Jewish schools can teach Zionism, says government

The Department of Education has rejected objections from an Islamic campaign group to the teaching of Zionism in state-aided Jewish schools.

Ghulam Abbas, of the department's community cohesion unit, replied to the group, Engage: "We have no evidence to suggest the schools you highlight in your letter are teaching inappropriately or indoctrinating pupils."

Mohammed Asif, chief executive of Engage (not to be confused with the website of the same name which monitors antisemitism), complained to Education Secretary Michael Gove that Zionism was a "political ideology" and "not part of the Jewish faith".

Mr Asif cited several Jewish schools which he said taught Zionism as part of their ethos, including North Cheshire Jewish Primary School and King Solomon High School in Redbridge.

This love of Zion is thousands of years old

In a letter to Engage, Diana Lazarus, the chair of King Solomon's High School in Redbridge, responded: "The importance of the land of Israel and the spiritual connection of Jews to Jerusalem or Zion, hence Zionism, is a principle that is shared by the vast majority of the Jewish community. There are numerous references to the importance of Zion in the Old Testament, in ancient Jewish texts and in our prayer books, all of which predate modern Zionism. This love of Zion and its manifestation in what we refer to as Zionism is thousands of years old."

Mr Abbas told Mr Asif that the schools were inspected by the national inspection service Ofsted. "If an inspector came across political indoctrination of any type, they would regard it as a serious matter," he said.

But he added; "If you have any further evidence relating to the curriculum and teaching...in these schools or others, I would please ask you to share it with the department for us to investigate further."

    Last updated: 2:31pm, July 1 2010