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Voice of the 'Wrecking Ball': Interview with Israeli Historian Avi Shlaim

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Classical_Liberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-15-04 09:53 AM
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Voice of the 'Wrecking Ball': Interview with Israeli Historian Avi Shlaim
Question: There was an article in The Economist about Israels Rainbow Coalition of liberal Sephardic Jews. Its leader spoke of how he was taught to demonise Arabs at school, and consequently forbade his own grandmother to be seen with him publicly as she looked like a Palestinian. Do you think that much of the problem with the Israeli side is the limited information and understanding of the nature of the conflict, much of it stemming from school time indoctrination?

Answer: That was an interesting example of socially-induced shame.

I had a similar experience as a young boy. I felt that everything Arab was inferior and primitive, and would be acutely embarrassed if my parents spoke to me in Arabic in front of my friends. I never experienced direct discrimination as an Oriental Jew, but subjectively I felt all the time that I was inferior because I came from Iraq.

The dominant culture was Ashkenazi, and this was the ideal to aspire to. The Israeli education system does not provide much knowledge of the Arab world or its history. The emphasis is on Jewish history from Biblical times to the present, as well as some European history. There is a very high level of ignorance on the part of Israeli school leavers about their neighbours, and in this context prejudices are bound to grow, and racist stereotypes take hold to demonise Arabs as the enemy.

The New History had a limited influence on the teaching of history in Israeli schools during the time of Oslo, particularly Benny Morriss findings on the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem. The traditional Zionist version of the conflict was not discarded, but Israeli school kids were invited to think about how they would have felt if they had been Arabs in 1948.....
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