February 16, 2007

New Palestinian schoolbooks give children "an indoctrination," not an education

From Palestinian Media Watch, February 12, 2007, www.pmw.org:

The new Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks for Grade 12 encourage students to see Israel, the US and the West as enemies, and portray the PA's territorial disputes with Israel as an existential religious conflict for Islam, according to a report released today by Palestinian Media Watch and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The report, "From Nationalist Battle to Religious Conflict: New 12th Grade Palestinian Textbooks Present a World Without Israel," was written by PMW director Itamar Marcus and associate director Barbara Crook, and analyzes eight textbooks released at the end of 2006.

According to the report, the new books create for students an image, both textual and visual, of a world without Israel. They reject Israel's right to exist, while describing its founding as a "catastrophe that is unprecedented in history." According to the report, the books encourage students to see themselves as victims of Israel's existence, and actively prevent these young people from seeing Israel as a neighbor to live beside in peace. The history books barely acknowledge the peace process. This is compounded by the presentation of the conflict as a religious conflict to defend Islamic land, and leaves no latitude or religious option for students to have positive—or even neutral—attitudes towards Israel.

The textbooks likewise portray the US and the West in negative terms, describing the relationship as a "clash of civilizations." The books teach that the US is a human rights abuser and a violator of international humanitarian law. The texts assert that the US is an economic supporter of Israel, while completely ignoring the US aid to the PA and to Palestinian humanitarian projects.

"I believe that education is one of the keys to lasting peace in the Middle East and for this reason I am very concerned with these findings. 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," Senator Clinton said.

"Teaching Palestinian children that the conflict is religious and not territorial will leave no possibility for compromise and could guarantee another generation of conflict," said Marcus.

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.

"It's very significant and disturbing that these new books contain ideology that has been associated mainly with Hamas—especially the unequivocal denial of Israel's right to exist and the portrayal of the conflict with Israel as a religious struggle, not a territorial dispute," says co-author Crook. "But this ideology is being prepared for Palestinian youth by veteran Fatah educators, not by Hamas."