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Palestinian textbook controversy

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Israel has frequently accused Palestinian textbooks of instilling anti-Semitic attitudes and inciting Palestinian children to commit violence or terrorism. As a result of these accusations, analyses of Palestinian textbooks have been performed by various research institutions.

The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem commissioned studies from the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI). In Europe the Georg Eckert Institute performed research. The Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace has also published papers on this issue. A U.S. Senate subcommittee and the Political Committee of the European Parliament have both held hearings about Palestinian textbooks.[1]

Studies by Israel-affiliated organizations

Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP)

The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP)'s ongoing research on how textbooks, exams, and other official course material in the Middle East portray the "Other" concluded that the textbooks portray Jews and Israelis in a negative manner, fail to include Israel on the map and instead label all of it "Palestine", glorify violent forms of Jihad and martyrdom, and mention specific Jewish holy sites in Israel only once, incompletely, and in order to explain its holiness in Islam.

2006 Israeli Defense Ministry study

In the 2004-2005 school year, the Palestinian Education Ministry published 29 new textbooks for the fifth and tenth grades. According to 2006 study by Noa Meridor, a researcher in the Israel Defense Ministry's office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the new Palestinian curriculum "shows a continuing denial of the State of Israel's right to exist and a continuing cultivation of the values of armed struggle against Israel. The books contain incitement against the State of Israel and the Zionist movement, one of them even employing anti-Semitism." [2] Among the examples listed in the study:

  • The books claim that the only ancient inhabitants of Israel were Arabs, ignoring any ancient Jewish presence: " the land of Al-Sham [Greater Syria]...was the culture of the Canaanite and Aramaic peoples who migrated there from the Arab peninsula." [3]
  • The books teach that the First Zionist Congress fostered the Zionist State based on a secret decision of what came to be known as the"Protocols of the Elders of Zion." [4]
  • Zionism is presented only as an enemy movement: "The Palestinian people are under an oppressive siege, limiting their movement and way of life."[5]
  • The false claim is made that an "extremist Zionist" set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969 [6] when in reality it was a mentally unstable fundamentalist Christian from Australia.
  • Sites in Israel are "annexed" to Palestine: "Haifa is a Palestinian seaport",[7] "Galilee, Nazareth and Beit She'an are regions in Palestine",[8]
  • The new Palestinian school books stress the importance of "return" of refugees to all of Palestine by violence: "Returning to the homes, the plains and the mountains, under the banners of glory, jihad and struggle." [9]

2007 Palestinian Media Watch report

In February 2007, the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) released a report entitled "From Nationalist Battle to Religious Conflict: New 12th Grade Palestinian Textbooks Present a World Without Israel"[10] containing analysis of eight textbooks published by the PA at the end of 2006. The US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joined with PMW[11] for the release of the report written by PMW director Itamar Marcus and associate director Barbara Crook. Sen. Clinton said that the books, which she called "child abuse" and the "glorification of death and violence", caused her to express skepticism about whether Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas could be a fair partner for peace.[12]

The Grade 12 texts analyzed in the PMW report are the most recent books to be written by the Palestinian Curriculum Development Center. The director of the curriculum committee, Dr. Naim Abu Al-Humos, is a long-time member of the Fatah party and was appointed PA Minister of Higher Education in 2002, under Yasser Arafat, and continued after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's election.

The report states, in part:

The teachings repeatedly reject Israel's right to exist, present the conflict as a religious battle for Islam, teach Israel's founding as imperialism, and actively portray a picture of the Middle East, both verbally and visually, in which Israel does not exist at all.

