The Education, Culture and Sports Committee discussed on Monday ways to eradicate institutionalized racism in the education system. The debate was held at the initiative of MKs Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) and Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beitenu) following a report by Israel Today on a racist proverb that appears in a fourth grade textbook which relates to the drinking habits of Israelis from the former Soviet Union. The debate also focused on Ynet`s report according to which a poem published in a haredi textbook was offensive towards the Ethiopian-Israeli public.

Committee Chairman MK Yakov Margi (Shas) demanded that the Education Ministry examine all the textbooks and said: ”We`ve learned nothing over the years. I expect the Education Ministry to appoint a professional whose job will be to eradicate racism from content that is disseminated in educational frameworks.”

Education Committee demands ban on textbooks containing racist or offensive content

(Committee Chairman MK Yakov Margi, photo by Itzik Harari)

Eliraz Kraus, head of the Education Ministry`s society and humanities department, said the ministry was committed to tolerance and to the uprooting of prejudice. ”Each workbook and textbook pass an academic and pedagogic examination by experienced professionals,” she said. ”I know of cases where textbooks were not approved due to biased content. The aforementioned book with the mistaken proverb in Russian will be reprinted, and the digital version has already been corrected.”

MK Rozvozov demanded that those responsible for the ”shameful and false” Russian proverb be dismissed by the Education Ministry, while MK Landver said racism in Israeli society is rearing its head and demanded that the Education Ministry publish an annual report on its plan to deal with it.

MK Masud Ganaim (Joint List) said racism threatens everyone. ”It begins with racism towards Arabs, then moves on to immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States, and then it focuses on Israelis of Ethiopian descent, and so on, towards anyone who is perceived as being different.”

Committee Chairman Margi said he fears additional textbooks contain racist content. ”If such stereotypical phrases appear in textbooks, then we`ve learned nothing in our 70 years of existence,” he said.