What concepts and perceptions of Israel and the Jews has the Palestinian Authority taught Arab children in its territory since the adoption of the Oslo agreements? Can these perceptions and ideas serve as the basis for cultivating peaceful co-existence between Arabs and Jews? The response to these questions would appear to provide a window into the official political-cultural climate prevailing in the two entities. The adoption of the agreements between them was intended to serve as the basis for a peaceful settlement of their conflict.
A study of school textbooks cannot ascertain the nature of the attitudes and perceptions current among the general population, but it certainly can and does reflect the official policy that the government seeks to disseminate regarding its relationship with other social-political entities and their populations. In both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a central educational authority must sanction textbooks, and in both instances a Ministry of Education actually authorizes the content of the textbooks employed in the public schools. (There is no private education in the PA territories and relatively few private schools in Israel, the majority of which belong to ultra-Orthodox groups).
The questions posed here are particularly significant in light of the long history of Arab anti-Jewish and anti-Israel acts as well as statements published in a wide variety of media over the past several decades. Researchers whose scholarly credentials and reputations for objectivity are beyond doubt (Bodansky, 1999; Harkabi, 1972; Lewis, 1984, 1986; Porat, Stauber & Vago, 1997; Yadlin, 1988) have documented the fiercely antagonistic views about Jews, Israel, and Zionism, current in many Arab nations, in addition to overt acts of hostility. A meaningful peace between Jews in the territory of Israel and Arabs in the territory now governed by the Palestinian Authority obviously demands a distinct change in official Palestinian political, social and cultural policy towards Israel and the Jews from the attitudes that have prevailed thus far.
That is one of the necessary conciliatory steps that must be taken, in addition to the cessation of overt acts of hostility, if the people of Israel are to consider the intentions of the Palestinians as directed toward peace.
The demonization of Jews and Israel, cultivated by the Arab nations for decades, should have been terminated immediately after the Oslo agreements (Stav,1996).
In many parts of the world, once warring nations negotiated the cessation of hostilities, the diabolical images of the enemy disseminated by official and non-official groups in each nation were abandoned. Indeed, the need for this change in socio-political-cultural policy was explicitly reiterated in the Wye River agreement with the PLO of October 1998, where it was generally acknowledged that similar proclamations agreed upon in the Oslo accords still await implementation.
Research on Political Socialization in the United States
An extensive research literature on the political socialization of children was published in the United States over the past three decades. At first blush it would seem that such a large body of knowledge could provide insight and theoretical direction for understanding the phenomena relating to the political education of children in the Palestinian Authority. Yet, several major differences between the social-political conditions reflected in the research literature in the United States and those prevailing in the Israel-Arab relationship must be emphasized.
First and foremost, the US research literature on the political socialization of children was generated in a democratic society.
True, not all of the investigators were uniformly satisfied with the effects of children’s political socialization in the family setting, in schools, or in peer groups, in terms of providing American society with a firm foundation for the intergenerational continuity of democracy (see, for example, Dennis, 1973; Greenstein, 1965; Hess & Torney, 1976).
Nevertheless, it is a monumental fact that the United States does not offer investigators examples of totalitarian political indoctrination of young people into a dominant and centrally determined political ideology.
Some researchers observed that the United States in general, apart from some radical fringe groups, was a remarkably a-ideological country and US citizens were singularly unconcerned with political ideology of any kind (Merelman, 1969).
The youth of the US express generally positive attitudes toward the government as benevolent and protective of human rights. Political cynicism, or a critical perspective on political institutions and leadership, does not emerge in children’s thinking until they are of high school age or older.
Another important feature is that US books on political socialization reporting theory and research reflect a geographical horizon limited to mainland United States.
What transpired elsewhere in the world is largely ignored, hardly even mentioned in passing. This state of affairs is particularly remarkable because social science research about political socialization of children and youth emerged following the second World War, long after the examples of Italian (Fascist), German (Nazi), Soviet (Communist) and Japanese political education had become known.
Consequently, rather than providing a basis for comprehending or explaining most of the important manifestations of political socialization, the horizons of the US research literature remained parochial.
This fact alone limits the scope of generalization that legitimately can be made from this body of knowledge because, ipso facto, it limits the variety of political and educational phenomena encompassed by this research.
Interestingly, a relatively recent text on political socialization written in Israel (Ichilov, 1984) is divided into two separate sections, one that surveyed the research literature from the US and UK, and the other that addressed the problems of Israel’s political system and of political socialization in Israel.
Apparently the author was convinced that, even though Israel is also a democracy, its political history and system were so unlike that of the United States, that it is patently unjustifiable to employ the existing research to explain the process of political socialization in Israel.
This conclusion is applicable, a fortiori, to understanding and explaining the political socialization in non-democratic regimes such as monarchies and dictatorships.
But, not only Germany, Italy, the former Soviet Union, and Japan – all of whom participated in WWII – are beyond the scope of most of the US research on political socialization. Equally so are the Moslem nations of the Middle East (most of whom are monarchies or religio-military dictatorships) whose social institutions and processes have rarely been studied by social scientists, and whose culture and society are described primarily by Orientalists or political scientists specializing in the relevant nations.
