabic and Jews in Hebrew. Over the years
the issue of divided education has popped up primarily in relation to
allocation of resources.

Ami Volansky, in an academic article, notes, "Over the years various
infrastructural and service disparities have been identified between the
Jewish and Arab [sectors]." The Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education in
Israel discusses primarily budget allocations as discrimination. After
anti-Arab graffiti was sprayed on a school in the Arab-Jewish community
of Neve Shalom, Rivka Cohen wrote in Haaretz comparing the Israeli
education system to the "separate but equal" racist policy in 1950s
America. She bemoans educational initiatives that "will force Arab
schoolchildren to celebrate a Jewish-Israeli history that excludes them."

In a sense even the "liberal" voices in Israel accept segregation; they
just want Arab schools to have more money and "preserve an autonomous
space for Arab culture." In 2013 Or Kashti wrote in Haaretz: "A new
policy toward Arab society also requires declaring war on racism."

It’s one thing to educate against racism.

But Israeli society needs to stop taking for granted that 99.99% of
Arabs and Jews should naturally attend different schools.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Jews and Arabs almost always
live in separate locales, under different councils. It is exacerbated by
the fact that within the Jewish community there is mass segregation
between religious and secular Jews and to a large degree between secular
Ashkenazi Jews in communities like kibbutzim, and Mizrahi, Russian and
Ethiopian Jews who are concentrated in "development towns." We’ve even
seen cases of schools that became almost entirely Ethiopian, or catered
exclusively to the children of foreign workers.

As it is, the "integrated" schools remain a tiny drop in the bucket,
primarily catering to children of a small pluralist Jewish and Arab
elite, which perpetuates the notion that anti-racism is only normal
among "enlightened" upper-classes. Israeli society needs to ask whether
the separate schooling is working. When we see the ease with which riots
begin in the country and the boiling anger against the institutions of
the state that hang just under the surface in many communities, the
answer should be obvious. Separating every group into a balkanized,
insular ghetto is not working. It shouldn’t be easier to climb Everest
than to have a modicum of coexistence in education.

(4) Israel spends 3 times as much on schools for Jews than on Palestinian schools

School Segregation in Israel

Why are Palestinian students channeled into a segregated school system
within Israel lasting from 1st grade through high school? Segregation
for Israel’s Palestinian students, who make up roughly 20 percent of the
country’s student population, is a result of rigid geographic and
residential segregation. Palestinian Israelis live largely in Arab
villages or neighborhoods and rarely mix with Jewish Israelis until they
begin working or until they attend university. Israeli governments have
never tried to promote the integration of Israel’s public school system.

In the United States, we call this de facto, rather than de jure (legal)
segregation. However, our democracy has recognized the harm that results
from de facto segregation and has tried to address it in many ways to
promote equal opportunity. These efforts followed the famous 1954 U.S.
Supreme Court decision, Brown v Topeka Board of Education, which ruled
against the so-called "separate but equal doctrine." The Supreme Court
found that segregation was inherently unequal because it isolated black
students from the dominant white culture and therefore put them at a
disadvantage in a competitive workforce.

Israel’s funding for education is rarely reported in detail. However, in
2004 the government released statistics showing its system was not only
separate but also unequal. The statistics revealed that Israel spent 3
times as much on schools for Jewish students than it did for Palestinian
schools, according to an analysis by Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab
Minority Rights in Israel. The same 3 to 1 ratio in spending occurred in
schools in Jerusalem, where Jewish schools in West Jerusalem received
three times more funding than schools in the largely Arab East
Jerusalem, according to a separate study by the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel.

Further evidence of inequality can be found in the decisions by the
Israeli government in designateing certain communities for
"high-priority status" for improving the local educational system. In
recent years Israel has designated 553 Jewish communities for
high-priority status, compared with 4 Palestinian communities.

The Israeli government also attempts to control the curriculum to
prevent Palestinian and Jewish students from learning about the Nakba
(Arabic for "catastrophe"), the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from
their homes and land within present-day Israel. The Israeli parliament,
the Knesset, recently passed a law that forbids commemoration of the
Nakba in school curricula or textbooks in an effort to prevent all
Israeli students from learning the truth about the country’s origins as
an apartheid state founded on ethnic cleansing.

Moreover, curricula and readings for Jewish students emphasize racist
stereotypes of Palestinians and Arabs in general, according to a
five-year-long study by the Israeli Jewish professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan
of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Peled-Elhanan found that Israeli
textbooks for Jewish students routinely depict Palestinians "as vile and
deviant and criminal, people who don't pay taxes, people who live off
the state, people who don't want to develop. The only representation is
as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a
Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer."

Progressive Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel have attempted to defy
Israel’s de facto segregation in recent years, creating five mixed
Arab-Jewish alternative schools in defiance of the segregated system,
according to the Israeli Jewish historian Ilan Pappe. Successive Israeli
governments, however, have opposed any effort to establish equal rights
for all by insisting that Israel can only be a Jewish state, rather than
a state for all its citizens.

(5) Racial segregation in Israeli schools - Ethiopian children are ghettoized

USA, 1950? South Africa, 1980? No, Israel, 2011 – Racial segregation in
Israeli schools

David Sheen on September 6, 2011

The fact that Palestinians are subjected to a siege in Gaza, an
occupation in the West Bank, and systemic discrimination in Israel is
rarely disputed. Those who oppose prejudice point to it as a source of
embarrassment that must end immediately; most of those who support it
either wear it with pride, subscribing to an ideology of Jewish
supremacy, or at least defend it, believing it to be the least of all
evils. There are a few people who maintain that Arabs citizens of Israel
are equal in every way to their Jewish counterparts, denying that
discrimination exists, but these preposterous claims are easy to refute,
almost to the point of absurdity.

What is far more insidious is the commonly-professed claim that the
State of Israel cannot possibly be racist against Arabs, or anyone else,
because it includes Black Jews. Israelis are said not to harbor any
racial hatred towards dark-skinned people, and the conflict with the
Palestinians is framed as purely political, only a struggle over
security. Hasbara videos distributed over the internet feature images of
Ethiopian Jews being aided by native Israelis, to show that they have
been embraced by the rest of the populace, and pictures of Ethiopian
Jews dressed up in IDF uniforms, to show that they have successfully
integrated into society, and that they, too, support the war on Arabs.

Let’s say that for the moment we ignore the abominable racism meted out
to non-Jewish (and non-Arab) people of color in Israel, from Filipina
foreign workers to refugees of genocide from Darfur. Let’s say that we
only focus on the people of sub-Saharan African descent that are also
Jewish citizens of the state, the Ethiopian-Israelis. Obviously, it
takes time to integrate an immigrant population into a neo-liberal
high-tech economy, especially an immigrant population that had
previously supported itself with non-industrial agriculture. But most of
the Ethiopians immigrated to Israel over 20 years ago, and they are
still the weakest socio-economic segment in Israeli society. Why is that?

One of the reasons for this disparity is that Ethiopian children are
consistently ghettoized by the Israeli school system. For the past
several years, Ethiopians in Petach Tikvah, one of Israel’s biggest
cities, have started off the school year in September with angry
protests in front of City Hall, demanding an end to segregation in
state-sponsored schools. It should be obvious that only by integrating
Ethiopian children with all the others will they receive an education
that is on par with everyone else. But there are those who do not want
them in the classroom, claiming that they will bring down the school’s
educational standards. If Israel is color-blind, then why does the
government continuously cave into these racist demands?

Peter Myers