The following description of Israel's founding represents the dominant dogma about Israel in Palestinian schoolbooks: Defining Israel's founding as a "catastrophe unprecedented in history," "a theft perpetrated by "Zionist gangs," together with numerous other hateful descriptions of Israel as "colonial imperialist" and "racist", compounded by the presentation of the conflict as a religious war, leaves no latitude for students to have positive or even neutral attitudes towards Israel. This negative imagery and religious packaging are compounded by hateful presentations of Israeli policy. The young students are imbued with a Palestinian identity as "victims" just by virtue of Israel's existence. The well-meaning student is left with no logical justification or religious option to accept Israel as a neighbor or to seek coexistence. Given the total rejection of Israel's right to exist, on nationalistic and religious grounds, Palestinian terror against Israel since Israel's founding in 1948 is defined as: "resistance … acts of most glorious heroism."[13]

PA educators teach that fighting Israel is not merely a territorial conflict, but also a religious battle for Islam. The schoolbooks define the conflict with Israel as "Ribat for Allah" – "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".[14]

The report also indicated several instances within these textbooks of Holocaust denial.[12][15] In addition, the report describes the Islamic World and the United States as being involved in a "Clash of Civilizations" and describes the Iraqi Insurgency as being engaged in "brave resistance to liberate Iraq".[16]

Senator Clinton said:

"I believe that education is one of the keys to lasting peace in the Middle East... Ever since we first raised this issue some years ago there still has not been an adequate repudiation of incitement by the Palestinian Authority. It is even more disturbing that the problem appears to have gotten worse. These textbooks don't give Palestinian children an education, they give them an indoctrination."[17] [18]

Senator Clinton joined with Elie Wiesel to speak out about anti-Israel sentiments and antisemitic content in Palestinian textbooks in September 2000. In June 2001, she joined with Senator Charles Schumer to speak out again on the issue, sending a letter to President Bush urging him to make clear to Yasser Arafat that peace is not possible without a full and immediate cessation of the Palestinian Authority's hateful rhetoric and urging that funding be contingent on the cessation of such incitement. In October 2003, she joined the Senate Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Sub-committee hearing on Palestinian textbooks and other media that glorifies violence and martyrdom.[19]

Studies by independent organizations

1998 UNRWA review

In 1998, two years before the Al-Aqsa intifada, Democrat member of United States House of Representatives Peter Deutsch and other Congressmembers directed the State Department to ask UNRWA to investigate evidence that school books used in UNRWA-run schools in the West Bank and Gaza contained anti-Semitic statements. The allegations surfaced in reports compiled by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an Israeli-American NGO, which had claimed that the books contained statements such as "Treachery and disloyalty are character traits of the Jews and one should be aware of them".[20] In January 1999, the State Department reported that "The methodologies employed by UNRWA make it difficult to draw firm conclusions about the extent of anti-Semitic content in host authority textbooks used in UNRWA schools. At the same time, UNRWA's review did reveal instances of anti-Semitic characterizations and content in those host authority texts."[21]

2000 Nathan Brown's study

Since 1994 the Palestinian Authority had been replacing older textbooks, and in 1999 and 2000, Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, published a study on this subject.[22] Regarding the Palestinian Authority's newer textbooks, he states:

"The new books have removed the anti-Semitism present in the older books while they tell history from a Palestinian point of view, they do not seek to erase Israel, delegitimize it or replace it with the "State of Palestine"; each book contains a foreword describing the West Bank and Gaza as "the two parts of the homeland"; the maps show some awkwardness but do sometimes indicate the 1967 line and take some other measures to avoid indicating borders; in this respect they are actually more forthcoming than Israeli maps; the books avoid treating Israel at length but do indeed mention it by name; the new books must be seen as a tremendous improvement from a Jewish, Israeli, and humanitarian view; they do not compare unfavorably to the material my son was given as a fourth grade student in a school in Tel Aviv".

In a February 2004 interview Brown stated that reports of Palestinian textbooks inciting violence can all be traced back to "the work of a single organization, the 'Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace'" which he claims "rely on misleading and tendentious reports to support their claim of incitement".[23]

2001 Moughrabi: "The Politics of Palestinian Textbooks"

In 2001 Fouad Moughrabi in The Nation claimed these reports of incitement in Palestinian textbooks were exaggerated and false and had a detrimental effect on funding for new Palestinian textbooks.[24]

