The Palestinian Authority (PA) set up its own educational system in 1994, shortly after the Oslo Accords had been signed (in September 1993). Prior to the Six Day War (June 1967), the schools of the West Bank and Gaza Strip used Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks, which the Israeli government censored after achieving sovereignty over those territories, due to the extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish language of these texts. However, in 1994 the PA’s new Ministry of Education reintroduced the uncensored Jordanian and Egyptian texts, full of belligerent and anti-Semitic expressions. In response to international criticism, the Ministry undertook the creation of a new set of textbooks, gradually phasing them in from kindergarten through high school, while slowly phasing out the objectionable Jordanian and Egyptian texts.
Much has been written to expose, or to defend, the Palestinian Authority’s new textbooks. Critics accuse the PA of misusing public funds from donor nations to support hate-education; of violating international legal norms with the virulence of that education; of inflicting catastrophic psychological damage on young children; and of preparing the next generation for more hatred, more terrorism, more war. Critics[i] acknowledge that the new textbooks are an improvement over their predecessors. But the books still contain misleading, inaccurate, biased, selective and distorted history; they contain confusing and inaccurate maps that show “Palestine” as all of Israel,[ii] with Israeli cities like Tel Aviv replaced by Arab towns; and they exclude almost all of Jewish history from discussion about the Middle East. This biased education seems to have the goal of raising a generation of Palestinian children who will strive to carry on the terror war if their parents do not achieve victory in their own lifetimes.[iii]
Defensive assessments of these new textbooks assert the polar opposite,[iv] arguing that the new textbooks are fine, that the detractors are misled or misdirected by right-wing Zionist prejudices, and that the PA should be congratulated on the way that its new Education Ministry has handled the difficult job of teaching Palestinian nationhood and history while under siege.
Interestingly, some of these very supportive reports, perhaps inadvertently, validate some of the negative assessments. Professor Nathan Brown, in a generally very positive assessment of the PA textbooks, notes that concepts of civil behavior such as peace, tolerance, and dialogue are important themes, but there is “not a single reference to tolerating Jews or Israelis.” PA textbooks contain lessons that value peace, pluralism, forgiveness, integrity, and tolerance in historical and present-day contexts; but there are “no references…to these values regarding Jews, Judaism, or the state of Israel.” In short, PA textbooks continue to “…do little to support peace and avoid sensitive issues connected with peace.”[v]
The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and information (IPCRI) offers perhaps the most dispassionate, comprehensive and detailed examination of the PA textbooks. On the basis of its in-depth analysis of the entire sequence of textbooks as introduced into classroom use over the past 15 years, the IPCRI studies discern a clear pattern. The PA textbooks started out overtly anti-Israel with skewed and falsified history, incitement to violence, and the exaltation of martyrdom. Over the years they have been moderated, with the most vitriolic hate-teach expunged; but they still reflect some bias and imbalance.
It seems plausible to suggest that the textbooks were cleaned up under international pressure: U.S. threats from to defund the PA, reports such as those coming from the UK’s Taxpayers’ Alliance [vi] urging that no UK money be used to fund “hate education,” and European Union threats to cut aid. But the desire to imprint on the next generation the need to continue the terror war against Israel is still very much alive; and that brings us to two additional aspects of PA education that must be explored.
First, educators acknowledge that much teaching occurs beyond the textbooks and outside of the classroom. Under the leadership of the PA, incitement and hate-teach occur in the classrooms and on TV and radio.
Classroom incitement has been thoroughly documented[vii], as has hate-teach and hate-preach on PA TV and radio, where Jews and Israelis are represented as demonic figures. And the need to wipe Israel off the map is a frequent theme in the eulogies of suicide bombers, martyrs whose deaths in terror attacks intending mass murder endear them to Allah. The goal seems to be to create a seething, raging population of young people far more interested in wiping Israel off the earth’s face than in achieving peaceful coexistence.[viii]
PA and Hamas television and radio promotes these hateful values in programs that are produced for children of all ages, from pre-school through high school. For example, a Hamas weekly program starred a Palestinian version of Mickey Mouse, Farfur, who told children to pray until there was “world leadership under Islamic leadership” and in the meantime to oppose the “oppressive invading Zionist occupation.” The Farfar character was ultimately beaten to death by an enraged Israeli “settler,” and was replaced by an intrepid young bee who conveyed the same message to the preschool viewers. Similar messages are encouraged in the classroom with supplementary material and teacher-guided self-expression that encourage martyrdom and glorify terrorism and terrorists.
So while defenders point out the improvements in the textbooks, they ignore the fact that incitement and hatred and martyrdom are still very much a part of the education process for Palestinian children from early childhood onward.
