Muslim group objects to Zionism in schools

A Muslim campaign group has written to the new Education Secretary Michael Gove to object to state-aided Jewish schools promoting Zionism.

Mohammed Asif, the chief executive of Engage (not to be confused with the antisemitism monitoring group of the same name), said he was "more than a little surprised" to see Zionism included as part of the ethos of several Jewish schools.

Mr Asif cited a number of Jewish schools professing explicit support for Zionism, including Manchester's King David High School, Broughton Jewish Cassel Fox Primary in Salford, and Simon Marks Jewish Primary School in Hackney, north London.

He wrote that he understood the Jewish nature of the schools, but that he would "contest the place of Zionism in the school's governing ethos".

‘Zionism is not part of the Jewish faith,’ wrote Asif

"Zionism is not part of the Jewish faith," he stated. "It is a political ideology which has its roots in the works of Theodore Herzl and subsequent ideologues that have advanced the idea of a national struggle to establish a homeland for the Jews in the modern era."

Referring to comments made by Mr Gove last year about a Muslim school, he went on: "I know… that you objected to the use of public funds to propagate an Islamic state. I would be pleased to learn of your views on the use of public funds to propagate a Jewish state."

He added: "As a parent, I have no difficulty in sending my child to a Jewish faith school but I, and I'm sure many other parents, would strongly object to the instilling of Zionist ideas and ideals as part of my child's education."

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it had not yet had time to respond to the letter. Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, commented: "There is nothing at all remarkable or contentious in a Jewish school stressing the spiritual and historical connection of Jews to the land of Israel, and the centrality of those connections to our faith.  It is those who attempt to characterise Zionism as an anathema to Judaism who are trying to score political points." 

King David's website, explaining the aims of its Jewish studies programme, states that the school has "a strong Zionist ethos and all students are given the opportunity to visit Israel. A love and appreciation of Israel is woven into the curriculum."

    Last updated: 3:25pm, May 27 2010