Jews and the Jewish State in Schoolbooks Used by UNRWA:
De-legitimization, Demonization and Indoctrination to War
Arnon Groiss
(November 2016) 

UNRWA’s Educational Activity

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was
established following the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 in order to carry out relief
and works programs for the Arab war refugees. Since its establishment, it has
operated in the fields of education, health and social services among
Palestinians registered as refugees of that war, and their descendants, in the
West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Over half of its annual
budget (732 million USD in 2014 and 744 million USD in 2015) is allocated to

UNRWA provides educational services up to high school age – not inclusive (only
in Lebanon does it keep high schools for Palestinian students). During the
school year of 2014/15 it had a total of 685 schools with 493,500 students, of
which 252 were in the Gaza Strip with 240,413 students and 97 were in the West Bank with 50,566 students.[2]

According to the Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics for 2015/16,
UNRWA had 248,059 students in 257 schools in the Gaza Strip and 48,776 students
in 96 schools in the West Bank, namely, a total of 296,835 students in these
two areas, which constituted about 25% of the PA school students.

The schoolbooks in use in UNRWA schools are provided by
the host governments in its areas of operation. UNRWA can add to the curriculum
its own books and it did publish schoolbooks promoting issues such as
tolerance, non-violence and human rights for use in its schools in the West
Bank and Gaza. But a thorough examination of these books revealed that they
systematically avoided dealing with these subjects within the wider context of
the Middle East conflict and restricted the scope of their discussion to
Palestinian society alone (for instance: tolerance between Palestinian Muslims
and Christians, protecting the environment, acceptance of the handicapped,
etc.). Thus, the schoolbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority (PA) are the
only books in UNRWA schools that deal with the various aspects of the conflict.
Accordingly, 110 such books from grades 1-9 in the subjects of Arabic, Islamic
Education, Christian Education (taught to Christian students within the PA
educational system), National Education, Civics, History and Geography were
examined. Most of these books were published in 2014 and 2015. Some 20 books
were published in August 2016 for grades 1-4 and were examined too, including Mathematics
and Sciences textbooks that had been hardly examined in former years.

The findings reveal that the PA books, including those
ones in use in UNRWA schools, are based on three fundamental principles
regarding their attitude to the “other” and to peace within the
conflict: De-legitimization, demonization and indoctrination to a future war
for the elimination of the State of Israel, though without stating that
explicitly. Following are the findings with some examples:


According to the PA schoolbooks used by UNRWA, Jews are
not considered a nation entitled to national rights like other nations, but are
rather citizens of various states. The Jewish nationalist movement in modern
times – Zionism – is defined as a colonialist movement created by European
Jews: “Zionism is a political-colonialist [istitaniyyah
“colonizational”] movement created by the Jews of Europe in the
second half of the nineteenth century with a view to gathering the Jews of
various nationalities from all parts of the world and concentrate them in
Palestine and in its neighboring countries by way of immigration and the
expulsion of the Palestinian people from its land in order to establish the
State of Israel” (Modern and Contemporary Arab History, Grade 9 (2014)
p. 54). Moreover, Zionism is actually a European Imperialist initiative:
“The European Imperialist [Isti’mariyyah] states took upon
themselves the [task of] circulating the Zionist notion among the Jews
themselves in order to hasten the establishment of the Jewish state, due to the
confluence of their interests with the Jews’ interests, on the one hand, and in
order to get rid of the Jews and send them out of their own countries, on the
other hand” (Modern and Contemporary Arab History, Grade 9 (2014)
p. 54).

According to these schoolbooks, Jews have no rights
whatsoever in Palestine, just “greedy ambitions [atma’]”.
Within the chapter itself these ambitions are attributed to Zionist Jews alone,
but the assignment at the end expands these ambitions to include the Jews at

“1. The Zionist-colonialist [colonizational – istitaniyyah]
greedy ambitions towards Palestine began since 1882.


2. These greedy ambitions increased following the
convening of the first Zionist Congress in the city of Basel in Switzerland in 1897. That Congress, headed by Theodor Herzl, encouraged emigration to
Palestine and the starting of negotiations with the Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid
II in order to facilitate Jewish immigration into Palestine. But Sultan Abd
al-Hamid II opposed these greedy ambitions in spite of the material

3. The Zionist greedy ambitions increased with the
support of British Imperialism. Britain’s Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour,
issued on November 2, 1917 his declaration that called for granting the Jews a
national home in Palestine.”

(National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 20, and
see the question on that page: “In what year did the colonialist greedy
ambitions regarding Palestine start?”)

The assignment on p. 22 in the same book reads: “1.
I will mention the Ottoman State’s positions vis-à-vis the Jews’ greedy
ambitions regarding Palestine.”