2001 European Union threatens to halt aid

Armin Laschet, a member of the German delegation to the European Union Parliament threatened halting EU funding of Palestinian educational institutions "…until all the Palestinian textbook passages antagonistic to Israel are removed."[25] Particular examples of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic indoctrination found in the textbooks includes an Islamic high school text that warns students to be wary of Jews as they are "…deceitful and disloyal." Another textbook stated that European anti-Semitism was caused by Jewish greed and fanaticism.[25] Other examples led Francois Zimeray, a French socialist, to state that there is "…substantial proof that EU funding has wrongly been used to finance school textbooks promoting hatred and inciting to martyrdom.[26]

The PA response was delivered by Peter Hansen, at the time the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, gave the response for the PA in the daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida: "We cannot expect a people under occupation to have textbooks which idealize, praise and express love for their occupiers."[25] This statement caused outrage and fury among many circles. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise answered to his response: "Israeli texts do not 'idealize, praise and express love' for the Palestinians, but they do not malign or disseminate hatred against them either."

While the PA deputy minister for education denied that books with these statements were used in the schools, Yasser Arafat did confirm their usage. Arafat excused their use claiming that these were old Jordanian textbooks and that the PA lacked sufficient funding to replace them with more modern ones. To this claim, Laschet responded that as the EU was donating 300 million Euros to the PA, that the PA "…certainly can bear the cost of publishing new textbooks."[25]

2002 George Eckert Institute comparison

The George Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research compared Palestinian and Israeli textbooks in December 2002. According to Jonathan Kriener of the institute, "The crucial difference between both sets of textbooks lies in the overall unanimity of the Palestinian textbooks versus a broad spectrum of different approaches in Israel, ranging from Ultra-orthodox school books, in which ‘Language is used that conveys an air of superiority and negative expressions …’ and in which ‘The map of Israel always includes all of the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan.’ to books in which highly controversial political issues are discussed quite openly. Although manifesting itself in different ways, the influence of fundamentalist religious movements is growing on both sides, and is likely to continue to do so

2002 and 2004 Firer-Adwan comparisons

Ruth Firer of the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Sami Adwan, a professor of education at Bethlehem University in Bethlehem compared Palestinian and Israeli textbooks in 2002. Of the Palestinian textbooks they found that "The books portray Jews throughout history in a positive manner and avoid negative stereotypes. However, according to the everyday experience of Palestinians, modern-day Israelis are presented as occupiers. The texts include examples of Israelis killing and imprisoning Palestinians, demolishing their homes, uprooting fruit trees, and confiscating their lands and building settlements on them. The texts also talk about the right of return for the 1948 Palestinian refugees when describing how those refugees live in camps." The Israeli textbooks, on the other hand don't even mention Palestinians "The Palestinians, as such, are not found in any of the three types of primary-level textbooks." Disputed territory is presented as being part of Israel: "Many of the chapters describe "the good land", sometimes called "our birthplace" or "homeland" ("moledet" in Hebrew), and include photos of places that are in the PNA or are in dispute between the two nations (i.e., East Jerusalem). They are presented without the national-political debate, and as naturally belonging to the Israeli state."[27] Their 2004 study of 13 Israeli textbooks and 9 Palestinian textbooks found that "neither side's books tell the story of the conflict from the other's viewpoint, both ignore the other side's suffering and each counts only its only victims."[28]

2002 review and 2004 follow-up report by IPCRI

In 2002, the United States Congress requested the United States Department of State to commission a reputable non-governmental organization (NGO) to conduct a review of the new Palestinian curriculum. The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) was thereby commissioned by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the US Consul General in Jerusalem to review the Palestinian Authority's textbooks. Its report was completed in March 2003 and delivered to the State Department for submission to Congress. Its Executive Summary stated:

"The overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful despite the harsh and violent realities on the ground. It does not openly incite against Israel and the Jews. It does not openly incite hatred and violence. Religious and political tolerance is emphasized in a good number of textbooks and in multiple contexts."

However, its June 2004 follow-up report stated:

"The practice of "appropriating" sites, areas, localities, geographic regions, etc. inside the territory of the State of Israel as Palestine/Palestinian observed in our previous review, remains a feature of the newly published textbooks (4th and 9th Grade) laying substantive grounds to the contention that the Palestinian Authority did not in fact recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people."