Their work is based on available documents or on a few direct observations, but not on systematic data that could be taken to represent the major trends of the society.
These nations simply have not cultivated the social sciences, nor do they sanction the use of Western systematic research.
Hence, there is as yet no reliable body of knowledge on which to base an analysis of the social processes in these countries, including the manifold phenomena of education. As a result, research on political socialization in the US has not been exposed to, or come to grips with, the two fundamental features of the political regime in the territory of the Palestinian Authority in particular, or found in most of the Arab nations of the Middle East in general, namely: a dictatorship or absolute monarchy coupled with the prevailing religious civilization of Islam.
The Sources Used for this Chapter
Several experts in the Arabic language examined 140 textbooks intended for all grades of public education (1 to 12) published by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education during the period of 1995 to 1998. Prior to that, during the period of 1993 to 1995, the PA followed the curricula of Egypt and Jordan.
The topics taught in these books are: Civics, Grammar, Literature, History, Geography and Islamic Studies.
The examiners made selections from peace-sensitive themes, and all selections are representative of a larger body of material with identical or similar messages.
None of the statements cited here appear only once in a given text.
All of them are repeated often in the same book and in most of the other textbooks as well. The quotations from the Palestinian schoolbooks cited here are only a few out of hundreds of statements collected. However, the material is so repetitive that even the relatively small selection of statements presented in this article suffices to convey both the tenor and substance of the entire collection.
Another source of information about Palestinian education employed in this article are the educational programs broadcast by the PA’s television station. The PA’s television is a division of the Authority’s Ministry of Education. Viewing of the programs broadcast during the period of March to August 1998 revealed that many of the messages appearing in the schoolbooks were repeated on the PA’s television.
No material was included in this article derived from classic Islamic sources even when they portray the Jews negatively. All quotations and references to textbooks refer to, or are taken from, contemporary publications of the Palestinian Authority.
Three Main Themes about Israel and Jews in the Schoolbooks of the PA
Three topics appear as central leitmotifs throughout the books that were examined. These themes emerge clearly from even a cursory reading of the texts. They are:
- A hostile portrayal of Jews, Judaism, Israel and Zionism;
- The call for jihad and martyrdom against Israel and its people in order to reconquer all of Palestine for Islam;
- A radical revision of history denying the relationship between Jewry and the land of Israel, affirming the Arabs’ ownership of the territory of Israel since pre-Biblical times.
1. Hostility Towards the Jews
Hostility toward Israel, the Jews, Judaism and Zionism permeates the PA’s schoolbooks. The schoolchildren in the Palestinian Authority are actively taught that the Jews and Israel are the enemy. They are the enemy of the Arabs, of Islam, of believers, and of people in general since the Jews are evil and dangerous. They are killers and robbers, and have stolen Arab land. Zionism is a synonym for Nazism, both of which are the prototype of racism. The Jews hate Moslems (from the text: Our Arabic Language, Part 2, 3rd grade, #523, p. 9), they have killed and evicted the Moslem and Christian inhabitants of Palestine. Those Arabs who remain (in Israel) still suffer oppression and persecution under Jewish racist administration (Islamic Education, 9th grade, #589, p. 182). “One must beware of the Jews for they are treacherous and disloyal.” (Islamic Education, 9th grade, p. 79). “The clearest examples of racist belief and racial discrimination in the world are Nazism and Zionism.” (The New History of the Arabs and the World, p. 123). “Zionism is a political, aggressive and colonialist movement, which calls for the Judaization of Palestine by the expulsion of its Arab inhabitants… “(Modern Arab History and Contemporary Problems, Part 2, 10th grade, #613, p. 49). “Jewish gangs waged racial cleansing wars against innocent Palestinians… large scale appalling massacres saving no women or children.” (PA television, May 14, 1998).
One final quotation concludes this section on the teaching of hostility toward the Jews.
Mankind has suffered from this evil both in ancient as well as in modern times, for, indeed, Satan has, in the eyes of many people, made their evil actions appear beautiful until they thought that their race was the best of all, and their kind better than all others, and that other people are their slaves and do not reach their level. Such a people are the Jews. (Islamic Education, 8th grade, #523, p. 9).
2. Jihad and Martyrdom: The Moslem “Children’s Crusade”
Jihad and martyrdom are central to an understanding of the entire political orientation of Palestinian education regarding the Jews, and indeed of education in other Arab countries as well. Turning first to jihad, it can be noted that there are different kinds of jihad but the highest level and most frequently stressed meaning is the jihad (Holy War) that involves risking one’s own life, as the following quotations from the textbook on Islam for the 7th grade explains unequivocally:
Jihad involving risk of one’s life: This is by fighting enemies and standing firm against them in wars and battles. This is the highest level of jihad because the jihad fighter sacrifices himself for Allah’s way and for his religion, and to defend the Islamic nation.. (Islamic Education, 7th grade, p. 107).
