Sunday, February 18, 2018

Did Major General Yaakov Or Fool Himself or Did the Israeli Government Fool Itself about the Damage of Arms Supplies to the PA?

Major General Yaakov Or, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, has invested the last three-and-a-half years in slowly and carefully building up a broad network of contacts with the Palestinian Authority. Or has met with everyone – often with Arafat himself, with senior officials in the PA chair’s office and his Fatah faction, merchants and businessmen, the heads of the Palestinian security services and ministers in the Palestinian cabinet.

These ties have helped Or to nurture an atmosphere of virtual normalization in the relationship between the two sides. They have helped him solve problems and remove bureaucratic obstacles. But first and foremost, these ties were designed to help him “put out the fires” should Israelis and Palestinians start shooting at each other.

Since the end of last week, Or has been watching his handiwork go down the drain. This time, unlike during the Western Wall tunnel riots in 1996, the cellular phones have at least remained open: Senior PA officials have returned their Israeli colleagues’ phone calls, yet verbal agreements were never implemented.

Again and again, the Palestinians promised to stop the shooting, but failed to honor their commitments. Or and other senior security officials gradually began to suspect that Arafat is simply not interested in stopping the violence just yet. On the one hand, he sends the heads of his security services for talks with Israel; while on the other, he urges the Tanzim leaders to continue the rioting.

The theory that Or marketed to several prime ministers and defense ministers was that economic development would prevent violence. Joint projects, industrial and commercial parks along the border between Israel and the PA, even high-tech ventures would increase the cost of violence for the PA and would cause many Palestinians to think twice before supporting a confrontation with Israel.

At the same time, Or warned Barak several times that without real progress in the talks with the Palestinians, an explosion could be expected. Barak did offer concessions at Camp David. But this weekend, the explosion took place anyway.

The IDF believes the events are a clever ploy devised by Arafat, exploiting the opportunity presented to him by the visit of Likud Chairman Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount to focus the struggle of the Palestinians on the issue of Jerusalem.

Security sources, noting the presence of one of the heads of the PA security services, Tawfiq Dirawi, on the Temple Mount on Friday, believe that Arafat lit the fire, even if he is now having trouble controling the intensity of the flames.

The Palestinians reject this theory. They say that Arafat has no control over what is happening, that he is simply being dragged along by the events in the street and that the confrontation was brought on by a sense of profound frustration and injustice over issues such as land, water, Israel’s use of military force and, more than anything else, Jerusalem.

Israeli security officials are having trouble deciphering the behavior of the Palestinian street. Army officers, and intelligence experts in particular, tend to see the events in an organized fashion: Someone is issuing the orders and others are executing them.

Analysis of the Palestinian mood has been lacking, especially since most Palestinians no longer live in territory controlled by Israel. On the other hand, there is evidence to support Israel’s assessment: the conversation Arafat had with the heads of the Tanzim on Friday, in which he urged them to escalate their demonstrations, the organized transport to demonstration sites and the conspicuous involvement of Tanzim leaders and PA security forces in some of the confrontations.

The heads of the PA security services, said Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday, are caught between a rock and a hard place. The IDF charges that Arafat is sending unclear instructions to Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub. And if the PA is truly going to war, Ya’alon said, Dahlan and Rajoub have no interest in trying to calm the situation and thereby appearing as collaborators with Israel.

On Saturday afternoon, Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz believed that he had succeeded in extinguishing the fire. At a press conference in Beit El, the military headquarters in the West Bank, Mofaz said he had spoken with Dahlan and Rajoub and the three had agreed to make an effort to stop the fighting at 4 P.M. A minute after Mofaz left the room, professional army officers expressed grave doubts about the validity of the ceasefire agreement.

“Ten more funerals are still to come,” said one. “There is no chance that things will calm down.”

In the end, the latter viewpoint turned out to be true. Dahlan was infuriated by Mofaz’s statement, which, in his opinion, painted Dahlan as a “collaborator.” He quickly issued a public statement declaring the chief of staff a war criminal, in light of the firing of missiles at the Netzarim Junction in Gaza, and said he would refuse to meet with Mofaz.

Early Sunday morning, Avi Dichter, head of the Shin Bet security services, and Major General Yitzhak Eitan, GOC Central Command, met with Dahlan and Rajoub in Ramallah. Arafat declined to attend. The Israelis were given the impression that the Palestinians understood that the time had come to stop the shooting. But their promises again came to naught. The Israelis feel that Palestinian compliance with their requests is still minimal.

Last weekend forced a rude awakening from many illusions. The harsh statements made by the commander of the northern police district, Alik Ron, about Israeli Arabs suddenly took on a different character against the background of the blockades of the Golani Junction and Wadi Ara, roads that are intended to serve the IDF in the event of a war.

The open scorn displayed by ministers for the dangers of arming the Palestinians also appears in a different light now: If this much damage can be done with a few hundred firearms, how much damage could 40,000 rifles in the hands of the PA cause? It is also difficult to see how the trust between the security services of the two sides can be rebuilt or when Border Policemen will again agree to participate in joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols.

A new picture has emerged both in the territories and inside the pre-1967 borders and it will be some time before we are able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Arafat in Amman: No Need to Stop the Fighting

JERUSALEM [MENL–10/3/00] — Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat arrived in Amman in a better mood than usual.

Arafat kissed both cheeks of Jordan’s King Abdullah and then pulled the monarch toward him and kissed his forehead. Later, the two men sat down and Arafat reviewed a list of demands he wanted Abdullah to relay to Israel and the United States.

In less than a week, Arafat has risen from being under the thumb of Israel and the United States to an Arab hero — leading the fight for Palestinian rights in a battle that rages in Israel, the Palestinian territories and even in Jordan. As Arafat met the young Jordanian king on Monday, tens of thousands of Palestinians, chanting “Death to the Jews,” demonstrated in refugee camps in and around Amman. Demonstrations were also reported in Damascus and Sanaa.

Palestinian sources said Arafat is pleased with the current fighting. The violence, called the worst in Israel since the 1948 war of independence, has been so intense in the Jewish state that the north has been cut off from the rest of the country and both domestic and international flights have been disrupted.

Arafat, the sources said, feels he has regained the ground he lost to Israel during the peace offensive by Prime Minister Ehud Barak since July’s Camp David summit. They point to Western attention on the killing of Palestinian youngsters by Israeli troops rather than the attacks by Palestinian gunmen on Israeli positions.

