on Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks
by Itamar Marcus
It is hard to imagine a more flawed analysis of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks than the recent report of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, led by Sami Adwan, Bethlehem University and Daniel Bar-Tal, Tel Aviv University.
The report's inaccuracies start with its methodology of systematically citing all quotes from Israeli and Palestinian schoolbooks under the same headings - forcing the appearance of symmetry even when none exists. Another major flaw is giving as much weight to the fringe, ultra - Orthodox school system in Israel as it does to mainstream state schools. This artificially inflates the number of problematic examples on the Israeli side to support the report's misleading attempt to demonstrate equivalence.
But the ultimate failing of the report is that it intentionally masks the hate and violence promotion that are central to the Palestinian Authority educational system. This hatred, together with the hate and terror glorification expressed by the daily actions and messages of the PA leaders and through their controlled institutions, is rapidly condemning the next generations to continued conflict.
What did the Adwan-Bar Tal report hide from the world?
The overall message that permeates the PA's teachings about Israel throughout the school system is its total rejection of Israel's most fundamental right - its right to exist.
This is how Palestinian schoolbooks teach kids to see Israel:
Adwan and Bar-Tal list "four primary findings". The first is, "Dehumanizing and demonizing characterizations of the other were very rare in both Israeli and Palestinian books."
This is unequivocally false. The lack of pictures of hook-nosed Jews in the PA schoolbooks does not mean there is no demonization. Certainly, denying Israel its right to exist is the ultimate demonization. This is the foundation upon which the PA builds its entire political ideology and political education.
Another critical component of the PA's demonization is a 12th-grade book's definition of Israel as a racist, foreign, colonial implant:
Islamic Education for Grade 12 teaches that the conflict with Israel is a "Ribat for Allah," which it defines as "one of the actions related to Jihad for Allah and it means being found in areas where there is a struggle between Muslims and their enemies." [Islamic Education, Grade 12, 2006 and 2012, p. 86].
And whereas Ribat can also mean a non-violent struggle, the PA schoolbook makes sure that children understand that their obligation against Israel is military by comparing the Palestinian Ribat to other Islamic wars of the past:
It is significant that neither this legitimization of "armed struggle" "against colonial and foreign rule and racist regimes" - the PA's definition of Israel - nor the mandating of eternal religious violence against Israel was even mentioned in the Bar-Tal-Adwan report.
Had the authors included this area of research, they would have been forced to concede that there is no corresponding defense of terror and promotion of violence in Israeli textbooks.
The failure to cite these significant and dangerous messages in the PA's schoolbooks -- messages which have been promoted actively by PA leaders since 2000 to justify their terror against Israel and killing of Israelis -- is indicative of the report's flawed methodology and fundamental errors.
These and the many other omissions and misrepresentations necessitate immediate and public rejection of the findings by the US State Department, whose funding in 2009 launched the project. Should the US adopt these findings, the chance for a peaceful future for children on both sides of the conflict will decrease dramatically.
At a press conference in the US Senate building to release PMW's 2007 report on PA schoolbooks, then-Senator Hillary Clinton introduced the report:
While the Palestinian Authority is ultimately responsible for the hatred and terror it promotes, its defenders, especially Israelis like Bar-Tal, are ultimately enablers of this hatred. Such misleading reports could ease the international pressure that has been put on the Palestinians to replace their hate education with peace education.
Public rejection of this Bar-Tal-Adwan report by the US is not merely the right thing to do. People's lives are depending on it.