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Israeli principal summoned over history textbook that adds Palestinian view

Israel's Education Ministry has called in the principal of Shaar Hanegev high school, which is using a banned textbook that explains both narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The school could not be reached for comment due to the Sukkot holiday.

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Why Israelis fear alternate versions of history

In recent years, Israel’s so-called new historians have helped ignite a public discourse on the events of 1948, challenging the official Israel version of events that Palestinians brought about their own misfortune.

But the breakdown of the Oslo peace process and the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000 led to a backlash against those who opposed the conventional Zionist view.

Only now, say observers, are the dissenters again being heard.

“The whole thing was swept under the carpet for decades,” says Uri Avnery, a prominent Israeli peace activist who fought in the 1948 war. “Israel is now getting mature enough to face it, and the cultural and educational establishment is scared.”

Israel’s fear is understandable, say some observers, when taken in the context of the peace process, which has dragged on now for 17 years. If Israel recognized that it had driven out some Arabs “with intent,” says Avnery, “this would have huge implications for a future peace agreement and the refugee problem.”

Denial in education reflects broader societal denial

A critical sticking point is the right of return for the Palestinian refugees, made homeless in 1948 and who now live in overcrowded refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Israel has long rejected anything more than a symbolic right of return, fearing a threat to the state’s Jewish character if thousands of refugees were to return.

Jafar Farrah, director of an Israeli-Arab advocacy group Mossawa (Equality), says that he believes a majority of Palestinians now recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, but argues that the recognition will never be mutual as long as Israel does not accept its part in creating the conflict.

“There is denial in the public discourse, there is denial in the educational discourse," he says. "That is why there is no reconciliation process.”

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