JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel’s Education Ministry has recalled all copies of a history textbook because of a passage alleging “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians during the 1948 war, a newspaper reported on Monday.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said the secondary school textbook was removed from shelves because it sought to present both Israeli and Arab perspectives on the departure of some 750,000 Palestinians during the fighting that erupted after the creation of the Jewish state.
The Palestinians have always said they were violently expelled by Jewish forces while Israel has maintained they were ordered to flee by invading Arab states or alarmed by inflammatory Arab radio reports.
The fate of the refugees and their descendants, who now number some 4.6 million and are scattered across the region, has been one of the most divisive issues in the decades-old Middle East conflict.
The textbook in question, for 11th and 12th graders, contained both versions of the events side-by-side, but according to Haaretz the ministry took issue with the Palestinian version.
It quoted the passage in question as saying: “The Palestinians and the Arab countries contended that most of the refugees were civilians who were attacked and expelled from their homes by armed Jewish forces, which instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing.”
Haaretz said the textbooks would be reissued after “corrections” are made.
The education ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Since assuming office in March, Israel’s right-wing government has sought to reinforce Israel’s Jewish identity, including by instituting a plan to change traffic signs to display only Hebrew place names.
Israel’s former dovish Education Minister Yuli Tamir sparked controversy in December 2006 when she said school textbooks should show Israel’s borders prior to the 1967 Six Day war, during which it conquered Egypt’s Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank including east Jerusalem.
Israel returned the Sinai under a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and annexed the Golan and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians have demanded the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza as their future state.