… if the enemy has conquered part of its (Muslim) land and those fighting for it are unable to repel the enemy, then jihad becomes the individual religious duty of every Muslim man and woman, until the attack shall have been successfully repulsed and the land liberated from conquest and Muslim honor satisfied. (Ibid., p. 108).
The reference in these quotations to an enemy who conquered Muslim land is to Israel as the conqueror of Palestine, and the name Palestine refers to all of Israel, not just to the territory presently controlled by the PA. In a textbook called Geography of the Arab Homeland directed at the 6th grade, there are 19 maps where present day Israel is marked “Palestine” (see pp. 12, 20, 23, 36, 48, 50, 53, 55, 61, 66, 72, 73, 75, 80, 81, 88, 90, 115, 124).
Maps of the Middle East in which Israel does not exist and its area is marked as “Palestine” appear 11 times in the textbook called Social and National Education directed at the 5th grade (part A #549, see pp. 81, 84, 88, 89, 103, 107, 109, 110, 120, 122, 124). The children in the PA schools are being taught to prepare themselves for armed warfare against Israel as the enemy, and that the Jews residing within the present borders of Israel are designated as the objects of jihad, namely, targets to be killed! To dispel any doubt about the meaning and object of jihad and what is taught to schoolchildren in the PA, we quote the following poem which was read aloud from a schoolbook by a young girl attending a PA summer camp and broadcast on the PA’s official television on May 14, 1998 (and repeated on other days as well):
My brothers! The oppressors have overstepped the boundary. Therefore jihad and sacrifice are a duty… are we to let them steal its Arab nature… Draw your sword… let us gather for war with red blood and blazing fire… Death shall call and the sword shall be crazed from much slaughter… Oh Palestine, the youth will redeem your land…
The parallel between this “poem” and many school texts employed by German educators during the Nazi period is striking. The following lines are taken from a poem that appeared in the journal called Der Jungman published in 1942 at an elite school in Germany named Napoli that supplied a large number of trainees for the SS:
Paradise lies in the shadow of the sword, Courage is more than the power of the sword… No man sees the struggle, which I initiate with steel blades Effeminate is the man who does not fight with Weapons which he holds in his hands etc… (quoted from Blackburn, 1985, pp. 136-137)
The Martyr Fights for Allah The second term to be examined is martyrdom, which is part of jihad (although not every act of jihad ends in martyrdom). Great importance is attached to the religious duty fulfilled by someone who dies fighting for Islam, and on the enormous reward provided by Allah that awaits him/her in Paradise. Again, the following quotations from PA textbooks are unambiguous: Martyrdom is when a Muslim is killed for the sake of Allah… A person who dies thus is called a “Martyr” (Shahid)… Martyrdom for Allah is the hope of all those who believe in Allah and have trust in His promises… The Martyr rejoices in the paradise that Allah has prepared for him… (Islamic Education for Seventh Grade, #564, p. 112).
The Muslim sacrifices himself for his faith and fights a jihad for Allah. He does not know cowardice because he understands that the time of his death is already ordained and that his dying as a Martyr on the field of battle is preferable to dying in bed… (Islamic Education for Eighth Grade, #576, p. 176).
“Song of the Martyr” (a poem to be learned by heart)
I shall take my soul in my hand And hurl it into the abyss of death (in war)… Upon your life, I see my death and am marching speedily towards it Upon your life, this is the death of men And he who seeks an honorable death – this is that death.: (Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade, #542, p. 60), (Guide for Improving Arabic Language for Twelfth Grade, #719, p. 84), (PA television May 22, 1998).
Teaching Children Self-Immolation for God and Country
The emphasis placed by the PA on jihad and martyrdom is not confined to lessons taught in school through books. Summer camps under the auspices of the PLO before the establishment of the PA, and now under the Palestinian Authority were, and are, military training installations commanded by officers in the PLO, as they have been for the past twenty years. Hundreds of boys aged 10 to 15 (contrary to a written order to induct only children aged 12 or above!) were trained by the PLO to operate rocket propelled grenades. During the Lebanese war these boys became known as the “RPG kids” (Israeli, 1983, 222-225). Hundreds others learned to use Kalashnikov automatic rifles, which, on more than a few occasions, they fired into their own school classrooms. The Israel army arrested over 200 of these boys during the Lebanese war and released them shortly afterwards.
Self-immolation in pursuit of a cause considered to be sacred, either because of its origin in holy writ, as a form of protest (such as Bhuddist monks during the Vietnamese war), or in deference to a powerful monarch, is certainly not unknown in history. Yet, the phenomenon of suicide squads whose main mode of operation is to harm an enemy through their own death, has not been widespread heretofore. However pathological the educational indoctrination of the Hitler Jugend in Nazi Germany, or the Komsomol in the Soviet Union, (whose juvenile members were prepared to spy and inform on their own parents and thus bring about their ruin or even death) those countries did not really brainwash their own young children to immolate themselves while they were still children as an act of patriotism, although they committed many acts of violence (Blackburn, 1985). Nor were they ordered as children to confront armed soldiers by pelting them with rocks while their fathers remained in hiding, as was the case during the Palestinian uprising (intifada) against Israel, and as is still practiced by the Palestinians after the Oslo and Wye River agreements.
