JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel's Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar is drawing fire from an Arab Knesset member after he signaled his intention to remove the teaching of the Arab commemoration of al-Naqba from Arab textbooks in Israeli schools. Many Arabs refer to the declaration of Israeli statehood in May 1948 as a catastrophe and hold a series of demonstrations and other events every year in May to remember the date.
Sa'ar believes the mention of the catastrophe in textbooks contributes to divisions between Israeli Jewish and Arab citizens. Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population.
"In no country in the world does an educational curriculum refer to the creation of a country as a 'catastrophe,'" Sa'ar told Knesset members on Wednesday. Sa'ar went on to remind the Knesset plenum of the historical record of 1947-48.
"The Arab states rejected a UN resolution, rejected the partition plan and launched a war of destruction against Israel, "Sa'ar said. "They should be the ones who are blamed for the 'catastrophe' and for the refugees."
Israeli Arab MK Hana Sweid accused Sa'ar of "naqba denial." He said, "It's a major attack on the identity of the Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel, on their memories and on their adherence to their identity."
A previous Israeli education minister ordered the inclusion of naqba in Arabic textbooks in 2007. Jewish textbooks make no mention of the event.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, AP