JERUSALEM, Israel - At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced his decision to drop the term 'Nakba' from Israeli Arab textbooks, reversing a decision two years ago by his predecessor, Labor MK Yuli Tamir, who added the term during her tenure.
Nakba, which means "catastrophe" in Arabic and refers to the birth of the modern State of Israel, is observed annually by the Palestinian Authority.
"What Israeli Arabs experienced during the [1948 War of Independence] was certainly a tragedy," the education minister told Cabinet members. "But the word "Nakba," whose meaning is similar to "Holocaust" in this context, will no longer be used," he said.
"The creation of the State of Israel cannot be referred to as a tragedy and the education system in the Arab sector will revise its studies in elementary schools," Sa'ar said.
Arab groups were not happy with the education minister's decision.
"For Israeli Arabs, who consider themselves to be part of the Palestinian people, the Nakba is not up for debate. It is an historical fact," Atef Moaddi, head of the Nazareth-based Follow-up Committee on Arab Education in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.
"But if Sa'ar thinks that by taking this narrative out of the textbooks, he will somehow absolve himself - as both a representative of the State of Israel and as a human being - of responsibility for the Nakba, he is wrong," Moaddi said.
Attorney Sawsan Zaher with the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said Sa'ar's decision violated international law.
"The Ministry of Education implements severe supervision over the Arab educational system and controls its curriculum, budget and appointments," Zaher said.
"Prohibiting Arab students from studying about the Nakba is illegal and violates international law, which obliges states to enable national minorities to learn and study about their own history, culture and tradition," she said.
The Education Ministry responded by saying that it's simply the word "Nakba" that is the problem.
"The creation of the State of Israel cannot be taught about as a catastrophe inside the country's school," a spokesperson said. "This is what the minister decided."