In the modern world, the primary examples of religious and/or patriotic self-sacrifice are from the Far East. Two famous examples of children exploited as warriors who committed extreme acts of cruelty, albeit in different forms, are the Red Brigades of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (their average age was reported to be about 14 years old), and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The 12 to 14 year olds of the Red Brigades reportedly caused the death of over 40 thousand intellectuals in China. The Khmer Rouge trained tens of thousands of young people to serve as soldiers whose extreme cruelty in exterminating vast numbers (reports vary from one to two million) of their own countrymen is one of the bloodcurdling atrocities of the post WWII era. Only severe ideological blindness can ignore or underestimate the potential impact of long years of indoctrination by a propaganda driven state “education” on the lives of its young victims, and what they, in turn, will be capable of doing, indeed eager to do, when the opportunity arises.
(I’m not sure that William Golding thought of this eventuality when he wrote The Lord of the Flies, but it is consistent with his book.) There is more than ample evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of prolonged exposure to propaganda on children and adults. Analysts of propaganda, some of whom are sophisticated observers of human behavior, have already identified the critical components of effective persuasion, however false the content of the message may be, and we need not repeat their contributions here (Ekman, 1992; Milgram, in press; Pratkanis & Aronson, 1991).
We are attempting to point out some of the relatively unique characteristics of the Palestinian Authority’s particular brand of political education.
The closest precedent to the Palestinian indoctrination of school-aged children for jihad and martyrdom is the Japanese kamikaze pilots of WWII. They sought to inflict maximum damage on an enemy they knew was of superior strength, and they knew too that, in the larger scheme of things, their mission was ultimately of no avail. Nevertheless the kamikaze considered the mission that inevitably entailed their personal death to be sacred, as it intended to restore some of the lost honor of the Emperor and of Japan. Hence it was motivated by the powerful combination of both religious and national (not personal) factors. A noted Israeli Orientalist and political commentator on Islamic affairs (Israeli, 1997), writing about the Japanese (Kamikaze) and Islamic forms of political suicide, as distinct from personal suicide (Hara-kiri), suggested the term “Islamikaze” and charted the sources and development of this movement. It emerged in pre-Taliban Afghanistan, during the Russian occupation, where it now enjoys considerable support from the authorities. Some indication of the consequences of this development — probably with more events of this kind in the offing — became evident in the damage inflicted on US installations in Africa. However, use of the title Islamikaze does not imply that the Japanese kamikaze actually served as a conscious precedent for the Palestinian Arabs and the training of children to admire killing and strive to be terrorists.
The Islamic Version of Education for Terrorism
The Islamic version of education for terrorism also shares with the Japanese kamikaze the feature of public admiration and sanction for their sacrifice. There are, of course, several differences, the first of which is that the Japanese kamikaze were older than the Arab schoolchildren and were trained pilots in the Japanese airforce. Second, the bodies of the kamikaze pilots were not recovered, so the public acclaim showered on the pilots was demonstrated before their deaths, and in respect to the families of the fallen men.
The children in the Palestinian Authority witness many public funerals of slain terrorists and other rituals where the main theme is support for terrorism against Jews and Israel, in addition to proclaiming the glory of the terrorists. Funerals of young men killed in the pursuit of their missions, including those killed when their dynamite exploded while they were preparing bombs, are accompanied by a huge entourage. Large pictures of the deceased are displayed and their deeds extolled. The atmosphere of these frequent public funerals is charged with high-pitched emotions, loud wailing and chorus-like chanting of fierce threats to the Zionist enemy, to Israel and to Jews. Often the same threats are voiced against the United States as well, and there is the inevitable burning of the flags of the two countries (Israel and the US). Japanese children were not “socialized” into the role of kamikaze by constant exposure to the public display of admiration for the dead kamikaze pilots accompanied by thunderous threats hurled at the US. Furthermore, all during the years of the intifada, up to and including this very day, there have been numerous incidents of Arabs stoning Jews who unhappily found themselves driving through territory governed by the PA: They were, and are, attacked by small bands, or by large crowds, of rock throwing juveniles (and young men in their early twenties). Sometimes these attacks end in death for the Jews, sometimes they manage to escape with wounds of varying severity. This public drama makes a powerful impression on young children of all ages whose daily schooling provides the background for understanding and accepting the bloody spectacle they see so often before their very eyes. What should be noted is the fact that, as best we know at this time, these violent events involving severe physical harm to people, with much blood pouring from them, do not appear to constitute a trauma for the young onlookers or participants precisely because they have been cognitively and emotionally prepared for them. What to other youngsters without previous indoctrination would be a shocking experience, the Palestinian children and youth (we will never know how many) rationalize and accept these events as legitimate and normative. This is especially true since these acts are carried out with total peer sanction and support as part of a gang or crowd. The psychological consequences of these experiences apparently are not traumatic for youth in the PA, but rather they are assimilated into their character type, becoming part of the personality, with an increase in aggressiveness and hostility toward others. There are few signs so far of intra-personal conflicts resulting from these events that ordinarily, under different circumstances, could produce psycho-pathological symptoms or other forms of distress or disabled functioning. (Macksoud, Dyregrov & Raundalen, 1993). This topic deserves serious investigation.
