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Palestinian Textbooks: Jews, Israel and Peace in Palestinian School Textbooks

(November 2001)

This is the executive summary of the study by the Center for Monitoring the Impact on Peace. The complete study is available on their web site.

In the two academic years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) introduced 58 new textbooks and two teachers' guides for grades 1,2,6,7 and 11. CMIP has conducted a comprehensive survey of these textbooks in order to determine how they relate to peace, tolerance, recognition and reconciliation according to criteria set by the international community.

CMIP has found that the new PNA textbooks do not fulfill these criteria in educating to peace and reconciliation with Israel, but rather foster a multi-faceted rejection of its existence. The educational approach employed by the PNA does not reflect international standards as defined by UNESCO (see their criteria in the Introduction). The textbooks do not teach acceptance of Israel's existence on the national level, and instead of working to erase hateful stereotypes, the new PNA curriculum is instilling them into the next generation's consciousness.

  • The concept of peace with Israel is not to be found anywhere in the Palestinian schoolbooks. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the Oslo Accords, is not mentioned. They fail to teach the youth to see Israel as a neighbor with whom peaceful relations should be desired.

  • Tolerance, both in a historical and a contemporary context, is addressed at length in the Palestinian textbooks. It is described as being based on Islam's traditional approach of "accepting the members of the monotheistic religions" and "respecting the People of the Book in their religion, property and ceremonies". However, in their examples, the textbooks refer only to tolerance between Moslems and Christians. The Jews are not mentioned.

  • The Jewish connection to the Holy Land is confined to antiquity. From the Roman period onwards this Jewish link is ignored. The Jews' return to Palestine is described as "infiltration". Zionism is mentioned in a negative context only. The Jews are not "deserving" of Palestine. Hebrew is not considered one of the languages of the land.

  • The State of Israel, a member state of the UN since 1949, is not recognized. It is referred to by substitute names such as the lands within the "green line", "interior" or "1948 lands". Its name does not appear on any map, nor do any towns, villages and projects (industries, harbors, railways, etc.) created and developed by Israel. Israel is presented as the usurper and occupier since its establishment in 1948.

  • By contrast, the State of Palestine (Dawlat Filastin) is often referred to and its name appears with the official emblem of the Palestinian National Authority, on the cover and the front page of many textbooks. Palestine stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and is exclusively Arab. The 5.5 million Jewish inhabitants are not counted.

  • The maps that appear in the textbooks continue to disregard the existence of the State of Israel. In most cases no names are given at all. In other cases Israel's place on the map is marked "Palestine". There are several maps that delineate the contours of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but do not name them. Areas located in the territory of Israel within its 1949 borders, such as the Negev, are presented as an integral part of Palestine. The Arab population of Israel is counted among the inhabitants of Palestine.

  • Jerusalem is presented as belonging to the Palestinians alone, and as the capital of Palestine. Its central importance and holiness for the Jews are not mentioned, neither is the fact that the Jewish population constitutes the vast majority of its inhabitants.

  • The holy places in Palestine are exclusively Muslim and Christian. There is no reference to Jewish holy places as such. Rather, they are presented as Muslim holy places that the Jews have attempted to Judaize, such as the "Tomb of the Patriarchs" in Hebron, "the Western Wall" a.k.a. "the Wailing Wall", in Jerusalem, and "Rachel's Tomb" in Bethlehem.

  • There are a series of references to the liberation of Palestine, presented as a struggle against Israeli occupation. At times, the liberation from Israeli occupation points to the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip occupied by Israel in 1967. Sometimes this expression refers to the territory of the State of Israel, within its 1949 borders. There is an explicit reference to the Israeli occupation of 1948 and another to the need to establish an independent Palestinian state on the entire national soil.

  • The struggle for the liberation of Palestine is presented mainly as a military one. There is no direct support of terror in the textbooks, but the Feda'i and the Shahid are praised as the spearheads of this struggle. Palestinians hanged by British Mandate authorities for murders of Jewish civilians are presented as Shahids. Those arrested and jailed in Israeli jails for acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians are depicted as "prisoners of war". Jihad continues to be glorified and martyrdom is praised, with special attention given to the martyrs of Palestine.

  • There is no attempt to encourage reconciliation with Israel. Israel is presented exclusively as inhumane and greedy. It has destroyed the Palestinian villages, driven them away, seized their lands and water, inflicted on them pain and loss, taken over their holy places. Israel is responsible for the obliteration of Palestinian Arab national identity, the crippling of Palestinian economy, and for social and ecological ills.

  • Israel is accused of being responsible for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem, with no consideration being given to the consequences of the Arab and Palestinian rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan. The solution to this problem presented in PNA textbooks is "the return of every refugee" to his former home, i.e. to the territory of the State of Israel within its 1949 borders.

  • Although bilateral treaties and accords have determined the allocation of land and water between Israel and the Palestinians by mutual agreement, (The Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 1995, Article XI and Appendix I article 40,and the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty 1994, Annex II.). Israel is accused of robbing the lands and waters from the Palestinians.

  • Reference to the Jews is minimal. Although their historical connections to Palestine are mentioned, these references do not provide the pupils with at least a basic knowledge of Jews and Judaism, as one of the three monotheistic religions. Several of these references, however, contain negative generalizations attributing traits of trickery, greed and barbarity to the Jews, and insinuation that they do not keep agreements and treaties as Muslims do. Accusations of racial discrimination that were leveled against Israel in a textbook published in 1995 have since been removed (in 1996 and 2000).

  • Inaccuracies in determining and presenting historical facts appear in several instances, particularly in the textbooks of Grade 7. For example, statements such as: "[Israeli] attempts at obliterating the artistic [Palestinian] heritage: …Setting fire to the antique pulpit of Saladin in the al-Aqsa Mosque." (National Education, Grade 7, p. 55). "The Arab Jebusites built it [Jerusalem] five thousand years ago in that distinguished place and it has remained since that time a capital of Palestine during the ages." (Geography of Palestine, Grade 7, p. 77) are to be found in the textbooks, as well as the falsification of a stamp issued by the British Mandatory Government.

  • The Palestinian textbooks use terminology that is associated with war and violence and is likely to create prejudice,misunderstanding and conflict, such as: "The demographic weapon" will play "a positive role in winning the Arab-Israeli conflict" (The Palestinian Society-Demographic Education, Grade 11 (2000), p. 29), and :"The coming of the Jewish throngs to Palestine continued until 1948 and their goal was taking over the Palestinian lands and then taking the original inhabitants' place after their expulsion or extermination." (National Education, Grade 7, p. 20)

  • The tendency towards educating pupils to reject and delegitimize Israel that was prevalent in the PNA textbooks of 2000-2001 has not been addressed in the new textbooks. Instead, it appears to have gained impetus through instilling animosity and the implicit aspiration to replace the State of Israel with the State of Palestine.

Sources: Center for Monitoring the Impact on Peace (CMIP)