Second, the role of Hamas in West Bank education is generally unnoticed, but is crucial for an understanding of the impact of PA education on Arab youth. Since 2007 Hamas has shared power with Fatah in the West Bank, and the coalition agreement of 2006 puts Hamas in control of the Ministry of Education. Over the last few years, the Minister of Education has moved Hamas loyalists into key positions in the education system. The Hamas teachers’ union includes some 18,000 teachers in West Bank private and public schools. As of 2011, the latest textbooks clearly demonstrated Hamas influence.[ix]
New textbooks may appear more moderate, but the classroom environment, the old hate-filled textbooks, TV, radio and the Hamas stranglehold on the Education Ministry all promise more Jew-hatred, more Israel-hatred, and endless exhortation to children’s suicidal martyrdom. Hamas uses its own children as political pawns; they are encouraged to participate in violent demonstrations, taught the virtues of mass murder, and exhorted to die a martyr’s death. All this is done in clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
Do the Palestinian Authority textbooks inspire children to mass murder and suicidal martyrdom? The accurate answer right now may be: not as much as they used to. But if Hamas has its way, it will not be long before they do again. Meanwhile, other resources do exactly that, in the Palestinian classroom, media, and society.
The text above is adapted from "Child Abuse As Public Policy in the Palestinian Authority," by David Meir-Levi (September 13, 2011).
[i] http://www.eufunding.org/Textbooks/Marcus.html , http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/04/palestinian_hateeducation_cont.html, http://www.betar.co.uk/articles/betar1057183655.php , http://www.theettingerreport.com/Palestinian-Issue/Palestinian-Hate-Education-(K-12).aspx, http://www.impact-se.org/research/pa/index.html, and most comprehensive is http://www.pmw.org.il/.
[ii] Validated, interestingly, by Nathan Brown who otherwise presents a very rosy view of PA textbooks: http://www.robat.scl.net/content/NAD/pdfs/nathan_textbook.pdf pp 9f.)
[iii] For detailed assessments and a plethora of examples see: http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=442&PID=0&IID=6515, http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=377&PID=1854&IID=3387, http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief2-8.htm, http://www.betar.co.uk/articles/betar1057183655.php, http://www.theettingerreport.com/Palestinian-Issue/Palestinian-Hate-Education-(K-12).aspx, http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=155&doc_id=454, and the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs at http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Palestinian_incitement/Terror-incitement-Palestinian-media.htm .
[iv] http://electronicintifada.net/content/myth-incitement-palestinian-textbooks/5626, http://www.pcdc.edu.ps/brown_research_summary.htm, http://www.robat.scl.net/content/NAD/pdfs/nathan_textbook.pdf, http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/21668/reports-on-palestinian-kids-hatred-grossly-exaggerated/.
[v] Other examples of negative assessments inadvertently validated by defenders can be found on the Miftah website, www.miftah.org/Doc/Factsheets/MIFTAH/English/Jan30hy2k4.doc, where Fouad Moughrabi defends the PA textbooks by saying that the new textbooks of 2000 present Israel as “a settler colonial entity that forcibly expelled Palestinians and destroyed their villages” (p. 6), because this is in fact what they are. Moreover, “serious scholars” have embraced this characterization of Israel. Thus he inadvertently acknowledges that the critics are correct. …this image of Israel as an occupier, destroyer, and ethnic cleanser is indeed taught by the PA textbooks. Because some scholars accept this representation, it is justifiable to teach this to Palestinian children, even though, as critics maintain, children fed this type of education are likely to grow up hating the perceived adversary and seeking to maintain the conflict: hardly a recipe for future peace.
Moughrabi further validates critics in his attempt at rebuttal about the misuse of maps in PA textbooks. He explains that “They [the textbooks] do not provide a map of Israel because the latter has yet to define its borders, and they do not provide a map of Palestine because its borders remain to be negotiated” (p. 3). He may be right that final borders are not yet defined, but he ignores the critique that there is no Israel on Palestinian maps.
He stresses that new textbooks do indeed teach peace and promote tolerance, openness and democratic values, thus indirectly acknowledging that the former ones did not. Then he goes on to say that since the reality of Israel’s occupation is cruel and humiliating, it is not logical for the textbook to extend these positive values to Israelis, thus validating the assertion that positive values, while in the text, are not extended to Israelis. (p. 11). See http://www.impact-se.org/research/pa/index.html for a comprehensive list of other research demonstrating hate-teach and incitement in PA textbooks which Mr. Barghouti does not mention nor rebut.
[vi] http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/funding_hate_proof6_cors.pdf, http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/fundinghate.pdf , http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/HEPostAnnapolis.pdf .
[vii] See http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=377&PID=1854&IID=3387, http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief2-8.htm and http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=14637
[viii] http://www.betar.co.uk/articles/betar1057183655.php, http://www.theettingerreport.com/Palestinian-Issue/Palestinian-Hate-Education-(K-12).aspx, http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=155&doc_id=454 and http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Palestinian_incitement/Terror-incitement-Palestinian-media.htm.
[ix] Knowing that outside approval is important because Palestinian public schools depend on foreign aid, Hamas leaders recognize that any attempt to change the textbooks must be done judiciously to avoid undermining the PA’s efforts to portray itself as politically moderate. Validation of this assessment is found in http://www.impact-se.org/docs/reports/PA/PA2008.pdf, p. 15, where the author notes that 12th grade textbooks, prepared after Hamas took over the Education Ministry, are harsher and more akin to earlier ones than the 11th grade texts.