Israel: origin of discriminatory ‘two level schooling’ exposed

Middle East Monitor  /  December 14, 2021

The origin of the ongoing official discrimination within the Israeli education system has been exposed by newly-declassified documents containing details of the minutes from government meetings held in 1948. The minutes are part of a larger volume of declassified documents which also reveal the Israeli massacre of Palestinians.

The documents were obtained by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research. The latest tranche, reported by Haaretz, show that the discrimination established during Israel’s founding period has created “two levels of schooling” in the occupation state.

“Every Hebrew child in a classroom costs 27.7 liras on average,” Zalman Shazar, the first Minister of Education and Culture and later Israel’s third president, is reported as saying in one of the exchanges in 1948 over legislation on mandatory schooling. “According to education standards among Arabs, each one of their children costs 15 liras.”

The discussion between Shazar and other Israeli ministers highlights the controversy over installing a two-tier education system. In response to Shazar, Finance Minister Eliezer Kaplan warned about his discriminatory attitude: “How can we at this point, while establishing a law regulating education, determine two levels of schooling?”

Kaplan explained that the government had decided on equal wages for Arab labourers and that he wanted to understand and know what was being suggested by Shazar’s proposal for two level schooling. “What you’re suggesting, how will this work?” asked Kaplan. “Did the minister calculate that we’ll spend 28 liras on a Jewish child per year, making do with only 15 liras for an Arab child? How can we accept these numbers without knowing how we’ve arrived at them?”

Shazar explained that, “Educating an Arab child is less expensive than educating a Jewish one.” However, he warned that he couldn’t discriminate between Arab and Jewish teachers when it came to wages. “I don’t know for how long we can maintain two levels of teachers’ salaries,” he explained.

State funding for Palestinian students in Israel continues to remain highly disproportionate. Jewish students enjoying benefits and privileges unobtainable for non-Jewish citizens of the occupation state.

Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett is revealed in the declassified documents as warning against the discriminatory practice. “I am concerned and very depressed over this matter. This is a minority that’s greatly suffering from unemployment, lacking freedom of movement, etc. I’m not saying that Israel cannot accept a minority of 120,000 people and that it can’t allow them a decent life, but this demands that we make great efforts and devote constant and active attention to this problem. We can’t have a minority that is not represented in government offices, in the police force, in the legal system, etc.”

Sharett concluded with a warning that Israeli society has an obligation to improve itself. “If we don’t, we’re making a mockery of all our declarations, turning them into lip service,” he concluded.