The Israeli sources discount Palestinian arguments that last week’s visit by Likud chairman Ariel Sharon to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount sparked the violence. They said PA and Fatah forces were stockpiling ammunition and weapons 10 days before the violence erupted on Friday.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said he received a pledge by PA security chief Col. Jibril Rajoub that violence would not erupt unless Sharon actually entered the mosques on the Temple Mount. Sharon did not enter any mosque.

Regardless, the question is what does Arafat do for a closing act? It’s an argument that is raging within Israeli government circles and pits aides of Barak against heads of the security services.

Some Barak aides insist that Arafat wants to end the fighting and return to the negotiating table in a stronger position. The problem is he simply can’t control the violence. They said Arafat pledges nightly to U.S. officials that he will end the fighting. But every morning, the clashes resume.

The latest pledge was made on Tuesday when Israeli and PA officials said Arafat agreed to an immediate ceasefire in the territories. Israeli security sources don’t expect this pledge to be implemented.

“What Chairman Arafat has managed to do is badly hurt the peace process and the willingness of Israelis to make concessions for peace,” Interior Minister Haim Ramon said.

Israeli security sources disagree. They said Arafat wants Israeli blood to relay a warning of what will take place if the Palestinians don’t get what they want in any settlement. He has been encouraged by the growing power of his Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia, bolstered by soaring oil prices.

Arafat, the sources said, wants to provoke Barak into a massive retaliatory response that will remind the West of Kosovo in 1999. This way, the sources said, the West will intervene quickly and massively.

PA officials do not deny this. They said they and their Arab and Islamic allies will demand international intervention when the United Nations Security Council convenes later on Tuesday in New York.

“What is happening is not merely clashes,” said PLO Executive Committee secretary Mahmoud Abbas, regarded as Arafat’s leading aide. “But it is an Israeli military attack on the entire Palestinian people.”

With that, Arafat hopes that the West will provide the Palestinians with a blanket approval for independence from Israel. Already, Arafat aides have demanded significant revisions of agreements signed between Israel and the PA, including the deployment of United Nations forces on the Temple Mount, an end to Israeli security checks at Gaza border posts and the removal of Israeli heavy military equipment.

Arafat’s goal, the sources said, is Western recognition of a state without paying a political price. His target date, the sources said, is Nov. 15, the anniversary of the 1988 declaration of statehood.

“This government, this state, this police have no right to rule the areas,” PLO Executive Committee Faisal Husseini said. “The only result is that Israel must withdraw from this area. They don’t have the right to continue after what they did here.”

Israeli officials have been disturbed by the Clinton administration. They said the United States has been remarkably quiet over the PA offensive against Israeli forces and that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has refused to call on Arafat to stop the violence.

Ms. Albright has scheduled a meeting with both Arafat and Barak in Paris on Wednesday. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak issued an invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders for a Thursday summit in the Sinai resort of Sharm E-Sheik.

For his part, President Bill Clinton has not publicly pressured Arafat. Instead, he expressed dismay over the killing of Palestinians, particularly a 12-year-old and his father caught in cross-fire in Gaza.

“I was literally watching it as if it were someone I knew,” Clinton said. “And it was a heartbreaking thing to see a child like that caught in the crossfire.”

Israeli security sources said Arafat still wants an agreement. But he wants this to be limited to what they term “a ceasefire plus,” in other words, an interim agreement that guarantees a Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem but doesn’t terminate Palestinian demands.

But both Israeli and PA officials agree that the violence will not subside immediately. They said Arafat has succeeded in inflaming the Middle East in a way that was never achieved by his Islamic opposition.

The officials said Israel will first have to convince its Arab citizens to end their violent protests. Then, Arafat will have to wait for demonstrations around the Middle East to die down.

PA officials stressed that they have no plans to discourage the Arab anger against Israel. “These activities will continue,” PA Information Minister Yasser Abbed Rabbo said.

The writer is the bureau chief of MENL, the Middle East News Line

Palestinian Schoolbooks Under Fire

BEITUNIYA, West Bank (AP) _ Ask Karam Jamil about Jerusalem, just a few miles away from his school, and the first-grader’s hand flies up: “It’s the capital of Palestine, and it’s where we pray.”

Ask him about Israel and Karam _ indeed, the whole first grade _ stares blankly.

That’s not surprising _ their brand new civics textbook does not mention Israel at all, and the Jewish state is notably absent from the map on the classroom wall.

That’s hardly the “education for peace” outlined in peace agreements, say Israeli critics who have demanded sanctions against the Palestinians _ and who have now been joined by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, fighting a close Senate race in New York.

Addressing Jewish groups on Tuesday, Clinton called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is also the education minister, to remove what are alleged to be anti-Semitic passages in Palestinian textbooks.

“All future (U.S.) aid to the Palestinian Authority must be contingent on a strict compliance and an immediate good-faith effort to change textbooks in all grades,” Clinton said.

The textbooks have also become an issue for Prime Minister Ehud Barak as he seeks to complete a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians. The leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, whose backing for a deal could be crucial, says the textbooks must first change.

“The textbooks of the Palestinian Authority tell how to kill and destroy the Jewish people,” Shas leader Eli Yishai told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t see how we can support an agreement if this continues.”

Palestinian officials deny that their textbooks contain anti-Jewish references, and believe that Clinton _ otherwise considered a friend of the Palestinians _ has been co-opted by hard-line Israelis to win New York Jewish votes.

Clinton “has to be very careful about where she gets her reports from,” Deputy Education Minister Nabil Abu Hommos told The Associated Press. “If she wants more information about the curriculum we can get it for her.”

Clinton may have been referring to “Our Country, Palestine,” by Arab historian Mustapha Mghad al-Dbaa, which advocates Israel’s destruction and denies any Jewish connection to the region.

Material distributed here and in the United States recently by hard-line Israeli groups charges that the book is used as a standard text. In fact, although widely read among Palestinians, it is not part of curriculum.

Still, the new Palestinian textbooks _ colorful, glossy notebooks used for the first time this year_ stirred much controversy when Israelis discovered their country was not mentioned at all.

Until now, Palestinian schools have relied on old Egyptian and Jordanian texts, which include anti-Semitic stereotypes _ although the Palestinians insist that teachers did not refer to the stereotypes in class.

Israelis, who have appreciably altered their textbooks to include sympathetic portrayals of Palestinians, had hoped that the new textbooks would adhere to the commitment to “educate for peace” outlined in the breakthrough Oslo accords of 1993.

In its chapter on tolerance, the civics textbook used in Jamal Husam’s sixth grade civics class in Beituniya shows a Muslim imam and a Catholic priest shaking hands, and includes passages from the New Testament and the Quran. Jews aren’t mentioned.

