Jews, Israel and Peace In the 2017/18 Palestinian Authority Schoolbooks for Grades 11 and 12: A Complementary Study

History Studies (Grade 11, Part 2 (2017) p. 52)

History Studies (Grade 11, Part 2 (2017) p. 52)

Mathematics (Grade 11 [Humanities] (2017) p. 30)

Mathematics (Grade 11 [Humanities] (2017) p. 30)

History Studies (Grade 12, Draft (No date [2018]) p. 141)

History Studies (Grade 12, Draft (No date [2018]) p. 141)

Geography Studies (Grade 11, Part 2 (2017) p. 66)

Geography Studies (Grade 11, Part 2 (2017) p. 66)

By :Dr. Arnon Groiss

Executive Summary[1]

  • This study completes a four-year research activity, in which over 364 schoolbooks for grades 1-12 that were published by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the years 2013-2018 were examined. The goal of that research project was checking the attitude to the Israeli-Jewish “other” and to the possibility of solving the conflict with that “other” peacefully in the spirit of the peace agreements, known as “the Oslo Accords” that were signed by the two parties in 1993-1995. The project yielded three studies. The first one was issued in September 2017, having covered 201 books of various school subjects.[2] Additional 118 books mostly published in 2017 were examined during 2018 in a separate study.[3] The present study covers 45 books published in 2017-2018 for grades 11 and 12 in the various streams. Some of these latter books are final editions that have replaced draft editions for grade 12 and contained few changes for both better and worse.
  • The overall picture revealed throughout the project is depressing and the present study does not change it: Palestinian school children and youth learn that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is not an option. Rather, Palestine should be liberated from “Zionist occupation” by way of an armed struggle titled “Revolution [Thawrah]” which involves terrorist actions styled “self-sacrificing operations [‘amaliyyat Fidaiyyah]”. It is shocking to see in this context a reference in one of the books to the “1972 Munich operation” where 11 members of the Israeli team to the Olympic Games were massacred (History Studies, Grade 11, Part 2 (2017) p. 54). Those who carry out such actions are called “self-sacrificing ones [Fidais]” and those among liberation struggle is liberating the Muslim holy place of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from the Jews’ sway.
  • The struggle for liberation from occupation is not limited to the areas of the West

Bank and the Gaza Strip. Rather, the whole country from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea is meant by this, as Zionist occupation is said to have started in 1948, in what is termed “the Catastrophe [Nakbah]”, and not in 1967. Israel’s pre-1967 territory is termed “the Palestinian territories that were occupied in 1948” (Management and Economics, Grade 11, Part 2 [Entrepreneurship and Business] (2017) p. 55). Pre-1967 Israel is never presented as a legitimate sovereign state nor does it appear on the map where it is replaced in its entirety by “Palestine”. Even Israel’s very name is replaced in the text in the vast majority of cases by “the Zionist Occupation” or “the Zionist Entity”, which should be extirpated from the Middle East (History Studies, Grade 12, Draft (No date [2018]) p. 145).[4] Cities inside pre-1967 Israel, such as Nazareth, Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Tiberias, Beer Sheba and Ashkelon, are presented as Palestinian cities. The so-called “Palestinian refugees” and their five-million-or-so descendants are supposed to return to this particular part of liberated Palestine and thus the 70-year old “Catastrophe” would end.

  • In fact, not only Israel is de-legitimized. That is the case as well with the very presence of its six-million Jewish citizens. They are presented as colonizing settlers motivated by racist sentiments (History Studies, Grade 12 [Humanities] (2018) p. 5) who occupied Palestine, massacred and expelled many of its original inhabitants and have held the rest under occupation to this very day. The illegitimate status of the Jews in the country in the eyes of Palestinian educators is well expressed by the noted absence from the map of cities established by Jews in modern times, or showing them under Arabic names. Tel Aviv’s name, for example, is translated into “Tall al-Rabi'” and Eilat appears as “Umm al-Rashrash”.
  • Not only is Jewish presence in the country today delegitimized. They are also denied their past history in the country, as well as their holy places that are presented as exclusively Islamic ones, including the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The Jews’ notions of their historical ties to Jerusalem in particular, are described as “baseless claims”, “superstitions”, “legends”, “illusions” and “distorted narratives” (Arabic Language 1: Reading, Grammar, Prosody and Expression – Academic Path, Grade 12 (2018) pp. 38-39) and they themselves are presented as “usurpers” and “invaders” (ibid., p. 46).
  • As if this heavy de-legitimization of both Israel’s existence and the Jews’ very presence in the country is not enough, the PA schoolbooks also contain numerous pieces demonizing the former and, to a lesser extent, the latter. Jews are demonized within two Islamic contexts: As a people disobedient to, even blasphemous of, God, according to Koranic verses, and as a group hostile to the Prophet of Islam and the early Muslims in Arabia. The impact of these accusations on the minds of young Palestinians who are relatively religiously oriented must be heavy, which puts today’s Jews in Israel in a very negative light even before their demonization in the context of the ongoing conflict takes place.
  • Israel, mostly referred to by the epithet “the Zionist Occupation”, is demonized in relation to various aspects of the conflict, beyond the “primary sin” of its very establishment: It is accused of perpetrating massacres against Palestinians, assassinating Palestinian leaders, destroying Palestinians villages, causing Palestinian children’s suffering, being aggressive, violating international laws and conventions, maltreating Palestinian “prisoners-of-war”, confiscating Palestinian land, uprooting trees, causing Palestinian unemployment, limiting Palestinians’ free movement, detaining school students, damaging Palestinian economy, polluting the Palestinian environment, and even endangering Palestinian nutritive security and causing the desertification of Palestine. Some of these accusations may have a factual nucleus, but they are grossly exaggerated. The schoolbooks completely ignore the Palestinian violent actions that may have contributed to the creation of this situation, at least partly.
  • The demonization effort is further augmented by the absence of any objective information about Israel and the Jews that would counterbalance it. Nor do the PA schoolbooks refer to the Jewish-Israeli individual as an ordinary human being. They are referred to as a group only, with all the accompanying connotations of alienation and threat, which makes them a legitimate target for violence. Indeed, using violence against Israel and the Jews is considered by the PA schoolbooks legitimate religiously – in defense of Islam and its holy places in the country, morally – in light of their perceived inherent evil, legally – because they are presented as foreign occupiers in contradiction to international law, and logically – since they are said to constitute an existential threat to the Palestinian people. Peace and co-existence with them cannot be an option, given this indoctrination.
  • The PA schoolbooks thus contribute to the perpetuation of the conflict. Moreover, one of the findings of the present study is that this kind of indoctrination has been spread to all school subjects, especially mathematics, and it appears as well in purely professional textbooks such as “Small Businesses” and “Management and Economics” of the Entrepreneurship and Business stream and “Entrepreneurship in Business” of the Technological stream. Any person who supports the ideal of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should raise his or her voice in demand that the PA change this war-oriented curriculum as a precondition to any move towards peace, in accordance with its commitments by virtue of the Oslo Accords which form the basis of its very establishment and operation. The few changes for the better that have been made in the transition process from draft to final editions of grade 12 schoolbooks clearly prove that such changes are practicable.

[1] This is an update of the article written by Dr. Arnon Groiss at the request of the Near East Policy Research Chairman David Bedein and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The original study "Palestinian Authority textbooks: the attitude to Jews, Israel and peace (Update, June 2018)" was issued by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center on July 22, 2018.
[2] https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/app/uploads/2017/12/E_259_17.pdf

[3] https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/app/uploads/2018/07/E_184_18.pdf

[4] Omitted from the final edition of August 2018.