It also noted, regarding maps, that

"A good number... show Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one geographic entity (without demarcation lines or differentiated colorings). Historically Palestinian cities (e.g., Akka, Yafa, Haifa, Safad, al-Lid, Ar-Ramla, Beer As-sabe’) are included in some maps that lump together the areas controlled by the PA with those inside the State of Israel. No map of the region bears the name of "Israel" in its pre-1967 borders. In addition, Israeli towns with a predominantly Jewish population are not represented on these maps."

The Summary also stated that the curriculum asserts a historically dubious ancient Arab presence in the region, while ignoring any Jewish connection:

"The Jewish connection to the region, in general, and the Holy Land, in particular, is virtually missing. This lack of reference is perceived as tantamount to a denial of such a connection, although no direct evidence is found for such a denial." ... "terms and passages used to describe some historical events are sometimes offensive in nature and could be construed as reflecting hatred of and discrimination against Jews and Judaism." [29]

See also


  1. Roger Avenstrup (December 18, 2004). "Palestinian textbooks : Where is all that 'incitement'?". International Herald Tribune. 
  2. Israel still does not appear on maps in Palestinian textbooksPDF (780 KiB) by Noa Meridor. Translated by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ICT)
  3. (p.14-15) (Tarikh al-Hadarat al-Qadima (History of Ancient Civilizations), 5th grade textbook, Foreword)
  4. (p. 13) (Tarikh al-'Alam al-Hadith wal Mu-'asir (History of the new Modern World), 10th grade textbook, pp. 60-64)
  5. (p. 9) (Al-Tarbiyah al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Education), Vol. 1, 5th grade textbook, p. 49)
  6. (p. 12) (Tarikh al'Alam al-Hadith wal-Mu'asir (History of the new Modern World), 10th grade textbook, p. 106)
  7. (p. 7) (Lughatuna al-Jamila (Our Beautiful Language) Vol. 2, 5th grade textbook, p. 86)
  8. (p. 7) (Al-Iqtisad al-Manzili (Home Economy), 10th grade textbook, pp. 36-37)
  9. (Lughatuna al-Jamila (Our Beautiful Language), Vol 1, 5th grade textbook, p.88)
  10. '"From Nationalist Battle to Religious Conflict: New 12th Grade Palestinian Textbooks Present a World Without Israel" (pdf)
  11. Senator Clinton To Join With Palestinian Media Watch To Release New Report On Continuing Anti-Israel Bias In Palestinian Textbooks. February 7, 2007.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Krieger, Hilary Leila. "Hillary Clinton skeptical Abbas will make sufficient peace partner." Jerusalem Post. 8 February 2007. 3 March 2007.
  13. Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Commentary, grade 12 p 105
  14. Islamic Education, grade 12, p. 86
  15. PA Holocaust denial in new PA schoolbooks: World War II without a Holocaust by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook - April 18, 2007
  17. New PA schoolbooks give children "an indoctrination", not an education, Hillary Clinton says at release of new PMW report
  18. Senator Clinton Condemns Palestinian Textbook Bias by Nathan Burchfiel (CNSNews) February 09, 2007
  19. Senator Clinton Joins Senate Committee Hearing on the Anti-Semitic Indoctrination of Palestinian Children October 31, 2003
  20. Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, Palestinian Authority textbooks, Second Edition, March 2001, retrieved August 28, 2006.
  22. Brown, Nathan. Study of Palestinian Textbooks, November 1, 2001, retrieved August 28, 2006.
  23. "Reports on Palestinian kids’ hatred grossly exaggerated". j.. February 6, 2004. 
  24. "Battle of the Books in Palestine". The Nation. October 1, 2001. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 EU Threatens to Cut Aid Over Anti-Semitic Texts in PA
  26. 170 EU assembly members want probe into EU funds for Palestinian budget Associated Press
  27. Ruth Firer, Sami Adwan (March 28, 2002). "Comparing Palestinian and Israeli Textbooks". Palestinian Curriculum Development Center. 
  28. "Israelis' textbooks fare little better than Palestinians'". Haaretz. 09/12/2004. 
  29. Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. Report II: Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian Curriculum, June 2004, retrieved August 28, 2006.

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