Most important, these acts of extreme violence are carried out in the name of God. A discussion of the role of religion in general, and specifically in the modern era, in providing justification for murder and violence of all kinds cannot be undertaken here. As noted earlier, Islam is not alone in exploiting children as cannon fodder, such as was done on a grand scale by Iran in its war with Iraq. Nevertheless, it is deeply distressing to observe that, at the end of the 20th century, after all that has happened in the recent past, the God of one of the world’s great monotheistic religions is invoked by its devotees to consecrate acts of murder by young children who are taught to cry out “Allah Akhbar” (Allah is Great) when smashing the head of their victim with a huge rock! (Stav, 1989). “For God and country” is a battle cry that is no longer trumpeted in our time… or at least, so some people thought! Journalists asked some of these teenagers why they throw huge rocks at a private automobile driven by a Jewish man inside territory already evacuated by Israel and now governed by the Palestinian Authority?
The youths’ response, seen and heard on television, is that they, the Arab youth, suffered previously at the hands of the Israelis and they are justified in expressing their rage now at this Jew who was driving his car in their territory! One youth said during a TV interview that the attack on the driver of a private automobile was carried out on “orders from above”. Palestinian Arab youth are primed to carry out acts of violence, even murder, against defenseless people. Their “conscience” is clean while the victim is the guilty one, and the adults who ordered this atrocity remain anonymous.
One final quotation from a PA schoolbook reads like a preamble to the bloody spectacle seen recently on television (December 2, 1998):
The first words the young boy heard were the words “jihad”, “attack” and “conquest”… These words were constantly on his lips… (The boy) Uqba grew up with the love of jihad flowing through his veins and filling every fiber of his being… For him no joy equaled that of taking part in jihad… Nothing gave him pleasure but the sight of swords and spears shining in the hands of the fighting horsemen. Nothing was pleasing to his ear but the sound of the horses charging into battle and nothing gave him joy but the sight of the enemy lying dead on the battlefield, or defeated and fleeing for their lives. Uqba showed heroism and courage… attacking them from his horse and hacking the enemy soldiers to pieces, coming down on them blow after blow, crushing their skulls… (Uqba bin Nafi’, or The Conqueror of Africa, 6th grade, #700, pp. 6 to 7, 43, 93, 96)
The Martyr’s Reward in Paradise
There is one more feature of jihad and martyrdom that provides a powerful incentive for the youth to strive to participate in armed war against Israel and Jews as an ideal in life. That feature is the nature of the personal reward they will receive in Paradise. Of course, only the elite will be chosen to progress from the level of a soldier in the jihad, with possible martyrdom, to the level of being a member of the Islamikaze suicide squads. However, that topic is beyond the scope of this chapter since it is not related directly to the subject of school based indoctrination by the PA. Nevertheless, the fact that the soldier of jihad will be rewarded in Paradise if he dies for Islam is repeated frequently in the schoolbooks, and the nature of this reward is not an incidental matter. Based on a variety of original sources, Professor Israeli described the nature of this reward as follows:
In the popular image of the Moslem Paradise, the martyr can enjoy unlimited sex with the virgin girls of Paradise. Some say that there will be 70 young women for every man. After each act of love making, the girl’s virginity is miraculously restored in order to provide the martyr with virginal sexual gratification. The same is true for the consumption of alcohol, the second major prohibition of Moslem society… which will flow freely. (Israeli, 1997, p. 73, note 21).
Public acclaim, a non-ending orgy of sex and all the booze you can drink, constitute a powerful combination of incentives for igniting the imagination and motivation of pubescent youth, aged 12 and up. Along with the emotionally charged scenes of actually stoning Jews and Jewish property, what more is needed to convince them that killing Jews is a worthy and honorable vocation? The PA is certainly preparing a huge army for the future that, socially and psychologically, will be trained to commit unmitigated violence against Israel and the Jewish People on behalf of Islam, the Arabs and Palestine. As already pointed out, the effectiveness of this early and prolonged indoctrination of school aged children is beyond doubt, nor can this policy of indoctrination be reconciled with the proclaimed desire to achieve peace with Israel.
