How goes Israel go about teaching the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine after the end of Britain’s mandate?

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    I know this is just meant to make a point. But frankly it's also a perfectly good and on-topic question. – Obie 2.0 Apr 18 '19 at 5:31
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    This clearly requires more context, at least for those not familiar with Israel politics. – Alexei Apr 18 '19 at 5:52
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    @Alexei - I don't agree. The two close votes that claim that the question is not about politics are obviously off-base (political education not about politics? really?) And the two that say it's unclear are at best working off of not wanting to look it up, since the topic is defined right in the question. While I don't like it when people post questions just to make a point, we must have a fair and objective process for closure, not simply do it on a whim. – Obie 2.0 Apr 18 '19 at 6:45
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    I assume that with "teach" you mean "how is it taught to children in education"? – user11249 Apr 18 '19 at 10:13
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    What research was done before asking this question? – Andrew Grimm Apr 18 '19 at 12:58

It depends.

Yes, some schools teach it, some don't, and in varying ways.

First, some context. The word Nakba has a variety of uses. To some people, it refers specifically to the expulsion of mostly Arabs from Palestine in 1948 (seemingly the usage in the question, and what I'm following here). To others, it is synonymous with the founding of Israel itself. Some Palestinian activists consider it an ongoing state rather than a one-time event, whereas some Israeli activists have argued for consideration of the expulsion and voluntary flight of Jews from Arab countries to Israel as a form of Nakba. As such, the various quotes in the answer might define the word slightly differently.

One major reason this distinction is relevant is because one might imagine that a school might accurately represent the expulsion and killing of Palestinians carried out during the founding of Israel, but not portrary it as something negative. Indeed, at least as of 2011, this was a common portrayal of the Nakba in schools, at least according to at least one academic:

The killing of Palestinians is depicted as something that was necessary for the survival of the nascent Jewish state, she claims. "It's not that the massacres are denied, they are represented in Israeli school books as something that in the long run was good for the Jewish state. For example, Deir Yassin [a pre-1948 Palestinian village close to Jerusalem] was a terrible slaughter by Israeli soldiers. In school books they tell you that this massacre initiated the massive flight of Arabs from Israel and enabled the establishment of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. So it was for the best. Maybe it was unfortunate, but in the long run the consequences for us were good."

That said, at least one textbook apparently omitted the subject altogether:

The history textbooks for high school approved by the Ministry of Education do not present a uniform narrative. In fact, one textbook omits the subject altogether while another treats it in a superficial and biased way.

History and Memory in the Israeli Educational System: The Portrayal of the Arab-Israeli Conflict in History Textbooks (1948-2000)

However, according to Wikipedia, newer textbooks tend to be somewhat more balanced:

From the late 1970s onward, many newspaper articles and scholarly studies, as well as some 1948 war veterans' memoirs, began to present the balanced/critical narrative. This has become more common since the late 1980s, to the fact that since then the vast majority of newspaper articles and studies, and a third of the veterans' memoirs, have presented a more balanced narrative. Since the 1990s, also textbooks used in the educational system, some without approval of the Ministry of Education, began to present the balanced narrative.

As one of the sources referenced noted, some later Israeli textbooks (closer to the 2000s) took a more critical view:

The years 1998–1999, however, witnessed the publication of a new generation of textbooks, written according to a new history curriculum, which differ substantially from previous textbooks. The textbook for junior high does not elaborate on the issue but it states that “during the battles many of the country’s Arabs were expelled. Some ran away before the arrival of the Jews to the village or to the Arab neighborhood in the city, and some were expelled by the occupying force.” It also adds that “more than 600,000 Arabs were uprooted from their places in the country and were settled in refugee camps.”79 The teacher’s guide for this textbook is more explicit, instructing the teacher to emphasize that “in this war over the home and the land there were acts of expulsion by the victors. When the [Jewish] forces conquered the mixed cities and Arab villages, Arab Palestinians were expelled on more than one occasion. This is why the Arabs call this period al-nakba (the disaster or holocaust).” Another junior high textbook explained that in certain areas, where good-neighborly relations existed between Jews and Arabs, there was an “explicit order not to expel Arabs,” but “the expulsion of the Arab population of Lydda and Ramla was confirmed by the political leadership.” This depiction stands in sharp contrast to the narrative of the first- and second-generation textbooks.

History and Memory in the Israeli Educational System: The Portrayal of the Arab-Israeli Conflict in History Textbooks (1948-2000)

Relatively recently, some prominent Israeli educators have also advocated for schools to teach it:

Former education minister Shai Piron said Monday he believes students at Israeli schools should be exposed to varied and even opposing views regarding the establishment of the State of Israel, including the Palestinian “Nakba” narrative, according to which the founding of the Jewish state in 1948 is considered a national tragedy.

Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv, Piron, a Yesh Atid party MK, said that “political education” requires of teachers to expose their students to a wide range of different narratives and opinions, according to Army Radio.

The statement by Piron broke a long-standing taboo in mainstream Israel, which has traditionally downplayed the Nakba narrative. Recent legislative efforts by nationalist lawmakers have attempted to pull funding from schools that mark the Nakba.

However, a countervailing current has promoted the opposite trend, downplaying the expulsion in textbooks:

Israel's education ministry has ordered the removal of the word nakba – Arabic for the "catastrophe" of the 1948 war – from a school textbook for young Arab children, it has been announced.

The decision – which will alter books aimed at eight- and nine-year-old Arab pupils – will be seen as a blunt assertion by Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud-led government of Israel's historical narrative over the Palestinian one.

So overall, I would say that:

  1. Israeili schools generally teach about the Palestinians who were killed or expelled during the 1948 conflict, but often present it as justified or positive.
  2. However, this is not universally true: some textbooks encourage recognizing the Nakba as negative; conversely, others gloss over it altogether.
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    There's a lot more to talk about in terms of bias in Israeli textbooks, particularly as surrounds the Nakba. Also, if someone wants to ask the obvious accompanying "question" about how Palestine teaches the Holocaust, I can make my best shot at an objective and accurate answer to that as well. – Obie 2.0 Apr 18 '19 at 7:01
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    That would be an interesting question, but I wouldn't say that it's the accompanying question to this one. However one views the Palestinian exodus, it's not comparable to the Holocaust; If we had to make a companion question, the comparable event would probably be the Jewish exodus. – tim Apr 18 '19 at 7:51
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    @tim - The two events are not comparable in scale, but they do provide an interesting constrast insofar as they illustrate how education in Israel and Palestine, respectively, treats highly religiously or ethnically associated events. – Obie 2.0 Apr 18 '19 at 8:00
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    @BjörnLindqvist - If the information is presented in an objective manner, which is not the case, since Israeli and even Palestinian textbooks are full of propagandistic elements, it doens't strike me as too early. – Obie 2.0 Apr 19 '19 at 2:18
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    Yet another example of a rather poor question (at least, it doesn't show enough prior research) meeting an excellent answer. – Evargalo Apr 23 '19 at 12:54

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