(National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 22) 

The PA schoolbooks used in UNRWA schools do not recognize
the Jews’ historical ties to the country in general and to Jerusalem in
particular. There is almost no information in these books about the Jews’
presence in the country in antiquity, and, in any case, the Palestinians are
presented as direct descendants of the ancient Canaanites who, in their turn,
are described as an Arab nation. This way an impression is made according to
which Palestinian-Arab presence in the country had preceded that of the Jews
there: “The origin of the Palestinian people is the Canaanites who
immigrated to Palestine from the Arabian Peninsula in the year 3500 BC

(National Education, Grade 5 (2014) p. 30) 

Jerusalem is presented as an
Arab city from its very beginning – “Jerusalem is a city built by the Arab
Jebusites five thousand years ago” (Geography of Palestine, Grade 7
(2014) p. 82), and its Jews are described as occupiers and infiltrators in a
poem appearing in one of the books: “I belong to her [Jerusalem], even if
the flag of misery has landed upon her; I belong to her and shall redeem her by
[my] property and soul, and shall never resign myself to her humiliation by an
occupier and an infiltrator” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 4, Part
1 (2016) p. 52).

Even in the school subject of Christian Education
– intended for Christian students in the Palestinian school system – the books
conceal in the vast majority of the cases the Israelite/Jewish identity of the
country’s inhabitants within the context of Old Testament events and emphasize
it in New Testament contexts as opponents of Jesus Christ and his disciples.
Thus, for example, Moses helped “his people” stand Pharaoh’s
oppression, went out of Egypt with “his people”, climbed up Mount Sinai
to pray for “his people” and gave the Ten Commandments to “his
people” (Christian Education, Grade 3 (2002 – the latest edition of
this book so far) pp. 8-9), and: “Then came the King of Babylon, captured
Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and the inhabitants went on exile to Babylon.
The people lived in exile for a long time and when it returned, it lived under
foreign rule (Persian, Greek, Roman).”

(Christian Education, Grade 7 (2001 – the latest
edition so far of this book) p. 19).

By contrast, within the story of the Crucifixion, Jews
are explicitly mentioned while the source from which the details were taken –
Luke – mentions “the priests, the rulers and the people”, rather than

The schoolbooks totally ignore the Jews’ religious
connection to the country and even deny it explicitly. In none of the PA
schoolbooks used by UNRWA does any reference to a Jewish holy place appear. All
the chapters on the holy places mention those ones belonging to Muslims and
Christians alone. When places holy to Jews are referred to, such as the Wailing
Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in
Bethlehem, they are presented as Muslim holy places the Jews aspire to take
over. Thus, for example, the riots of 1929 are named in one of the textbooks as
“the Revolt of Al-Buraq in protest against the Jews’ attempts to take
control of Al-Buraq Wall [the Wailing Wall’s Muslim name].”

(National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 21) 

As for the other two sites: “The attempt to Judaize
some of the Muslim religious places, such as the Abrahamic Mosque [the Cave of
the Patriarchs] and the Mosque of Bilal Bin Rabbah [Rachel’s Tomb] (near Bethlehem).”

(National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 55) 

And see the inscription “the Mosque of Bilal Bin
Rabbah (Bethlehem)” under the photograph of Rachel’s Tomb in the same

(National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 54) 

Furthermore, the mere presence of some 7 million Jews
in Israel today is illegitimate as they are omitted from the figures regarding
the country’s inhabitants. Israel’s Arab citizens are its only legitimate
inhabitants, as well as the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and those
who reside abroad. See the chart below (and also note the use of the phrase
“the territories occupied in 1948” as a circumlocution to avoid the
expression “Israeli territory”):

“The chart below shows the number of Palestine’s inhabitants in 2015, according to the Palestinian Statistics Center:

Region                                                                         Number
of Inhabitants

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip                            4,750,000

The territories occupied in 1948                                 1,470,000

The Arab states                                                           5,460,000

In foreign countries

[Assignment:] I will organize the regions where
Palestinians are found in a descending order according to the numbers of the


(Mathematics, Grade 4, Part 1 (2016) p. 25) 

And in another chart referring to the country’s
inhabitants in 1999 the Jews are missing too (and Israel’s territory is defined
here as “the Interior”):

“Let us examine the figures – the inhabitants of Palestine on 1.2.1999


1)      The [West] Bank                                 1,972,000                    }

2)      Gaza                                                    1,113,000                    }36%

3)      The Palestinians of the Interior           1,094,000

4)      The Palestinians of the Diaspora         4,419,000

Total                                                                8,598,000


(National Education, Grade 6 (2014) p. 10) 

In a chart showing the numbers of the Arab world’s
inhabitants, in the column of the states, one can find “Historical
Palestine [Filastin altarikhiyyah]” with 10 million inhabitants. A
footnote says: “The number of the inhabitants in the West Bank, the Gaza
Strip and inside ‘the Green Line’ [that is, Israel in its pre-1967 borders] is
5,025,376. The number of the Palestinian refugees in Palestine and the Diaspora
is 5,447,949, according to estimates by the Palestinian Central Bureau of
Statistics in 2009, based on the final results of the 2007 census.” Thus,
the refugees abroad are counted as the country’s inhabitants, while the Jews
inside the country are ignored. This time the “Green Line”
circumlocution is used to describe Israel’s pre-67 territory.

