In a move one might expect from an Education Minister who’s said such things as “when Palestinians were climbing trees, we already had a Jewish state” and “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that,” Israel has banned an Arab-Jewish romance novel from schools for “threatening Jewish identity.” Or put more simply, it banned the book over fears that it encourages race-mixing.
The novel, Dorit Rabinyan’s Gader Haya, tells the story of an Israeli woman and Palestinian man who fall in love. The work was recommended for advanced literature curriculums by both the official in in charge of literature instruction in secular state schools and “a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers,” according to Haaretz.
In explaining its reasoning for banning the book, the ministry cited its responsibility to maintain “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector” as well as the idea that “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity.” All of which is to say, Israel’s education ministry believes it has a responsibility to keep Israeli blood pure and Arab-free.
In all my all too many years as head of literature studies, I don’t recall even a single instance that a work of literature recommended by a professional committee by virtue of its authority, after thorough and deep discussion, was not approved for use by the chairman of the pedagogic secretariat.
The acute problem of Israeli society today is the terrible ignorance and racism that is spreading in it, and not concern over intermarriage. The idea that a work of literature is liable to be the trigger for romanticizing such a connection in reality is simply ridiculous.
The most horrible sin that comes to mind in teaching literature (and other subjects) is eliminating all or some work which we don’t favor out of ethical considerations. In such a situation, there is no reason to teach literature at all. If we would have wanted our students to study only ‘respectable’ and conservative works, we would be left without a curriculum, or with a list of shallow and dull works of literature.
In response to this, acting chair Dalia Fenzig wrote that the novel “presents the reader in a very tangible and powerful way with the dilemma of the institutionalization of the love while he [the reader] doesn’t have the full tools to weigh the decisions of such a nature.” Which translates roughly to: Until these kids finish their military service, how will they know who to hate?
Fenzig also wrote that “many parents in the state school system would strongly object to having their children study the novel.” Or: many Israeli parents are just as racist as their government is.