3. Arab Revision of History
Diplomats, political scientists and others concerned with international relations frequently choose to ignore the historical dimension of conflicts between groups or nations since, obviously, history is not subject to manipulation in the present in order to reach solutions to conflicts. Some authors assert that our so-called post-modern era has sloughed off history to live “better” in the here and now. Nevertheless, the parties to inter-national conflicts often derive their identity, and hence their tie to their claims, on the basis of their historical traditions. Parties to territorial or cultural conflicts are frequently eager to anchor their claims in historical precedent, which carries deep significance for those involved. So much so, that when such legitimacy appears to be weak or lacking, groups may revise or fabricate the historical record to make it appear as if their legitimacy is in fact historically founded, or to attribute their historical legitimacy to factors that heretofore were not recognized as related to the group in question. Historical revisionism thereby serves the twofold purpose of de-legitimizing a given group and attributing legitimacy to another (or to one’s own) group at one and the same time.
The Palestinian Authority’s schoolbooks present to its pupils a far-reaching revision of history that virtually erases Jews from all connection with the land of Israel that is not negative. They also fabricate viciously racist statements that are attributed to classical Jewish sources such as the Talmud, much along lines of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that has served anti-Semites for close to two centuries, including, but not restricted to, Hitler and Stalin. These fabricated statements, allegedly formulated some 1400 years ago (the Talmud was completed around the beginning of the 7th century) in Babylonia, are then cited as reflecting the views of contemporary Jews. Many readers apparently remain unaware of the bizarre mental acrobatics inherent in these accusations.
Simultaneously, the Jews are summarily de-legitimized: they are not a nation, they allegedly fabricated and falsified their ancient and modern history, and by so doing, they denied the historicity of the Arab claims to Palestine based on their descent from the Jebusites who lived in ancient Canaan.
The Moslem claim that the Jews falsified Scripture is a relatively ancient phenomenon that emerged early in the history of Islam (Lewis, 1984). The schoolchildren in the PA learn that it begins with the Biblical story of Abraham:
Abraham was a Moslem monotheist and was not from among the idolaters. (Islamic Education, 5th grade, #540, p. 143).
Allah sent Moses to his people and sent down to them the Book of the Torah… However, later the Israelites rebelled against their Lord and distorted His book. They argued and corrupted the land, and Allah, therefore, threatened them with torments of the Day of Judgement. (Islamic Education, 6th grade, #551, pp. 31-32). Dear pupil. Do you know who the Palestinians are? The Palestinian people are descended from the Canaanites. (National Palestinian Education, 5th grade, #550, p. 19).
Israel (of the Bible)… dwelled near Yemen… Their original religion in the days of our master Moses… it is strange that the Torah does not give it a name, and I almost dare say, it is Islam… Mt. Sinai is Mt. Sinin in Yemen… today’s Jews have no (biological) connection to the Israelites. (Palestine: History and Tradition, PA television, May 26, 1998).
Jerusalem is a Palestinian Arab city, and it has no connection to Israel. (PA television, May 24, 1998: Abd al-Rachman, PA official).
Jerusalem is an ancient Arab city built by the Jebusite Arabs before Islam… (Islamic Culture, 8th grade, #576, p. 50).
Exercise: Distinguish between verb and noun clauses. “The land is our land and Jerusalem is ours.” (Our Arabic Language, 5th grade, #542, p. 74).
The Jews have clear greedy designs on Jerusalem. They believe that their state is not complete without Jerusalem as its capital, which is what they claim. The proof of this is that their Minister of Defense declared on the third day of the war of 1967, together with the Prime Minister, when both of them were standing by “el-Buraq” which they call the Western Wall: “We have returned to you, Jerusalem, and we shall never part from you again. You are not just the capital of ‘Israel’ but the capital of the entire Jewish People.”… Thus do the Jews conspire, before the eyes and ears of the Arabs and the Moslems. What can we do to rescue Jerusalem and to liberate it from the thieving enemy… ? (Reader and Literary Texts, 8th grade, #578, pp. 96, 99).
Finally, the PA falsely attributes the following quotation to classic sources of Judaism (though no such statement existed prior to its invention by the PA):
It is mentioned in the Talmud: “We (the Jews) are God’s people on earth… (God) forced upon the human animal and upon all nations and the races that they serve us, and He spread us through the world to ride on them and hold their reigns. We must marry our beautiful daughters with kings, ministers and lords and enter our sons into various religions, thus, we will have the final word in managing the countries. We should cheat them (the non-Jews) and arouse quarrels among them, then they fight each other… Non Jews are pigs who God created in the shape of man in order that they be fit for service for the Jews, and God created the world for them (the Jews).” (The New History of the Arabs and the World, p. 120)
Islam versus Judaism and the West
Many of the statements found in these texts mention Palestine, invariably referring to all of present day Israel. However, it is abundantly clear that the overall context of the jihad against the Jews and against Israel is the more fundamental war between Islam and the Moslems against Israel and the Jews, not just the conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and Israelis. Indeed, it is a war between Islam and Judaism, and even a war between Islam and the entire Western world. The PA textbooks are careful to avoid stating explicitly that this war includes the Christians and the Christian nations. On the contrary, an effort is made to mention Christians now and then in a positive light despite the frequent sweeping denunciation of Western civilization as if it excluded the Christians. Here are a few typical citations:
Remember: The final and inevitable result (of jihad) will be victory of the Moslems over the Jews. (Our Arabic Language, 5th grade, p. 67). This religion will defeat all other religions and it will be disseminated, by Allah’s will, through the Muslim jihad fighters. (Islamic Education, 7th grade, p. 125).
