At the end of 2006, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Higher Education introduced new 12th grade schoolbooks, written by the Center for Developing the Palestinian Curricula. The center is comprised of Palestinian educators appointed by the Fatah governments of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and directed by Dr. Naim Abu Al-Humos, former PA Minister of Higher Education, appointed in 2002. The center is backed by foreign funding, with special thanks to Belgium noted in the new schoolbooks. Before the year 2000, the schoolbooks used in the Palestinian Authority were primarily Jordanian and Egyptian books, republished by the PA. Between 2000 and 2005, responding to widespread international criticism of the old textbooks, the PA Ministry of Education issued new textbooks for Grades 1 through 11. This report by Palestinian Media Watch reviews the following new schoolbooks for Grade 12, recently introduced into PA schools:
- Physical Geography and Human Geography
- History of the Arabs and the World in the 20 th Century
- Contemporary Problems
- Islamic Education
- Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism
- Arabic Language and the Science of Language
- Scientific Culture
PMW has found that the new 12th grade Palestinian schoolbooks make no attempt to educate for peace and coexistence with Israel. Indeed, the opposite is true: 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:
“Palestine’s war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, their lands and their houses, and established the State of Israel.”
[Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p. 104 ]
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.” [Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Commentary, grade 12 p 105]
Fighting Israel is a religious battle of Islam
But 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.” [Islamic Education, grade 12, p. 86 ]. Israel is thus stigmatized as existing on Islam’s land, and fighting Israel is transformed from an Arab nationalistic goal into an uncompromising battle for God. Moreover, the youth are taught that their specific conflict with Israel – Ribat for “Palestine” – is “one of the greatest of the Ribat, and they [Palestinians] are worthy of a great reward from Allah”. [Ibid, pp.86- 87 ].
The world without Israel – Israel does not exist at all
Beyond looking to the future, the educators have built a picture – both verbally and visually – of the present world, a world in which Israel does not exist. “Palestine” today is said to be a special “state” (Arabic – “Dawla” = state, not a geographical region) with water access to both the Mediterranean and the Red Seas, a situation possible only if Israel does not exist. [ Physical Geography and Human Geography, grade 12, p. 105] Likewise the size of the “state” of “Palestine” is said to be more than 10,000 sq. km., which is the figure one gets only if Israel did not exist, as the full West Bank and Gaza Strip total only 6220 sq. km.
[ Physical Geography and Human Geography, grade 12, p. 107]
Maps of the region likewise teach children to visualize a world without Israel, as Israel does not exist on any map and its area is marked as “ Palestine.”
Since all of Israel and all its cities are taught to be an “occupation” of “Palestine,” and “Palestine” in all the school books replaces all of Israel, the following teaching can only mean that Israel ‘s destruction is inevitable:
“ Palestine will be liberated by its men, its women, its young ones and its elderly.”
[ Arabic Language and the Science of Language, grade 12, p. 44]
Terminology of Disdain
The terminology that the educators have chosen to use throughout the schoolbooks reinforces the message that youth should not accept Israel as a neighbor with a right to exist. The following terms all replace Israel, its founders, and status: “The Zionist enemy;“ “The Zionist entity;” “The enemy of this people;” “The Zionist gangs;” “Zionist Imperialist plan.” Israel ’s creation is “the occupation;” “stole Palestine ;” “stole its land;” “in 1948, when the Jews occupied Palestine.” Palestinians are said to suffer from: “imperialist persecution, a life of exile, and the theft of freedom of thought and culture;” “massacre” and much more. (All sources appear in report.) With these as the educational messages, the next generation of Palestinian youth is actively being prevented from having any reasonable possibility of accepting Israel as a neighbor in reconciliation and peace.
The US and the West – a “Clash of Civilizations”
The current relationship with the West is described as a “Clash of Civilizations” between the West, led by the United States, and the Islamic-Arab world. [Contemporary Problems, grade 12, p. 92.] Islam promotes Human Rights [ibid, pp. 95-96], the US and the West, “the colonialist states, are taking advantage of it,” “for interfering in the matters of other states, as is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur…” [ibid, p. 101] America and Russia are guilty of “violations of international humanitarian law in Iraq and Afghanistan and …in Chechnya.” [ibid, p. 108] Fighting against American and British soldiers in Iraq is called “brave resistance to liberate Iraq” against “occupation.” [History of the Arabs and the World in the 20 th Century, grade 12, p. 147.]
One of the most meaningful gauges of the ideology and aspirations of a people is the education of its youth. For this reason, the new Palestinian Authority schoolbooks, introduced in the end of 2006 by the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Higher Education apparatus, are a continuation of the tragic disappointment of the earlier books. Instead of seizing the opportunity to educate future generations to live with Israel in peace, the PA schoolbooks glorify terror and teach their children to hate Israel, vilify Israel’s existence and define the battle with Israel as an uncompromising religious war. Instead of working to minimize the current hate, the new PA curriculum is ingraining it into the next generation’s consciousness, and packaging the war against Israel as existential, mandatory and religious. The new PA schoolbooks are guaranteeing that the next generation will grow up seeing Israel as an illegitimate enemy to be hated, fought, and destroyed, rather than as a neighbor to negotiate with and to ultimately live beside in peace.
Click here to read the complete report.