From Aristotle to Gandhi to Jimmy Carter, world leaders have asserted that one must judge a nation by the way it treats its most vulnerable. How then should one judge a society whose leaders condemn the most vulnerable, its own children, to a lifetime of sociopathic hatred and to the macabre belief that the highest calling in their precious young lives is to wage unremitting war and die a martyr’s death?
The Palestinian Authority (PA) set up its own educational system in 1994, shortly after the Oslo Accords were signed (9/1993). Prior to the 6-Day War (6/1967), 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 the gross misuse of public funds from donor nations to support hate-education, of the violation of international legal norms with the virulence of that education, of wrecking 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 they still contain misleading, inaccurate, biased, selective and distorted history, with confusing and inaccurate maps that show “Palestine” as all of Israel,[ii] with Israeli cities like Tel Aviv replaced by Arab towns, and the exclusion of 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” (pp. 17 ff.). 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: threats from USA to defund the PA, reports such as those coming from the UK’s Taxpayers’ Alliance [vi] urging no UK money for “hate education”, and EU 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]
And they do not wait until the children start school. Palestinian Authority and Hamas preschool television and radio programming could be called Terrorism for Tots; and such programming continues well into high school. A Hamas weekly program starred a Palestinian version of Mickey Mouse, Farfur, who tells children to pray until there is “world leadership under Islamic leadership” and in the meantime to oppose the “oppressive invading Zionist occupation.” Farfar is ultimately beaten to death by an enraged Israeli “settler,” and is replaced by an intrepid young bee who buzzes 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 shares 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. Fatah educators complain that: “When a high-level education job opens up, it goes to a Hamas supporter, with appointees often leapfrogging over other candidates with stronger credentials. Since 2007, eight of 14 West Bank school districts are controlled by Hamas, up from none in 2006, and new teachers are hired routinely from graduates of Islamic teachers’ colleges that are Hamas strongholds.” The Hamas teachers’ union includes some 18,000 teachers in West Bank private and public schools. The latest textbooks already demonstrate Hamas influence.[ix] It is not difficult to foresee the future of PA education in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Hamas leadership.
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