The Education Ministry has authorized Arab schools to use a history book featuring the establishment of the State of Israel as being disastrous for the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported Sunday.
The third-grade book, Living together in Israel, states that some Arab residents were driven out of their homes and became refugees and that Israel confiscated much of their land.
The book's authors made a point of stating that it was the Arabs who refused the United Nations offer to divide the land between the Palestinian and the Jews (UN resolution 181), while the Jews accepted it.
"When the war ended, the Jews prevailed and Israel and its neighbors signed a truce… the Arabs call the war the 'Nakba', meaning the war of disaster and destruction. The Jews call it the War of Independence."
A balanced pictureEducation Minister Yuli Tamir told Ynet Sunday that the ministry's decision was "part of a new curriculum, which has been in the works for a number of years and includes mentioning the Nakba.
"The book underwent an evaluation by a professional viewing board and was sent to dozens of readers prior to being approved for distribution," said Tamir.
"The book offers the Arab pupils a balanced picture, so that they may put what they exposed to in their home environment in the proper context," she added.
The national board of education geography supervisor, Dalia Pening, said the new curriculum is meant to be uniform for all school sectors.
"This program features the term 'Nakba'. When the Hebrew book was translated, we need to make some cultural adjustments," she said. "Writing a version detached from reality is counterproductive to our goal of creating a joint sense of relevance."
Tamir's decision sparked harsh criticism: National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to fire Tamir immediately saying her decision was "anti-Zionist and goes against the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state."
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed Tamir's decision as well "Tamir is like Avraham Burg. She expresses not only the post-Zionist spirit but also political masochism. The political left is constantly looking for ways to justify the other side, when we have nothing to apologize for."
Former education minister MK Limor Livnat (Likud) called the decision "miserable" adding that "once the Arab pupils are taught that the establishment of Israel was a disaster, they might infer that they should be fighting against us… our very own educational system may be raising a fifth column," said Livnat.
This is not the first time Tamir has authorized a controversial book be added to the schools curriculum. In December 2006 she ordered new textbooks featuring the Green Line – Israel's borders prior to the Six Day War – be distributed.
Amnon Meranda and Roee Nahmias contributed to this report