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The Geography and Political Context of Human Rights Education: Israel as a Case Study

Neve Gordon
Sun, 09/02/2012

Studies have shown that human rights education (HRE) can help promote democracy
and social progress by empowering individuals and groups and pushing governments to
fulfill their obligations towards residents. Assuming that such assessments are accurate,
I argue that the successful application of human rights education requires much more
than what is generally discussed in the scholarly literature: adjustments to curriculum,
additional resources, and adequate teacher training programs. Using Israel as a case
study, I show that despite government investment in human rights education, themajority
of Jewish youth still do not believe that Palestinian citizens of Israel should enjoy
equal rights. This, I maintain, is because other forces, both structural and subjective,
always hinder the individual and institutional internalization of HRE’s basic precepts.
Next, I describe the almost complete segregation among Jews and Palestinians in the
educational system as well as the centrality of a hyper-ethno-nationalist ideology,
and argue that the specific spatial and political context within which the educational
process takes place helps determine to what extent human rights education is successful
in promoting the values and practices associated with tolerance, respect, and protection
of rights. I conclude by offering an example of an alternative desegregated pedagogical
model that tries to provide meaningful human rights education.

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