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Israeli politicians, authors slam banning of Arab-Jewish love story from schools

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog with Sderot students
Herzog: This is part of the 'dark wall of intimidation, exclusion and opacity from the Netanyahu government'

Prominent figures in the Israeli literary world, as well as politicians, have criticized the Ministry of Education's recent decision to ban a novel from high schools which depicts a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the ministry disqualified Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (literally “Hedgegrow,” but in English known as “Borderlife”) because there is a need to uphold “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector,” and the belief that “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity.”

The paper reports that the Education Ministry was concerned that “young people of adolescent age don’t have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the people and the significance of miscegenation.”

According to Israel's National Bureau of Statistics, the number of marriages between Arabs and Jews in Israel was on average 20 a year over the past decade. The number of these marriages was said to have declined from 31 in 2004, to only four in the first half of 2015.

On Thursday, opposition leader Isaac Herzog posted a message on his Facebook page saying that he had purchased a few copies of the book to take on a school visit to the Gaza border town of Sderot. He described the exclusion of the book as part of the "dark wall of intimidation, exclusion and opacity from the Netanyahu government. This is an unfortunate decision and I urge the Minister of Education to retract it and to ensure that freedom of thought and expression continue to be a guiding principle of the Israeli education system."

The Haaretz newspaper reports that Author Haim Be'er described the move as "a dizzying and dangerous act."

"This is none of [Education Minister] Naftali Bennett's business," Be'er told Haaretz. "Tomorrow he will disqualify 'Behind the Fence' because Bialik's hero falls in love with a Christian and he'll create a committee to monitor relationships in literature. This is a dizzying and dangerous act that he's doing in order to find support in his crowd after he praised the Shin Bet and his stock went down, that's clear."

The decision to ban the novel from curriculum, however, may have been the best thing to happen to author Dorit Rabinyan. Bookstores across the country reported skyroketting sales of the novel, with many even depleting stock completely.

The book is set to be sent back to the presses for a second republishing.

Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua, another Israeli novelist, said "The book 'Borderlife' is a great, deep book written in rich and emotional language that has already earned a wide audience and critical acclaim. The book also tells the tragedy of relationships between Israelis and Palestinians.

"He who refuses to include it in the adult educational plan of literature students doesn't only show that he has no understanding of what true literature is, but also disqualifies dozens of books, stories, plays and movies in one stroke that try, each in his own way, to realistically address the complicated relationships between us and the minority that lives among us and under our occupation," continued Yehoshua. "In any case, I hope that the silver lining will be sweet and because of this dark disqualification, Rabinyan's book will get additional attention and draw in a wider audience of readers who will prove to the disqualifiers that their harmful and hasty act won't only not discourage literature lovers and the culture, but will encourage them to fight the disqualifiers."

Haaretz reports that chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party Zehava Galon also criticized the move. "That Bennett's commissars disqualified an excellent book recommended by the professional committee for literature studies because it tells the story of a romance between a Jew and an Arab that 'encourages miscegenation.'"

"The fact that the citizen registry has been corrupted beyond recognition and has become a religious-nationalist manifesto aiming to raise subjects here rather than citizens; the organized and planned attack on secular morals - freedom, pluralism, equality and love of humans because they are humans; and the cleansing of the education system from these morals," Galon said. "We'll protest tomorrow, in the rain, for the future of our children, for our future. We have no more important war."

Mk Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union party also responded to the banning of the book, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial statements during the 2015 elections in which he called on the public to make sure that they exercised their democratic right in order to counterbalance the Arab vote. "Hordes of Arabs are on their way to the polling stations, Arabs are taking our girls – these are two sides of the same coin. In a place where people are disqualified, it's clear that books that represent them as humans are also disqualified. In a place where people with views that are unacceptable to the government are marked, it's clear that works of literature and art are also censored. The thought police is already here."



What is the difference with apartheid? It is totallly irresponsible and immoral. It will be exploited by the ennemies of Israel in the world.

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