When references to Israel arise during classroom discussion, they are oblique and ambiguous.

Husam tells his pupils that “other religions” besides Islam and Christianity merit tolerance. Eleven-year-old Mohammed Jamil, reviewing last week’s lesson for the class, says the Arab nations would come together to defend Palestine and its borders _ but he does not say against whom.

Husam denies that the text or his lessons are anti-Semitic, saying: “The Jews aren’t even mentioned.”

That is precisely the attitude that infuriates even moderate Israelis. In a statement, Justice Minister Yossi Beilin _ an architect of the Oslo accords _ described the omissions as “inappropriate.”

Palestinians say it’s natural for their first self-published textbooks to focus on instilling a sense of nationhood in a people long dispossessed.

Abu Hommos defended the emphasis on Muslim-Christian relations, saying those were the two religions of the Palestinian people.

“Each curriculum in every country talks about its own people,” he said.

The writer is a staffer for the Associated Press

When the ADL Went Soft on Arafat’s Textbooks

In September, 2000, Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti Defamation League(ADL), led a delegation of donors to dedicate a new ADL office in Jerusalem, and then meet with parties to the sensitive negotiations that continue between the Israeli gov’t and the Palestinian Authority.

Foxman brought the delegation to meet Yassir Arafat, inviting a select group of journalists and photographers to witness the session.

Since ADL had been assured by Arafat in April 1999 that Arafat would initiate a new curriculum, I wondered how ADL would confront Arafat with the fact that the new school books that have just been published for the first time by the PA and introduced to the first and sixth grade still continue to prepare Palestinian pupils for war with Israel.

Our news agency had indeed purchased a set of these texts from the PA curriculum center in El Birah, and we’ve begun to peruse them.

In the Palestinian sixth grade civics text, you see the picture of the Hamas icon, Izzadin Al Khassam, eulogized as the ultimate Palestinian folk hero. Jaffa and Acre are described as occupied lands that must be recovered. Jews are mentioned as a target for scorn in Islam. According to the new Palestinian texts, not only does Israel not exist – no Jews even live there, while all natural resources belong to the Arab nation.

Yet when Foxman led the delegation to meet Arafat, Yediot Aharonot reported that they held a lively discussion of the peace process. ADL delegation members told me that the discussion with Arafat did not mention Palestinian education. At the conclusion of the session, Abe Foxman handed Arafat a letter about the school books. Although Foxman and the ADL staff had never seen, perused nor studied the new PA school books, Foxman wrote Arafat that “we are encouraged by reports that the new textbooks do not have incendiary anti-Israel or anti-Jewish passages. However, we are disappointed that the textbooks appear to do nothing to educate Palestinian children on the peace process, the existence of the state of Israel, or promote tolerance between Palestinians and Israelis…Indeed, the maps of the region do not designate the state of Israel”

ADL had apparently relied on misleading “reports” which had stated that the new schoolbooks were be devoid of anti-Israel and anti Jewish passages.

ADL’s lack of desire to examine or peruse the schoolbooks of the PA is not new.

Each year, the annual survey of worldwide anti-semitism that is funded by the ADL has been devoid of any study of the schoolbooks of the Palestinian Authority, even though the schoolbooks have always been made available to the ADL for review.

Yet even without school books at hand, Foxman could have raised other aspects of Palestinian education with Arafat, such as the “educational summer camps” of the Palestinian Authority that were held this summer for 25,000 youngsters, which the New York Times on August 3rd reported as nothing less than a training ground for young Palestinian terrorists.

Foxman could have used the Arafat meeting to question the daily call for liberation of all of Palestine and all of Jerusalem that is communicated on the official media of the Palestine Broadcasting Corportation, a media outlet that is under the direct control of Arafat.

Instead, Foxman used the meeting with Arafat to inform the Israeli public that American Jewish leaders had found Arafat to be a “healthy, stark, alert and ready” for negotiations with Israel, as Foxman portrayed Arafat to Yediot on Sept. 21st.

Before departing from Israel on September 25th, Foxman was invited to speak from the rostrum of the Knesset forum on Antisemitism, where he declared that “no true peace can come until Arabs in their education are innoculated against anti-semitism.

In that light, I asked Foxman why ADL staff would conduct a study of the new books of the Palestinian Authority, and why the ADL had never included them in its studies on anti-semitism. He responded by saying that that he stood by his letter to Arafat, saying that Arafat’s new books were a step in the right direction. I then asked him how he could say that if he had never seen the books, which I took out from my briefcase to show him. Foxman shrugged his shoulders.

Abe Foxman went on to say that the older schoolbooks in the Palestinian Authority were published by Egypt and Jordan, noting that Israel had never objected to the Jordanian and egyptian schoolbooks. Foxman apparently forgot that Israel had censored the anti-Israel passages in these books until the PA took over in 1994 and reinstated them.

Foxman also neglected to mention that these books remain in the curriculum of the Palestinian Authority school system, with their persistent calls for Jihad and their constant description of Israel as a Nazi entity.

Meanwhile, the ADL website section on PA anti-semitism has not been updated in two years. Why?

The writer is the bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency

Asking President Clinton to recall US ambassador Martin Indyk

I wish to take the unusual step of asking the President of the United States, The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, to recall the current US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Martin Indyk.

That is because Mr. Indyk has taken the unusual step of interfering with the internal affairs of the state of Israel, while making statements that have been highly inappropriate.

In Mr. Indyk’s recent prepared remarks that were delivered at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem on September 16, 2000, the US ambassador made the tendentious statement that “There is no solution but to share the holy city…and cannot be the exclusive preserve of one religion”.

Commenting on Indyk’s remarks, the Guardian correspondent described them as “sharp departure from Washington orthodoxy in recent years”.

And where did Indyk get praise for such remarks?

For one, from a leading Washington-based Arab lobbyist, as quoted in by the Guardian, who declared that “we are pleased to hear in public what we have been hearing privately for many years from the US administration”.

Indyk also stepped over a clear red line when he meddled in the sensitive internal religious affairs in Israel, by expressing support for the “secularist revolution” that Israeli Prime Minister has recently been floating in the Knesset, an idea which is now in the heart of Israel’s INTERNAL public debate.

The US amabssador’s intervention in such an internal matter led a leading liberal commentator for HaAretz, Akiva Eldar, to express his surprise that Indyk had interfered with what is clearly an internal Israeli matter, asking that one can “imagine what American citizens would say if the Israeli ambassador to Washington were to come to a local religious institution and say such things”.

