Growing fear in Arab society incoming deputy minister’s plans for education

MK Avi Maoz, leader of the far-right Noam faction in the Religious Zionism party, will be in charge of extra-curricular programs within the Ministry of Education as part of the coalition brokered with Benjamin Netanyahu, where he will be tapped as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. This has stirred uproar among marginalized groups in Israel, as MK Maoz is known for this extreme and bigoted views towards minority groups and the LGBTQ+ community.

After a number of school principals in Israel opposed this move, the Palestinian Arab community mobilized in opposition to the appointment of MK Maoz, a strongman who seeks to promote a racist Jewish, ethno-nationalist agenda, which will harm the education system in general and in Palestinian Arab society in particular. This is especially worrisome given the already negative impact caused by the deepening of privatization and neoliberal reforms to the education system.

The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities and the Follow-up Committee for Arab Education Affairs warned against this appointment, saying that “the democratic space in education is very limited and severely damaged in the last decade. Any further damage will worsen the crisis in education.”

The concern arose due to MK Maoz’s well-known fundamentalist views and his various statements throughout his public activities, which are extreme in the eyes of secular and liberal citizens and are oftentimes simply indigestible.

The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities and the Follow-up Committee for Arab Education Affairs warn of MK Maoz’s proposed measures and the continued disregard of the legitimate demands of Arab society regarding the content of education, curricula, the growing gaps between the Palestinian Arab and Jewish communities, and the harm to schools and teachers in Arab society. “We will continue our fight against these trends and for achieving the full rights of the Arab society in the field of education,” they said in a joint statement.

“Instead of the state taking stock of the deep crisis that exists in education and taking responsibility for the rising racism in society in general and among youth in particular, offering anti-racism educational programs, programs promoting peace, promoting democracy and multiculturalism, and supporting the development of educational programs that will meet the needs of Arab society, it is planning to deepen ethno-Jewish and anti-democratic education in the spirit of Noam’s party and the agenda of Ben Gvir and the settler parties,” they added.

The National Committee said, “unfortunately the damage to education in Arab society still exists today. There was no change of direction regarding the contents of study and programs even in the era of the current government… Restrictions were imposed on extra-curricular programs during Education Minister Yifat Sasha-Biton’s tenure which stifled the development of programs that address to the needs of Arab society, and for this we are waging a legal and public struggle. Failure to change the education policy in these areas will deepen the crisis in Arab education and alienation, and we will not be silent about it.”

MK Maoz is known for his fundamentalist views regarding the status of women, once saying “the best thing a woman can do is to marry and start a family,” and his militant attitude against the LGBTQ+ community, saying “I will fight this agenda of different families.” He has faced widespread opposition from mayors and heads of authorities all over the country. In the Haifa region, local officials quickly publish successive statements vowing not to allow the introduction of educational programs in an unequal spirit or that harm the status of women or the LGBTQ+ community into the schools. Over 200 school principals across the country signed a letter opposing the transfer of the unit responsible for programs and partnerships with the Ministry of Education to the responsibility of the division headed by Maoz.

In addition, a number of lecturers from the various universities in the country sent a letter in which they called on their colleagues to join an initiative in which they offer their services as lecturers on a voluntary basis to the schools. The lecturers wrote, “as free citizens in a democratic country, we wish to offer our knowledge and abilities to serve the public in the fields in which we are knowledgeable. We offer schools from all sectors our services as lecturers in extra-curricular programs that the schools are entitled to and usually add to their curricula on behalf of the Ministry of Education. When there are voices threating to cut the extra-curricular programs due to a with a narrow-minded ideology, we ask to contribute to maintaining the breadth of the materials available to school students.”

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