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History Teaching On Trial. ‘Case no. 240743: „Israelis versus Teaching History in the State of Israel”, 1212.’

Ruth Firer

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In this mock trial, „Case no. 240743: Israelis Versus Teaching History in the State of Israel,” the Prosecution and Defense present their closing arguments concerning the current state of teaching history in Israel. Both counsel rely mainly on the Israeli millennium history textbooks and State Curricula (ibid, C) and compare them to earlier ones in order to demonstrate their arguments. The Prosecution claims that despite changes, history manuals and the Ministry of Education C and guidance remain „Agents of Zionist Education”2 which sabotage the intellectual development of students through „soft indoctrination3 (R.F. – molding of opinions in democracies.) The Defense argues that a national history education is a basic collective right which in no way opposes other human rights or pedagogical goals in the State of Israel. Both counsel focus on the following major issues:

1. To cover or to discover? How does a description of the historical past relate to current issues, problems and controversies? When does such historical description have to represent the formal State’s version of history? Should historical description necessarily include historical „Truth“ of the States enemies? Meaning: “Us” vis-à-vis „Others”.
2. To preach or to teach? Is there a contradiction between “history education” based on heritage and “history teaching” based on data? How do the conflicts between collective rights and individual rights of children influence history teaching?

The Prosecution and the Defense refer to the descriptive text and to the proto text on the various levels of explicit, implicit and null discourse (“black holes”). The two contradictory opinions represent the clash between left and right in Israel concerning the “soft indoctrination” of the future Israeli citizens. Thus, the differences between “teaching history” and “history education” influence the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the Religious Secular dispute, and the problems of the Israeli welfare system. While this mock trial concerns the teaching of history in the State of Israel, the issues discussed in it are highly relevant to other democratic states which struggle to reach equilibrium between values of human rights and the needs of the state.

Keywords: Mock trail – history teaching – history education – soft indoctrination – Pure arms – The Threat – Her-story