Just imagine the American outcry that would portend if Israeli officials were to express their feelings concerning American church-state controversies.

I believe that I speak for a consensus of public opinion in Israel when I take issue with such interference in the democratic process of the state of Israel.

Ambassador Indyk’s remarks about Jerusalem remain an affront to Israel, particularly since he made them in the heart of the city that he aspires to divide.

It is likewise inexplicable that a foreign ambassador to Israel would choose to interject his private religious preferences into the debate over secular-religious tensions in Israel.

This is not the first time that US Ambassador Indyk has interfered in the internal affairs of our country: Last January, immediately following Indyk’s return to Tel Aviv, the US embassy began to lobby Israeli Arab leaders regarding a possible referendum on the Golan Heights.

Mr. Indyk has neglected a vital role that he could have played to forward the peace process, since the US plays a formal, key role as the designated chair of the US-ISRAELI-PLO incitement monitoring committee that was set up by the US following the Wye Accords.

Mr. Indyk’s predecessor, Mr. Ned Walker, made every effort to energize this committee. For whatever reason, the current US ambassador has for whatever reason seen to it that this vital organ of the peace process has stopped functioning.

As a result, the daily incitement to war in the official Palestinian media has gone unchecked, without any response whatsoever from the US ambassador.

The Palestinian Authority has issued new school books that relate to Israel as if it does not exist. “Palestine” covers all of Israel on the official Palestinian maps. The name of Israel is not even mentioned. Meanwhile, Israeli cities such as JAffa and Haifa are described as Palestinian cities.

This is Palestinian education that is designed to eternalize the confrontation, and to prepare the future generations of Palestinian children for conflicts in the future, not for peace or coexistence.

All this has gone unchecked, and, surprisingly, without any response from the US ambassador.

It was the task of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to monitor and respond to such incitement.

Yet the current US ambassador chose not to carry out this vital task ole.

As the former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and the current chairman of the nonpartisan Knesset state control committes (the equivalent of the governmental affairs committees in western parliaments and the US Congress) I have been a consistent advocate of stronger ties between the US and Israel.

The time has come to repair the damage that has been done to this special relationship between our peoples by seeing to it our diplomats respect the internal affairs of our respective nations.

The writer is the Chairman, of the Knesset government control committee and the former chairman of the Kneset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee

The “right of return”: the PLO negotiating position that stalls the process

The most significant decision of the Sept. 13th PLO central committee was barely reported: The absolute and uncompromising Palestinian position that every refugee who left Palestine in 1948 should have the “inalienable right” to return to the 531 Arab villages that they left at the time.

(That would mean, for example, that the campus of Tel Aviv University, built on the razed Arab village of Sheikh Muawannis, would revert to the descendents of that Arab village)

In coordination with that PLO decision, Palestinian support groups around the world have designated Sept. 16th, 2000 as a day to support the Palestinian demand for the “right of return”.

What a contrast that is to those days in September, 1993, exactly seven years ago, when a different decaration of principles for peace and recognotion was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel, and Yassir Arafat, the leader of the PLO, and witnessed by Jorgen Holst, the Foreign Minister of Norway, which established a self-ruling Palestinian Arab entity in the predominantly Arab populated areas of the west bank and Gaz, while leaving the more difficult issues such as the Arab refugees who have wallowed in United Nations refugee camps since 1948 to be resolved during seven years that were set aside for a dynamic and complex negotiating process.

Exactly seven years after the genesis of a middle east peace process of hope, the negotiations have ground to a halt over the issue of these Arab refugees.

Over the past two weeks, I had occasion to hear, and then see, the Palestinian Authority’s pursuit of the issue of the “right of return” as their primary issue of concern in this, the final stages of the Oslo process.

On September 8, 2000 I attended a meeting at PLO’s Orient House in Jerusalem, at which the strategy of the PA with regard to the right of return and the compensation claim were clarified. I met with Khalil Tafakji, the Director of the Arab Studies Society. Mr. Tafakji is director of a project to computerize the land records of Jerusalem and its environs, cross-referencing the property records with the ownership claims of the refugees. The project will be completed within three months. He apologized for meeting with me on a Friday, since this was his Sabbath. However, he explained, the computers have to function 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the project is completed, the PA will have records that will show the present owner or user of each parcel in Jerusalem and the Arab owner of each parcel prior to 1948. Tafakji notes that this is the first step in preparing a legal claim for return of the properties or claims for damages for the value of the properties.

Tafakji noted that similar projects are being planned for other parts of Israel with regard to properties to which Arab refugees will make claims. It should be noted that the Arab refugees in the UNRWA camps dwell according to the precise neighborhoods and villages that they lived in 1948, while UNRWA workers, whose salaries are paid for by the UNRWA donor countries, encourage UNRWA residents to make claims for their properties from before 1948. Meanwhile, UNRWA now organizes daily bus trips, for UNRWA camp residents to see the homes and neighborhoods that they will soon be claiming for themselves, in places such as Canada Park, the Tel Aviv University campus, and Ben Gurion International Airport.

The theory of the PA is similar to that of the Jewish claims against Germany, Austria and countries to which Jewish assets were sold or transferred by the Germans and their allies. It is also similar to the claims against Switzerland and other countries that benefited from the deaths of Jewish property owners whose assets were confiscated after their deaths at the hands of the Nazis.

The implications of the PA strategy are clear. It is entirely possible that a court, such as the World Court in The Hague, will give these claims a sympathetic hearing and order properties returned to their pre-1948 owners. In the alternative, the Court could order that the previous owners be paid fair value for their property together with interest from the time the properties were seized. Israel will have to show that the properties were voluntarily abandoned, which may be an impossible task. The result could be hundreds of billions of Dollars in damages, or, even worse, an order to evict the present owners and return the property to the claimants. Given the respect that Israeli jurisprudence gives to international law, the possibility exists that Israeli courts would give full faith and credit to an order of the World Court.

The Palestinian Authority’s determination to push the “right of return” issue was confirmed by Israel Member of Knesset, MK Dan Meridor, who serves as the security-sensitive chairman of Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. Meridor, who served as the cabinet secretary when Prime Minister Menachem Begin negotiated the Camp David agreement with Egypt in 1978, also played a key role in Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s delegation at the Camp David summit. Meridor participated in meetings on all core issues addressed at the summit, especially the subcommittee that dealt with the “Right of Return” and that of compensation demands for the returnees.

Meridor told me that that the consistent position of the PA throughout the summit, a position that has not changed as a result of the summit, remains that 3.6 million Palestinians have the absolute right to exercise their right to return to their homes and villages in Israel.

