The Truth About the Palestinian Schoolbooks
Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch-
Monday 7th Jul 2003
One of the most meaningful gauges of the integrity of a peace process and its likelihood for success is the degree to which the “peace partners” educate towards peace. It is for this reason that the entire Palestinian Authority (PA) education apparatus, both formal and informal, has been such a dismal disappointment. Instead of seizing the opportunity to educate the future generations to live with Israel in peace, the PA has done everything in its power to teach hatred to young minds.
Making matters worse, the Palestinian Authority has been spreading two clever lies about the schoolbooks that have succeeded in deflecting international pressure for change. This week, at a meeting in Jordan, Nebil Shaath answered Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom’s complaint about the schoolbooks saying that the PA has “spent five years” rewriting the books, implying that they are now proper. Then he added, that Israel used the same old Jordanian books for educating the local Arab population “for 30 years”, and therefore has no valid complaint to the PA. Many European governments, and many Israelis, have come to the PA’s defense, citing these and other arguments.
The truth about the PA schoolbooks is first, that both new and old are far from proper - both include anti-Semitism, de-legitimize Israel’s existence and incite to hatred and violence. In the new 6th grade book “Reading the Koran”, anti-Semitism is presented openly, as children read about Allah’s warning to the Jews that because of their evil Allah will kill them: “...Oh you who are Jews ...long for death if you are truthful... for the death from which you flee, that will surely overtake you ...”In other sections they learn of Jews being expelled from their homes by Allah, and in another Jews are said to be like donkeys: “Those [Jews] who were charged with the Torah, but did not observe it, are like a donkey carrying books...” [Reading the Koran, grade 6. p.20, 23, 78]. This religious based anti-Semitism is the most dangerous, as children are taught that hating Jews is God’s choice. And while Islam is not being critiqued, it is very grave that although Islam has positive traditions regarding Jews, the PA educators chose to incorporate only hateful religious traditions.
The new PA schoolbooks that Shaath was so positive about, also teach that Israel has no right to exist, de-legitimizing Israel as a foreign occupier, compared to colonial Britain: “Colonialism: Palestine faced the British occupation after the First World War in 1917, and the Israeli occupation in 1948 …”[National Education, sixth grade, p. 16].
Since all of Israel is said to be an “occupation”, all of Israel’s cities, regions and natural resources are presented as being part of “Palestine”. For example:
“Among the famous rocks of southern Palestine are the rocks of Beersheba and the Negev” and “Palestine’s Water Sources - ... The most important is the Sea of Galilee.” [Our Beautiful Language, grade 6, Part A, p. 64, National Education, sixth grade, pp. 9-10]
The Negev, Beersheba and the Sea of Galilee are in Israel and do not border the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria. Yet PA children are taught these are “Palestine”. Continuing this ideology a book is citing dedicated to “...Palestinians, so that they would remember their stolen homeland and work for its salvation...”[Our Beautiful Language, sixth grade, Part A, p. 112] and it is referring, not to the disputed territories, but Israel pre 1967.
Educating not to recognize Israel’s existence is cemented through tens of maps in the schoolbooks in which “Palestine” encompass all of Israel. Israel does not exist on any map, within any borders. The PA defense of their schoolbook map, that since there are no final borders the map is not portraying modern “Palestine” but “Mandatory Palestine”, is an insult to our intelligence. Are we expected to believe that when Palestinian children see the map called “Palestine” in all their schoolbooks they imagine Britain a half a century ago? And when Beersheba is called Palestine, the children are picturing Biblical history?
Another new book teaches what must be done for “occupied Palestine” and the “stolen homeland”: “Islam encourages this [love of homeland] and established the defense of it as an obligatory commandment for every Muslim if even a centimeter of his land is stolen. "I, a Palestinian Muslim, love my country Palestine...” [Islamic Education, sixth grade, Part A, p. 68]
The complete and total message Palestinian children are taught is that Jews, according to Allah, are like donkeys; Israel is a colonial occupier who stole their land; the cities, lakes and deserts of Israel are “occupied Palestine”; and they, the children, have an obligation to liberate it “even if a centimeter is stolen”.
All the above messages are found in new schoolbooks written and published by the PA since 2000. The first claim that new PA books are “proper” is flagrantly untrue. However, the majority of the books still in use by the PA schools are books they republish under the symbol of their own Ministry of Education, that were written by Jordan. These books include the following hate promotion:
“One must beware of the Jews, for they are treacherous and disloyal.”
[Islamic Education for Ninth Grade p. 79, these and below from CMIP report]
“I learn from this lesson: I believe that the Jews are the enemies of the Prophets and the believers.”[Islamic Education, Part Two, for Fourth Grade p. 67]
“Remember: “The final and inevitable result will be the victory of the Muslims over the Jews.” [Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade p. 67]
“The clearest examples of racist belief and racial discrimination in the world are Nazism and Zionism. “ [The New History of the Arabs and the World, p. 123]
The second great PA lie expressed by Shaath this week, that Israel used these same old books, is particularly resourceful, as the best lies include a grain of truth. Indeed, Israel did use Jordanian books to educate the local Arab population. However, Israel reprinted the books without the hate education. In fact, Jordan registered a complaint to the UN charging that Israel’s changing the schoolbooks was a violation of international law, but the UN checked what Israel had done and approved it. The PA has put back into the old Jordanian education all the hate education that Israel had removed.
Moreover, as early as three years ago foreign governments offered money to the PA to reprint these old books without the hateful material. The PA turned down the money and refused to reprint them using a variety of arguments, the first of which was: “Don’t get involved in our education - it is our Palestinian heritage.” These hateful Jordanian books are republished today unedited by the PA by choice and the PA must stop passing responsibility onto others for the hate content.
Finally it should be stressed that all the books cited here were written during the most optimistic periods of the peace process, before the violence began in September 2000. They are not a reflection of the war, but were a great contributing factor to the war. The ongoing attempts to defend PA schoolbooks are tragic, as the PA is using these arguments to justify their indefensible hate education, and to refuse to improve their books. The PA is planting the seeds of the next war in their youth, and the defenders of PA hate education, including Israelis, are nurturing those seeds of war.
Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, [www.pmw.org.il] was Israel’s representative to the Tri Lateral [Israeli-Palestinian- American] Anti- Incitement Committee.
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