In the present period, which exceeds all previous periods in the material and scientific advances taking place, social, psychological and medical scientists in the West are perplexed by the worrying increase in the number of people suffering from nervous disorders… and the statistics from America in this matter are a clear indication of this… There is no escape from (the need for) a new civilization… The Western world is not capable of fulfilling this role… There is only one nation capable of discharging this task and that is our nation (Islam)… We do not claim that the collapse of Western civilization, and the transfer of the center of civilization to us (Islam) will happen in the next decade or two or even in fifty years, for the rise and fall of civilizations follow natural processes… Nevertheless (Western civilization) has begun to collapse and to become a pile of debris. (Some Outstanding Examples of our Civilization, 11th grade, pp. 3, 12, 16).
The Jews adopted a position of hostility and deception towards the new religion (Islam). They called Muhammad a liar and denied him, they fought against his religion in all ways and by all means, a war that has not yet ended until today, and they conspired with the hypocrites and the idolaters against him and they are still behaving in the same way… (Islamic Education, 7th grade, #564, p. 123, 125).
Arab Propaganda is Anti-Semitic, Not Anti-Zionist as Claimed
The quotations cited above embody several basic features of Arab hostility toward the Jews, including the reference to the Jews’ role in ancient history which the Arabs’ have traditionally denounced because the Biblical stories do not corroborate Islam’s claim to have inherited Abraham’s legacy. This sweeping denunciation of the Jews encompasses all of known history, and is uttered allegedly in the name of all humanity. Obviously, such a stance has little to do with Zionism and everything to do with an inveterate anti-Semitism that is being passed on unchanged to all Arab children from an early age in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, just as it appeared in the publications and media of many Arab nations for decades (Harkabi, 1972). In light of these and many similar statements made throughout the PA’s books for schoolchildren, it is patently contradictory for the PA to claim that it opposes Zionism and is not anti-Semitic (Israeli, 2000; Wistrich, 1985).
These statements confirm once again, if confirmation is still needed, that the anti-Zionist orientation of the Arabs, of the PLO, and of the other Arab terrorists groups, was only a thin camouflage to veil a more basic anti-Jewish animosity during this entire century. Again, this orientation stems from a long history of enmity between Islam and the Jews, which may have been relatively benign or latent in some periods, but burst out in violence in others. Anti-Zionism has become a convenient code to replace the less palatable term anti-Semitism (Lewis, 1984, 1986; Wistrich, 1985).
Palestinian Reaction to the Quotations from the Schoolbooks
In an interview with an Israeli journalist, the head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Radwan Abu Ayyash, commented on the large collection of quotations from the PA’s schoolbooks compiled and made available by the Jerusalem-based Palestine Media Watch. As reported by Isabel Kershner, writing in The Jerusalem Report of December 21 (1998), he said, inter alia:
If some sheikh says live on TV that all Israelis should be thrown into the sea, what can I do? Cut off his tongue?… I can’t change the hearts, the brains, the language of my people. I can’t make them fall in love by force. We are journalists, mirrors, reflectors. I’m not here to lie, or to make propaganda. (p. 32).
The Palestinian Authority TV director’s response to the mass of quotations from current schoolbooks is, of course, a skillful avoidance of the issue. It is precisely the official policy of the government that is reflected in the books that all children in school must read, not the sentiments of the population or of any particular individual, in Israel or in the PA’s territory. At the outset of this article we explicitly disclaimed the assumption that a review of textbooks informs us about the ideas, attitudes or feelings of the general population. Mr. Abu Ayyash was certainly aware of that fact when he skirted the question and disingenuously claimed that the quotations, in the schoolbooks as well as those made by children (often reading from those books) on the PA’s television, were expressions of popular opinion about which he can do nothing. Whether the quotations express popular opinion or not is irrelevant.
The point of the entire matter is that the Oslo and Wye River agreements refer to the nature of official policy that the PA undertook to disseminate among the Palestinian Arabs in its territory through official media. Among these media are included the textbooks used in the schools, the radio, television and newspapers. These media are under direct control of government agencies in the PA, they are not privately owned corporations that enjoy protection under a bill of rights or any other law. What they express is government policy, not personal opinion. No one would assert that every citizen of Israel loves the Palestinian Arabs. I would venture to guess that not many Jews in Israel entertain illusions about the feelings of the Arabs in the Palestinian Authority for the Jews. Yet, investigators would search in vain in official publications in Israel and/or of the Israel government, for any expression of hostility toward Arabs anywhere, of the kind found in the schoolbooks of the PA. The assertion made by Abu Ayyash that the television is a reflection of popular sentiments, is a transparent attempt to deny responsibility for what is published and broadcast in the name of the Palestinian Authority. That and other attempts to avoid the truth cannot obscure the basic fact that the Palestinian Authority’s own “educational” doctrine allows for no room in the territory known before 1948 as Palestine, and now known as Israel and the territories of the Palestinian Authority, for the Jews and Palestinian Arabs to live side by side without expecting perpetual warfare.