Meridor specifically mentioned that the PA asserts that these persons have the same rights as Holocaust survivors and the refugees who were displaced in Serbia and Kosovo¦ to be repatriated to their homes and to recover their property, even if we are relating to a period of fifty two years. The PA asserts that these refugees may, at their option, return to their homes, or receive compensation for the loss of their property and their suffering. As Meridor related it, the Israeli delegation at the Camp David had assumed that that the PA’s position was an opening negotiation gambit, even though the PA has emphasized this position throughout the seven years of the Oslo process.

After 40 hours of negotiations, Meridor reported that the Israelis are convinced that the Palestinian position is no mere negotiation strategy.

On the issue of compensation, the PA demanded that Israel provide it with property records so that the present owners and uses of the property of the refugees could be determined. In this manner the PA intends to arrive at a valuation of its compensation claim against Israel in respect of the displaced property owners.. Meridor felt that the PA could be preparing for the filing of legal claims against Israel and the present owners or users of the property to which the refugees claim ownership.

It is important to note however, that as Israel negotiates the final status issues with the Palestinians, Israel must take note of the intentions and plans of the PA in the matter of Arab refugees. As the media focuses on the fight against terror, someone may wish to pay attention to the people with lethal computers as well.


During the 1948 war of Independence, when the new state of Israel was invaded by seven Arab armies, between 350,000 and 650,000 Arabs left their homes in Palestine, depending on which United Nations report you read, while an undetermined number of Jews fled from their homes in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem suburbs of Neveh Yaakov, Atarot, and the Etzion Bloc.

The “Inalienable Right of Return” resolution #194 that was adopted by United Nations resolution #194 on December 11, 1948, during the height of that war of independence, legislated that all Jewish and Arab refugees from the 1948 war had possessed the absolute and “inalienable” right to return to the homes and villages that they left during the war. That resolution also determined that all of these refugees would be entitled to financial compensation.

To implement this resolution, the UN established UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, whose purpose was to confine Palestinian Arab refugees to “temporary” transit camps, under the premise and promise of the “right of return”. Israel also established temporary refugee camps to receive the Jewish refugees from 1948, along with more than two million Jews who streamed to Israel in the first decade of the state’s turbulent history. While no Jewish refugee camp still exists, the UN and the Arab nations have continued to confine what are now 3.6 million Palestinian Arab refugees in refugee camps, forbidding them to move out of the camps. Even the new Palestinian Authority, soon to be a Palestinian state, forbids the Palestinian Arab refugees from moving into permanent homes in the areas under PA control. Why? That would mean that this would violate their right to return to the 531 Arab villages that have been replaced by Israeli cities, collective farms and woodlands, all of which lie within Israel’s pre-1967 cease fire lines.

Has the Israeli human rights community abandoned human rights in favor of political expediency?

A commitment to human rights and civil liberties includes an inherent even if unwritten oath to uphold the principles of human dignity, regardless of any political or ethnic considerations.

For example, in 1992, in the course of work as a journalist, I found that fifteen Arabs who worked in Kiryat Arba and lived with their families in the village of Bani Naim, had been served with arbitrary home-demolition orders. Our news agency printed the story, and also joined with a human rights group based in Efrat and Kiryat Arba to help these families bring a petition to the Israel High Court of Justice. The petition was successful. For those of us who became involved in this case, the point was not the political allegiance of those families or our views thereof. The point was that an injustice was being done to them, and it had to be corrected.

The themes of human rights, civil liberties and human dignity have been on prominent display in Israel-Arab relations, and earn banner coverage in the media.

Advocacy groups for the Palestinian-Arabs made very effective use of these themes in diverting public attention from Arab-PLO terrorism and belligerency as moral issues, to Palestinian Arab-rights as a moral issue. They thereby won wide support from a well-meaning if not always keenly perceptive public.

News coverage of these rights peaked during the first two years of the intifada, The PLO encouraged youngsters to get onto the front lines of riots, knowing full well that they would be most exposed there and presented by the news media as child victims. This was a propaganda device that brought the PLO great dividends in public relations.

The Palestinian Human Rights Information Center, based in Jerusalem and in Washington, coordinated a campaign that succeeded in igniting the passions of human rights groups throughout the world and, eventually, throughout Israel.

By 1990, at least sixteen internationally respected human rights organizations were monitoring the human rights policies of the government of Israel. All of them had Israeli members and Israeli counterparts. During the Gulf War in 1991, when the PLO sided with Iraq and its supporters cheered the Iraqi scud-missile attacks on Israel, these human rights groups clung to their support of the PLO cause.

In the United Nations-sponsored (UNRWA) camps for displaced Arabs, the relief workers gave moral and logistical support to the PLO campaign, while helping to propagate false rumors that the camps faced starvation at the time of the Gulf War.

In this period, espousal of the PLO cause might have wanted with its support and encouragement of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and its scud attacks.

Yet the human rights coalition, in Israel and abroad, remained fixed in its pro-PLO stance.

These organizations contributed mightily to shaping a public opinion that pushed Israel into recognizing and dealing with the PLO in the Oslo Accords of 1993.

In the spring of 1994, a self-governing Arab-Palestine entity was set up under the rule of Arafat. There was by then a long record of Arafat’s autocratic methods and executions of opponents. Nevertheless, human rights groups hoped that the establishment of a Palestine National Authority with an intricate governmental structure, parliament and legislative council would provide a new era of human rights, civil liberties and human dignity for the Arab-Palestinians.

In August 1994, Arafat closed the Palestinian Human Rights Information Center and put its staff in prison. That was just the beginning of his ongoing campaign to ignore the complaints of human rights organizations, and indeed to crush the organizations entirely.

The writer brought this to the attention of the Israeli group Rabbis for Human rights, which then forwarded a letter of protest to Arafat. There was no reply. That did not inhibit the Rabbis for Human rights from making cordial visits to Arafat in Gaza and putting his grinning face on their brochures.

Arafat’s suppression of human rights and civil liberties seems in keeping with Israeli government views at the time of Osclo Accords, On September 2, 1993, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin: This will be a process that will give the Palestinians an entity without Bagatz [right of appeal to the High Court of Justice] and without Bitzlem (a human rights organization that worked on behalf of Arab-Palestinian human rights).

Thus, a process that had been driven by human rights organizations on behalf of the Arab-Palestinians culminated in depriving those people even of the rights that had been accorded to under Israeli administration. Those organizations that had for years stood so loudly for Arab-Palestinian rights succeeded in placing them under a rule with no human rights or civil liberties.

