Democracy, the Jewish-Arab cleavage and tolerance education in Israel

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The starting point of the Paper is the fact that Israel is a bi-national, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society, with Jews constituting in 2000 something around 79% of the population and the Arabs about 20%. It goes on to explain that the cleavage between these two sectors is both political as well as social and cultural. This fact has severe repercussions in as much as the Israeli collective identity is concerned. And yet, the dominant Jewish majority has committed itself since the Proclamation of Independence in May 1948 to DEMOCRACY, i.e. to equality for all the segments of the population. The Jewish majority also pledged to safeguard the minority's rights. The Paper analyzes the negative stereotypes and negative attitudes prevailing among the Jewish component of the population against the Arab minority group. It moves on to evaluate how well the system of formal education has managed to tackle the problem of innate intolerance typical of the majority group in its relations with the minority group. It draws on a content's analysis of a sample of primers and readers widely used in the primary education system throughout Israel in the 1990s. It reaches the unhappy conclusion that these primers and readers fail in their task as vehicles for inculcating ethnic tolerance, understanding and mutual respect. It reaches the conclusion that the ministry of education has missed the opportunity to try and foster at least a common CIVIL identity, uniting Jews and Arabs living side by side in Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-232
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


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