Not in our schools

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Proud Israel

New Profile -

In 2009 the Ministry of Education invited 600 school principals to hear a lecture by General Gabi Ashkenazi, the Chief of Staff, about the importance of the draft. Members of New Profile went to the event, held at the National Theater in Jerusalem.  Forced by police and security to stand far from the theater on a public sidewalk, they attempted to engage in dialogue with the participants as they arrived, offering alternative information about the significance of military involvement in schools. They also distributed flyers. Although the encounters and protest were nonviolent, our members were ordered away from the premises and threatened with arrest.

School principals – You are about to hear from the Chief of Staff what you must do to truly motivate the students in your schools to enlist for combat service. This:

"Chief of Staff Conference for High School Principals" is one link in the chain of Israeli militarist education which starts from kindergarten level.  The contents the school system chooses to inculcate are designed to shape a mindset that considers the option to wage war as a reasonable and logical choice.  They foster reverence for military power, glorification of the Jewish nation and disregard for the life of men and women of Arab nationalities. At the same time they cultivate fear of another Holocaust. This combination of veneration of military force, nationalist indoctrination and manipulation of fear helps to maintain and entrench a state of war and of inequality between various groups of citizens in this country.

The threat of Israeli society turning into a militarist society is becoming more and more real! One alarming sign is when the school system opens its gates to armed and uniformed men and women, allows itself, to varying degrees, to be run by them, and puts responsibility for ethical education into their hands. This, among other things, is what the German writer Erich Kaestner – on whose delightful books generations of our children have been raised -  wrote in his anti-war poem, "Do you know the country where the cannons bloom?": "No one there is born a citizen" and "… in every other person there, hides a little boy at playing with his tin soldiers".

It is not enough – we believe it is positively dangerous – to declare that we are one of the leading democracies in the world and, needless to say, the one democracy in the Middle East.  In fact we raise our children from early on to become soldiers whose loyalty to the state is judged by their readiness to assault whoever that state marks as the enemy.   The army, whose one function is to protect citizens in emergencies, has become part of our lives in school, in cultural events and in advertising.  Holding out the perennial threat of war, the army has become our society's consolidating agent. When an education system rallies and unites by means of a military ethos this means it has lifted all moral bars and legitimates disregard of and indifference to the suffering of other people. When children are educated to mythologize and hero worship the soldier, "Combat for all!"  becomes a slogan that targets civil society itself. 

When a society gives less and less space to civic and humanist studies and simultaneously admits increasing amounts of military personnel into the schools, it comes perilously close to being a militarist society.  While children may learn what it takes to act bravely on the battlefield, civic courage will erode, and along with it critical thinking – both of which any life affirming society would want to imbue in its young generation.

Is this the society we want to live in? We, in New Profile, say "No more!" We demand in depth change for Israel's education system: We demand an education system that offers civic, democratic education, a practical education for peace and conflict resolution through political negotiation to replace education for military service and the unquestioning acceptance of war.

(Side B of the flyer handed out to high school principals at lecture by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.)


baby in womb - side a


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