The government of Israel government pays 62 percent of the budget of the Palestine Authority. Yet the Israeli human rights establishment refuses, as a matter of policy, to make aid to the Palestinian Authority contingent in any improvement in PA human rights policies.

Bassam Eid, an Arab who had been active in Bitzelem, found that his organization and the Israeli Left were less interested in human rights and more interested in the success Of the Oslo process.

Shortly after he left Bitzelem, on December 5, 1995, Eid stated: “I would sooner trust Rehavam Ze’evi [leader of the nationalist Moledet party] over Yossi Sarid [leader of the left-wing Meretz party] any day.”

Israel Resource News Agency has therefore put some questions to the Association for Civil Rights In Israel (ACRI), an umbrella organization supported by the New Israel Fund in the United States: 1. Would ACRI support aid to an entity that denies human rights and civil liberties as a matter of policy? 2. Can ACRI be silent while a government of Israel proposes to strip human rights and civil liberties from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and hand them over to the rule of Arafat and his security chief Jibril Rajoub? 3. How does ACRI respond to the June 2000 series in the newspaper HaAretz, that documented how Israeli police look on and watch while Rajoub’s “police” abduct, interrogate, torture and even murder Israeli Arab citizens of Jerusalem.

The reply from ACRI came from its chairwoman Edna Margolit and its director Vered Livne: ACRI does not and will not interfere with political issues.

ACRI legal counsel Dan Yakir did say that ACRI did not approve of Israeli police subcontracting law enforcement to Rajoub to enforce the law. However, he would not put this in writing or recommend that ACRI issue any policy statement on the subject. He also said that he was not familiar with the reports in HaAretz. (Yet, ACRI retains media professionals who comb the press to monitor human rights abuses.)

Israel Resource News Agency placed the same questions to Rabbis for Human Rights. There has not been any response.

Amnesty International, that had long been very active on human rights for Arab-Palestinians when they were under Israeli administration, has recently issued a scathing report on the human rights abuses of the Palestine Authority. Neither ACRI nor the Rabbis for Human Rights has addressed itself to this report.

It would seem that the Israeli human rights establishment, including its rabbinc component, has adopted Rabin’s view that an independent Palestinian entity must be set up and supported at any cost to its subjects in human rights and civil liberties.

Despite this indifference by their former Israeli champions, Arab-Palestinians have been developing an underground network on behalf of human rights and civil liberties, freedom of speech and press, due process of law, police reform and more. When Bassam Eid was interviewed in the television film Vanishing Peace (BBC/CBC, May 1999), he pointed out that the salaries of Arafat’s PA security men are paid directly by the United States, Canada and the European Union, who do not make any respect for human rights a condition for their subsidies.

It would seem that Israel’s human rights establishment, along with much of the international community, is willing to subject Palestinian Arabs to a regime that denies them any semblance of justice or liberty. If this facilitates their political goal of a PLO state, then so be it.

In what way the achievement of the political goal forwards their avowed cause of human rights has yet to be explained.

The first interview with Senator Lieberman in the Jewish media since his vice presidential nomination

In his first major interview with a Jewish newspaper since being nominated, Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman shared his opinions with the Jewish Advocate on the status of Jerusalem, American Jewry and Torah.

Lieberman was in Boston last week for two Democratic fundraising events.

The first event, a $10,000 per plate luncheon for 50 Jewish guests garnered nearly $500,000. The evening event, which featured a three-song musical appearance by James Taylor, was highlighted by an address from Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. The two events raised nearly $2.5 million for the Gore-Lieberman campaign.

Despite a hectic schedule that took him from Washington to New York to Boston in less than three hours, the Connecticut senator seemed invigorated by the news of the Democratic ticket’s ascent in the polls. Wearing a light pinstripe suit, a red tie and his graying blonde hair combed immaculately, Lieberman’s deep blue eyes expressed a joy he has repeatedly articulated since becoming the first Jew to be nominated for vice president by a national political party.

When asked if he had a message to convey to American Jewry, Lieberman talked about the opportunities America has granted not only to Jews but to members of all faiths. “America is not just a change of address, it’s a change. It’s a unique country in world history, because it’s premised on equal opportunity and tolerance. And I happen to have the good fortune of being a great beneficiary of that. So, I think what it says to everybody in this country is that you should feel free to be yourself in America, and know that in doing so, you enrich the country,” the vice presidential candidate said.

He encouraged Jews to give back to America by embracing public service and volunteer work and “to do good deeds; acts of charity.” American Jews, said Lieberman, should also feel “real gratitude to this country for the extraordinary freedom it provides to all citizens.”

Referring to Judaism as the “the foundation of my life,” the 58-year-old Orthodox Jew, spoke about the importance of action in his faith. “I’ve always felt that Judaism is a religion of action, not just study. It begins with faith, and then it goes to study, but then the test is: are you doing something to make the world better, Tikkun Olam,” the senator explained.

When asked if he could point to any specific passages or stories in the Torah that he draws strength or inspiration from, Lieberman pointed to the document as one complete work. “The Torah is so full of inspiration,” he declared. “It’s such a human and at the same time, so inspiring a document, that I’ve drawn strength and lessons from the whole of the experience. I don’t think of anything specifically.”

He also stressed that while the Torah is a major influence in his life it is not the only influence. “You know, people ask me sometimes the affect of my faith on public service, and I always say that my faith has informed my service just as so many of the other experiences in my life have – the lessons my parents taught me, the lessons I learned from studying history and reading biographies, and then the lessons you learn from your experience. But there’s no question that my religion is one of those sources,” he emphasized.

On the subject of dividing Jerusalem, Lieberman seemed to embrace the same politics Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He favors a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, but did not directly object to the notion of Palestinians having a piece of Jerusalem. Said Lieberman, “It’s a matter of American policies adopted in a piece of legislation that I co-sponsored along with a broad group of senators from both parties, that we should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that our embassy should be there. You know, I think in the specifics of this moment, which is a sensitive moment in which President Clinton is clearly trying to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East and one of the central questions is Jerusalem, I should leave it to the leadership of Israel and the Palestinians to continue to negotiate without my opining on it – because ultimately they’re the ones who have to live with it.

The writer is the editor of the “Jewish Advocate”, the Jewish newspaper that serves the Jewish communities of Boston and of Western Massachusetts

Israel Not On Map in Palestinian Textbooks

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 2 “ After years of sharp debate and bitter recrimination, one of the most delicate and politically loaded documents in the Arab-Israeli dispute was unveiled today amid great ceremony“ and immediately delivered into the eager little hands of first- and sixth-graders.