Israel’s Educational Policy Regarding the Palestinians Following the Oslo Agreement
Israel’s official educational policy never sought to indoctrinate children with any ideology that expressed animosity toward any nation or religion, the Arabs and Islam included. However, I leave that subject for others to investigate and to report their findings as they see them. Here I will concentrate on Israel’s official educational policy immediately following the Oslo accords. Israel (population just over 6 million) has a centralized educational system controlled by one Ministry of Education. The executive director of the Ministry regularly issues a circular setting policy on a wide variety of topics for all of the schools in the nation. This circular is to be found in every school and in the hands of each and every school principal. Some of the guidelines for behavior appearing in this circular are in the form of suggestions regarding which school principals retain a degree of discretion as to their adoption. Other provisions are in the form of requirements that the principal is legally bound to implement. Every year a topic is determined by the Ministry called “The Central Topic” about which a special circular is issued. All schools are asked to discuss that topic throughout the year with the students, often during a particular class session called “the educator’s hour” or “the social hour”, by which is meant one hour during a week devoted to a topic affecting society at large. Often, though not always, it is “The Central Topic”.
In May 1994, the executive director of the Israel Ministry of Education issued a circular entitled “The Central Topic for 1995: ‘The Peace Process – Israel in the Middle East’, General Guidelines” (Executive Director’s Special Circular, 1994). Similar topics, such as “Democracy” and “Respect for Others”, were announced for succeeding years. These circulars are in the public domain and available in Israel’s main libraries for anyone to read, as well as in all of the schools. A short overview of the general direction and tenor of this particular (1994) circular follows, including several direct quotations:
Peace is a broad topic, but the primary purpose of proclaiming this subject as the year’s “Central Topic” is to undertake an in-depth discussion and exploration of the process of achieving peace with the Palestinians and with the Arab nations. What will Israel and the Middle East look like in an era of peace? In these discussions, care must be taken to distinguish between the Arabs of Israel (i. e. Arab citizens of Israel), Palestinian Arabs, and the Arabs of each and every Arab nation surrounding Israel and with whom there are now, or will be in the future, negotiations for achieving a peace agreement. The achievement of such agreements is to be presented as an existential need and goal of Israel. Students should understand that disagreements between Israel and the Arab nations are legitimate.
The overriding goal is to cultivate a tolerant citizen, aware of the values of peace, sensitive, attentive, involved, knowledgeable and one with a political perspective that is supported by well-grounded reasoning, one who can conduct a cultured dialogue with those who disagree with his/her perspective, and to develop empathy and understanding, without necessarily reaching agreement, for those with different ideas. (p. 8).
The circular goes on to explain to teachers the need for emphasizing the benefits of peace to both Arabs and Israel from social, economic and cultural points of view. Teachers should emphasize the democratic aspects of the peace process, such as accepting the decision of the majority of the population regarding peace, the need for expressing dissent through accepted channels only, the basic rights of each and every person, etc. Israel has begun a process of peace negotiations with groups that thus far have been its sworn enemies. That process could possibly change the political status quo that prevailed in the region heretofore.
Teachers and students alike are undergoing change that is necessary for adapting to the new situation. In particular, students must learn to accept the need for political compromises, and to appreciate the need for “empathy… toward the Arabs with whom Israel is negotiating peace”. (p. 11).
“There is an objective difficulty in the degree to which Israelis are prepared to establish close relations with Arabs and to trust them.” (p. 13). Teachers must help students overcome such difficulties after years of war and terrorism.
This summary of Israel’s official educational response to the Oslo agreement conveys the depth of the chasm between the official educational policies of the Palestinian Authority and of Israel. Obviously the two policies derive from totally different belief systems, as well as reflecting fundamentally incompatible intentions as far as the nature of peace between Arabs and Jews is concerned. This state of affairs begs the question: How long can this asymmetrical set of expectations persist? How long can the Israel public maintain its striving for rapprochement with the Palestinian Arabs in the face of such brute hatred and rejection? Will the Arab media really change their attitudes and depiction of Jews and Israel? Some social-science investigators in Israel claim that stereotypes of Arabs found in children’s literature in Israel theoretically could ultimately lead to violence against Arabs. These researchers are curiously silent about the presence and effects of relentless and flagrant incitement of Arab children and youth by the Palestinian Authority and by various Arab nations to mercilessly slaughter Jews. Will the political socialization of children and propaganda among the adult population continue as it is now, while Israel will be expected to ignore these facts and pursue a unilateral policy of peace (which, of course, is a contradiction in terms)? It seems that Israel is being browbeaten into submission by the Western powers upon whom Israel relies for its survival, and who are largely indifferent to the price Israel pays now, and will pay in the future, for these agreements with the Palestinian Arabsn
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