In today’s Civics bagrut (matriculation exam), pupils will be asked to apply various approaches they have studied referring to the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country when analyzing part of an article. The following segment, for example, will probably not be included on the test: “On May 24, 2007, a day after Hamas agreed to stop firing Qassam rockets if the cease-fire were also extended to the West Bank, Israeli soldiers arrested some 30 central figures in the Palestinian administration in the West Bank. Among those arrested was the Palestinian education minister.
“The minister, Nasser al-din Shaer, does not know what he is accused of, and the Shin Bet security service is preventing his lawyer from receiving an explanation regarding the arrest. The arrest order, which did not include a trial, is valid until December 4, 2007, and the minister is being held under humiliating conditions within Israel despite humanitarian laws expressly forbidding that.” To the pupils’ joy, they won’t have to explain and justify which approach to a “Jewish and democratic” state is reflected in this paragraph.
I’m happy that the occupation has been removed from civics studies in Israel, because my son is taking his examination on the subject this year, and even so can’t manage to understand how a state can be both Jewish and democratic when about one-fifth of its population is not Jewish. Why confuse him with almost another four million Palestinians who have lived under occupation without any rights for 40 years already? The bagrut textbook “To be Citizens of Israel – a Jewish and Democratic State” explicitly states that human rights and participation in elections are the basis of a democratic state. But it doesn’t say anything about the occupation, or those living in the occupied territories who don’t have any human rights or the possibility of electing their leaders.