The pupils were Palestinians returning to school in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the documents in question were glossy new school textbooks on civics and other subjects, the first written exclusively by and for Palestinians. They replace aging Jordanian and Egyptian volumes that the Palestinians have used for years.

The distribution of the slim, soft-covered books was a major event because in the Middle East, textbooks are not simply neutral educational tools but are read closely as indexes measuring each side’s acceptance or rejection of peace. They are seen as a crucial instrument, along with TV, in forming Arab and Jewish images of one another.

Israeli critics have long said Palestinian textbooks are part of a general Arab effort to deny Israel legitimacy. Some had hoped the new books would speak explicitly about Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and peace partnership.

The Palestinians said they were determined to produce texts that were educational, not political. Their approach was to minimize references to Israel and Jews rather than to malign them ×’€“ and that alone may represent an improvement of sorts.

However, inside the covers remain points of potential friction:

Maps in a sixth-grade civics textbook depict a long, dagger-like green shape separating the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but do not say that the shape is known to most of the world as Israel. Nor does the map include Tel Aviv, although it does pinpoint other Israeli cities with large past or current Arab populations.

A chapter on tolerance speaks generally of the importance of that rare Middle Eastern commodity, urging that it apply not only among religions but also sports teams and political parties. But there is no specific mention of tolerance for Israelis and no suggestion of Arab-Jewish reconciliation in the accompanying illustration ×’€“ a Muslim sheik greeting not a rabbi but a Christian priest.

When it is discussed, Israel is characterized as an “occupier” and treated more like an old enemy than a new peace partner. “The Palestinian people were expelled from their land as a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine,”the civics text says, “and have been subjected to massacres and banishment from their land to neighboring countries.”

Still, from the perspective of peace supporters, the Palestinian textbooks are an improvement over the old Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks, nearly all of which were written before the Oslo declaration inaugurated Middle East peacemaking in 1993. Some contain virulent attacks on the “treacherous and disloyal” Jews and predict military victory for the Arabs over Israel.

That made them handy ammunition for some Israelis, who said that using the old texts in Palestinian-run schools proved that Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority was a racist and warmongering regime whose peaceable intentions were dubious at best.

Stung, the Palestinians noted that old Israeli textbooks contain unflattering references to Arabs as backward, shifty and unclean. They dismissed their Israeli critics as right-wingers opposed to peacemaking, and insisted the Palestinians should be judged only by their own textbooks.

Now, say Palestinian officials, the new books ×’€“ the product of four years of work by hundreds of experts ×’€“ represent an enormous step forward and a way station toward building an independent Palestinian state.

“We are going to teach the truth,” Naim Abu Humus, the Palestinian deputy minister of education, said today.

Soft-spoken and U.S.-educated, Abu Humus told an audience including Arafat, diplomats and dozens of educators at the Education Ministry in the Palestinian-ruled city of Ramallah that the new texts fulfill “one of the dreams of the Palestinian people.”

Later, in an interview, he insisted the books reflect sound educational principles and nation-building goals, and do their best to steer clear of politics.

“It’s not necessary to relate everything to politics,” he said. “In [the Israeli] curriculum they don’t have the word Palestine. Our curriculum is not anti-anybody.”

Abu Humus said the books’ focus on Palestine, not Israel, is intentional. The chapter on tolerance was illustrated by a Muslim and a Christian because those are the two main religions of Palestinians, he said. As for the omission of Israel on the maps, that was the decision of political higher-ups, he said.

His brother, Omer Abu Humus, an education official who worked on the new textbooks, said the Palestinians were wise to sidestep the issue of Israel’s borders, which are the subject of current peace talks.

“If I ask you to show me the exact borders of Israel, you can’t show me,” he said. “Why indulge in political questions which remain to be negotiated?”

Still, it may be difficult to convince some Israelis, particularly right-wing skeptics of peace who stress that there can be none until Palestinian officials and schools get used to the idea that Israel is here to stay.

“Not mentioning Israel on the map and only referring to cities with an Arab past is consistent with the ongoing media campaign,” said Itamar Marcus, the Israeli research director for the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, a New York-based group that monitors Arab media.

“There’s no attempt to create legitimacy or recognition that Israel exists,” said Marcus, whose focus on Palestinian media has touched a nerve among Arabs. “They’ll have to go through a major education campaign to reeducate people to see us as human beings…. The fact that there’s not any vicious antisemitism is a basic minimum.”

Marcus characterized as “very, very upsetting” the fact that the textbooks omit Israel and Jews from the chapter on tolerance.

His critique reflected a theme in Jewish-Arab discord: the Israeli insistence that the Palestinians must preach peace to their people as a means of reconciliation, and the Palestinian rebuttal that justice “ the return of Palestinian land“ is the only real route to peace.

“What will change the situation will be to give the Palestinians their rights,” said Naim Abu Humus, the deputy education minister. “Without that, no newspaper, no textbook, will change the situation.”

The textbooks released today mark the beginning of a broad curriculum reform for Palestinian schools, whose growth rate is among the fastest in the world.

Until now, West Bank students have read textbooks from Jordan, and Gazans have used books from Egypt.

Funded by Italy, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and Belgium, new textbooks for all grades through high school are to be phased in over the next four years. They will be used by 865,000 students in the more than 1,750 schools administered by the Palestinians and the United Nations in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Arab schools in East Jerusalem. However, the new books will not be distributed to U.N.-run schools for tens of thousands of Palestinians classified as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

The curriculum reform calls for a 10 percent increase in class time, and all Palestinian students will be required to study English for 10 years, starting in first grade. Until now, compulsory English had been taught for only four years, beginning in fifth grade. Compulsory classes in civics, technology and science will be added, and more courses are to be offered in German, French and environmental studies.

The writer is the bureau chief of the Washington Post in Israel

‘A’ Is for Arafat, ‘B’ Is for Bethlehem. Skip Zion.

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 7 Inside a modern, secular private school here, the first-grade boys and girls stuffed their Pokemon and Barbie backpacks into their cubbies and gathered on the blue rug for story time.

Their 24-year-old teacher, Nesrin Alayan, kneeled, clasped her hands and began, in a singsong voice, to tell “the tale of a joyful home called Palestine.”

The tale begins, she told the children, with a large, happy family eating and laughing inside their house. One day, she said, “some people” come to the door with rifles and pistols, open fire on the house and seize it.

“We the Palestinian family are forced out into the cold,” she said. “And then we spend many, many years trying to get back into our house. In order to do so, we start throwing stones. And then people are killed. Do you boys and girls know the word intifada? That’s when the world starts paying attention to our tale.”

