- Schoolbooks indicate the values a society would wish to instill in the minds of its younger generations.
- When published by a regime – as the case is in the Palestinian Authority (PA) – they indicate its long-run policies.
- The PA published its schoolbooks between 2000-2006 and again between 2016-2018.
- The use of these textbooks is mandatory in all schools in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including private schools and those operated by UNRWA.
- As far as the conflict is concerned, these books have featured 3 fundamentals:
- De-legitimization of Israel’s existence and the very presence of its Jewish citizens in the country, including outright denial of the existence of Jewish holy places there.
- Massive demonization of both Israel and the Jews.
- Call for a violent struggle for the liberation of the whole of Palestine instead of advocacy for peace and co-existence with Israel.
- The new textbooks of 2016-2018 have been found to be much worse than their predecessors.
- UNRWA teaches that too, which contradicts its commitment to UN principles of neutrality, peaceful resolution of the conflict, equal treatment of all UN member states, care for the wellbeing of the students under its sponsorship, and scientific accuracy of geographical and historical data. Moreover, the new textbooks in its schools contain antisemitic material and even incitement to committing war crimes.
De-legitimization of Israel
- Israel is depicted as an occupying entity from its very establishment. Its pre-1967 territories are described as Palestinian territories occupied in 1948.
- The new textbooks omit the name “Israel” and replace it with the term “the Zionist occupation”, thus transforming the struggle against a concrete state into one against a mythical evil entity.
- Palestine replaces Israel as the sovereign state in the region.
De-legitimization of the Jews’ Presence in the Country
- The Jewish citizens of Israel are presented as a colonialist population.
- Their cities are not shown on the map or they appear under Arabic names.
- The Jews’ language – Hebrew – is de-legitimized.
- The new textbooks omit the few references in the older books to Jewish historical presence in the country and claim that all such data, including archaeological findings, are false.
- Jerusalem is presented as an Arab city since its establishment thousands of years ago. The Jews’ ties to it are ignored.
- Jewish holy places are presented as exclusively Muslim ones.
Demonization of Israel
- A society in conflict tends to demonize the adversary as an enemy. But if some objective information is given about it and its individuals are presented as ordinary human beings – then its demonized picture is somewhat blurred.
- That is the case of the Israeli schoolbooks’ view of Arabs and Palestinians.
- But this is not so in the PA books which present the adversary as wholly evil and as an existential threat to the Palestinians who are depicted as the ultimate victim with no responsibility whatsoever to the conflict.
- So far, over 40 accusations against Israel have been found in the PA schoolbooks, beginning with its establishment on what is described as a usurped Palestinian land, massacre and expulsion of its inhabitants and the destruction of cities and villages, through killing of children, assassination of Palestinian leaders, aggression, house demolition, uprooting trees, causing damage to Palestinian economy and society, as well as to health and education services, desecration and destruction of holy places, imposing limitations on free movement, arrests and torture, and ending in responsibility for environmental pollution and damages caused by wild boars to Palestinian crops.
- The new textbooks combine several older accusations to form complex ones, such as endangering the Palestinians’ nutritive security, or the desertification of Palestine.
- The new textbooks also tend to spread the demonizing descriptions of Israel to school subjects such as mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry and vocational education.
Demonization of the Jews
- Within the conflict, the Jews (often called “Zionists” in this context) are presented as having genocidal intentions towards the Palestinians.
- But Jews are also demonized outside the scope of the conflict – as enemies of the prophet of Islam in Arabia.
- Such religiously-oriented demonization in a society that is mostly traditional is detrimental to the issue of peace because it paints the conflict in religious colors.
War Indoctrination instead of Peace Education
- With an enemy such as the one so described one cannot make peace. Such an enemy should be fought against until its utter disappearance. The legitimacy of violence is religious – in defense of Islam and its holy places, moral – in view of the adversary’s inherent evil, legal – because it is a foreign occupier in contradiction to international law, and logical – since it constitutes an existential threat.
Absence of Peace Education
- None of the PA schoolbooks advocates peace and co-existence with Israel, in sharp contrast to the Israeli textbooks’ attitude in this respect. There are few expressions in support of peace in general, without any reference to the conflict in this context. Even the description of the Oslo process is not used for peace advocacy. In fact, the Oslo process is presented as a political move that brought about the return of thousands of Palestinians to the country and the establishment of the PA, rather than a step towards peace.
Education for a Violent Struggle of Liberation
- Violent struggle is the only option presented to Palestinian students. Terms such as “resistance”, “revolution”, “Fidai” (a traditional term describing a self-sacrificing fighter for a religious cause and, in current Palestinian parlance, a member of the Palestinian armed organizations) appear in the books.
Liberation is not Restricted to the 1967 Territories
- Israel’s pre-1967 territories are explicitly mentioned in this context.
- “Free Palestine” does not leave room for the State of Israel.
Insertion of Religious Concepts into the Struggle
- That is, holy war (Jihad), standing-on-guard (Ribat) and martyrdom/martyrdom seeking (Shahadah/Istish’had), as well as the need to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The presentation of the Jews as enemies of Islam also serves this purpose.
The “Right of Return” as an integral part of the Struggle
- The refugee issue is an integral part of the curriculum, beginning with the description of the flight/expulsion, the unbearable life in refugee camps, the yearning to the former places of residence and the violent return.
- The new textbooks emphasize that the return will take place not to Israeli territory but rather to liberated Palestine.
Terror as part of the struggle
- That is made clear by the new textbooks, while the older ones tended to blur this point. The deadly terrorist attack on the civilian bus on Israel’s Coastal Highway in 1978 is specifically mentioned in this context.
Concrete Reference to the Adversary within this Violent Context
- A new textbook describes the burning of an Israeli civilian bus with Molotov cocktails as a “barbecue party”.
- A new textbook hints that the Jewish survivors of the liberation struggle are scheduled for total extermination.
- This is an ominous curriculum. It is clear from the accumulated material found in the PA textbooks, especially those ones published recently, that the PA prepares its children for war against Israel and the Jewish population in the country, with detrimental implications as far as the younger generations of both societies are concerned.
- Unlike the PA, which is a political body, UNRWA is an international humanitarian agency that clearly betrays its mission. It is high time that an end be put to such an abusive educational activity.
Dr. Arnon Groiss
Dr. Arnon Groiss is an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, having earned his Ph.D. and MA degrees from Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, as well as an MPA degree from Harvard University. He is also a retired journalist, having worked for 42 years at the Voice of Israel – Arabic Radio, where he acquired additional experience in this field. Since 2000 he has been studying the attitude to the “other” and to peace in various Middle Eastern curricula and authored numerous reports dealing with this issue, having examined over a thousand schoolbooks. Dr. Groiss presented his findings to policy makers at the US Congress, the European Parliament, the British House of Commons, the French Assemblée nationale, the Canadian and Swedish parliaments and the Israeli Knesset, as well as to people of the press and in various research institutions. During the last 3 years he has been focusing on the Palestinian Authority’s newly issued textbooks which change our perspectives as far as the chances for peace are concerned.