With her story, which concludes on the “path of peace,” Mrs. Alayan was improvising a setup for the opening lesson in a new first-grade reader, the very first official reader written by and for Palestinians.

The lesson deals with the symbols of the new Palestinian identity – the flag, the passport and it is part of a fledgling home-grown curriculum that was introduced this week in first- and sixth-grade classrooms throughout the Palestinian-ruled territories.

For decades Palestinians in the West Bank have used Jordanian textbooks and those in Gaza have relied on Egyptian ones, making for a disjointed and ultimately borrowed educational program. As part of the process of building institutions for an emerging Palestinian state, the Palestinian Authority, with money from European countries, is trying to create from scratch a genuine Palestinian curriculum, starting with two grades as a pilot effort.

But since the Palestinian nation has not yet emerged, the curriculum is a delicate work in progress, fodder for criticism from within and without.

With peace negotiations unresolved, it is hard to know how Mrs. Alayan’s tale will end. Her principal, Maha Shihadi, said it was almost impossible to teach geography. The regional map, as far as every Palestinian is concerned, cannot be drawn before borders are determined as part of the peace talks.

How, Mrs. Shihadi asked, can the children illustrate Palestine? She wondered if they should make cutouts, like snowflakes, to portray the unconnected parcels of land that now constitute the Palestinian-ruled territories. The textbook writers opted for what they call “the historic map of Palestine,” the map of 1948.

In other words, Israel is not pictured. Tel Aviv does not exist.

This greatly upsets those Israelis, mostly rightists, who monitor Palestinian media and literature, documenting hostility toward Israel and Jews. They say it betrays the whole spirit of the peace effort for the Palestinians to generate a new educational curriculum that, for starters, ignores Israel on maps.

Salah Yassin, the director general of curriculum development for the Palestinian Authority, defends this omission as calculated and unavoidable.

“Complain to the Education Minister!” he joked. Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, holds that portfolio.

Mr. Yassin said Israel, like Palestine, remained undefined. “That is what these peace talks are about, no?,” he said. “When the crisis is solved, we will clearly mark: `This is Palestine. This is Israel.’ But for now we educators are not going to get involved in politics. The texts are, by necessity, works in progress, and they will be modified.”

The Palestinian educators think it is significant that Palestinian students will crack open textbooks saturated with local images and references for the first time.

Math books ask students to calculate the distance between Bethlehem and Nablus in the West Bank, not Amman and Petra in Jordan. Arabic texts feature poems and essays by Palestinians and reading comprehension passages about the Palestinian olive oil and stone industries. Mr. Yassin also cited “Mary and Jesus” as examples of Palestinian personalities in the new books.

In the sixth-grade books, Palestinian history is presented not in linear narrative form but sketchily.

The creation of Israel is explained tersely as “the Israeli occupation of 1948,” which with the assistance of Britain “destroyed most of the Palestinian villages and cities and kicked the Palestinian inhabitants from their lands.”

In a section on the Palestine Liberation Organization, its “liberation army” is mentioned, as well as the return to the West Bank and Gaza of its “fighters” after the Oslo interim peace agreement was signed in 1993. Terrorism is not mentioned, and Oslo is not explained.

A chapter on “Palestinian problems” includes a grab bag of issues, including high unemployment, a brain drain, the Israeli settlement expansion policy and the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

Text blocks tend to be short, followed by suggested activities – like inviting a Palestine Liberation Organization official to class or fill- in-the-blank exercises:

Palestine in the 20th century was under (blank) occupation and blank) occupation.

The correct answers are British and Israeli, omitting what some Palestinians consider to have been periods of Ottoman and Jordanian occupation.

For much of Israel’s history its textbooks were far from neutral themselves, sticking closely to a heroic Zionist narrative and avoiding any Palestinian perspective. Starting last year, shortly after Israel’s 51st birthday, a revised curriculum began using the term Palestinian freely and referring to a Palestinian people and a nationalist movement.

In a bid to introduce greater historical detail to the story of Israel’s founding, new textbooks said that in 1948 some Palestinians were expelled from their villages and that some fled because they feared Israeli soldiers. But the new books are used only in the mainstream secular school system, which serves about 60 percent of schoolchildren. And since some secular Israeli educators consider them offensive, they are not used throughout the system.

Mr. Yassin emphasizes that the first- and sixth-grade books must be seen as part of what will eventually be a complete first- through 12th- grade curriculum.

They cannot be judged in isolation, he said. Over the next four years, the Palestinian government intends to phase in the remaining grades and introduce broader educational reforms: more creative teaching, less rote learning, compulsory English starting from the first grade, third- language electives including Hebrew, technology classes.

But with so many inside and outside the Palestinian world anxiously wondering what shape the new state will take, the books have been pounced on this week, and not just by Israeli rightists. Palestinians, too, have been scouring them for signs of how the government is managing the delicate question of forging a national identity from so many strands: the West Bank and Gaza, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular. And academics are scrutinizing them to evaluate the educational standards they set.

In an article in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, a local professor condemned the new first-grade reader for underestimating Palestinian children. Every Palestinian child knows and understands the camel, a part of the landscape here, “the cargo ship of the desert,” he said. Why, he asked, did the textbook writers feel compelled to concoct a story about a camel and a lion that describes the camel as “the king of the jungle?”

At the private school here, which is called Al Mustaqbal, or the Future School, a seasoned science teacher expressed disappointment with the new sixth-grade science book. After conducting a lively anatomy class on joints, the teacher, Dalal Kasabri, said she had greatly departed from the text because it was overly simplistic, unimaginative and in some cases inaccurate.

“Obviously there are different levels in the West Bank and Gaza, in public schools and private ones like this one,” she said. “But we should be setting high standards for our children and our people.”

The illustration for a civics book lesson on tolerance shows a sheik and a priest shaking hands.

To the disappointment of Israeli critics, who were hoping that the new Palestinian textbooks would preach tolerance for Jews, too, the books look inward only, where Palestinian educators say a lot of work must be done. As part of an interfaith effort, they also produced textbooks on Christianity, which will be used by Christian children during the period when their Muslim classmates study Islam.

Back in Mrs. Alayan’s class, the children were examining one little girl’s shiny new Palestinian passport. The young teacher, her face shining, asked the children how they could use their new documents, their new badges of Palestinian identity.

“Teacher, teacher!” one boy called out, leaping with his outstretched arm into the air. “To go to America!”

The writer is the bureau chief of the New York Times in Israel