As the Jewish inhabitants in the country are absent,
their cities, including Tel Aviv, are missing from the maps too. Only lately
did Tel Aviv appear on one map, in a book published in 2016, under the Arabic
name “Tel al-Rabi'”, which is the Arabic translation of its Hebrew

(Mathematics, Grade 1, Part 1 (2016) p. 143)


Its appearance under this name apparently signals a new
development of the Palestinian narrative within which Tel Aviv is presented as
a modern Jewish city built on the ruins of an Arab city that had preceded it.
This new myth finds its expression in the Internet at times. For instance, a
site named “Palestine Site for Dialogue”
  shows photographs of Tel Aviv under the title “Photos of the
Palestinian City of Tel al-Rabi'” and says further: “The city of Tel
Aviv is an occupied Palestinian city located on the Mediterranean coast… Israel occupied it in 1948. Formerly, it was named Tel al-Rabi’.”

The effort to hide the Jews who live in this country
includes as well the erasure, literally, of their national language. A stamp
issued by the British Mandate authorities is reproduced in a PA textbook and in
the process the Hebrew inscription is erased from its bottom-left corner:

(National Education, Grade 2, Part 1 (2015) p.

And compare with the original:

The Jews’ state, Israel, is not recognized as a sovereign state and its name does not appear on any map in the schoolbooks used by UNRWA. On the other hand, there are maps where the whole country is presented as Palestine, sometimes with an emphasizing statement such as “Palestine is Arab [and] Muslim”:

(National Education, Grade 2, Part 1 (2015) p.

Or under the Palestinian flag: 

(National and social Upbringing, Grade 4, Part 1
(2016) p. 7)


Another book shows a map of the whole country
accompanied by the following assignment: “I will color the map of my
homeland with the colors of the Palestinian flag.”

(National Education, Grade 2, Part 1 (2016) p. 10,
and see a similar assignment in Islamic Education, Grade 2, Part 1
(2016) p. 4)

Israel is replaced by Palestine as the sovereign state in the region in text as well, not only on maps:
“The countries of the Levant [Bilad Al-Sham in Arabic] are Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon” (Islamic Education, Grade 2, Part 1
(2014) p. 72); “…The countries of the Levant [Bilad Al-Sham]
presently consist the following states: Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and

(History of the Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5
(2014) p. 27)


Thus, the PA schoolbooks treat the whole country as Palestine, and when certain data refer only to the territories of the West Bank and Gaza a clarifying footnote is needed:

“Chart No. 3: Percentage of age groups among the
inhabitants of some Arab states

State                %
                  % Youth                      % Elderly

Palestine*        42.5                             54.4                             3.1

* Palestine refers [here] to the inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

(Geography of the Arab Homeland, Grade 9 (2015)
p. 48)

We have already seen the circumlocutions of “the
Interior”, “the Territories of 1948” and “the Green
Line” used to replace the term “Israel’s territory”.

In addition, places inside pre-1967 Israel are presented exclusively as Palestinian. In a lesson titled “a trip to
Acre” the following expressions appear: “Acre is a Palestinian city… Acre was built in the second millennium BC by the Arab Canaanites… I visited this beautiful
Palestinian city… I left this eternal city full of hope that it will return to
its original owners one day.” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 4,
Part 2 (2014) pp. 20, 21)

In another case the student is required to draw a line
between a given coastal plain in column A and the Arab state to which it
belongs in Column B. The relevant coastal plain in the exercise is that one
between Haifa and Gaza and the corresponding Arab state is Palestine:


(Geography of the Arab Homeland, Grade 9 (2015)
p. 25 – the red line and circles have been added)

Israel is not recognized as a
sovereign state because it is considered an occupying entity from its very
inception. The 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is just an addition to
the original, and more serious, occupation of 1948: “The Israeli
: The Disaster [Nakbah] of 1948 by the Zionist
organizations befell the Palestinian society, as most Palestinians were forced
to emigrate from their land and the State of Israel was established in part of
Palestine. The West Bank was annexed to Jordan in 1950 and the Gaza Strip was
placed under Egyptian administration. The Set-Back [Naksah] of 1967
befell the Palestinian society, as the Israelis managed to occupy the rest of Palestine – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Sinai Desert was occupied from Egypt and the Golan Height was occupied from Syria as well.”


(National Education‘ Grade 5 (2014) p. 30)


Hence, the termination of that occupation and the
establishment of the independent Palestinian state on the whole country’s
territory constitute a clear and natural necessity, and today’s Palestinian
Authority is seen as the first phase in that direction. The best manifestation
of that in the schoolbooks is the professed identity of the publishing body:
“The State of Palestine – The Ministry of Education and Higher Education [Dawlat
Filastin – Wizarat Al-Tarbiyah wa Al-Ta’lim Al-Aliy
]”. This
inscription appears on the cover and first page of every book:


And we have already seen examples of “the State of
Palestine” it the text as well.


By presenting the Jewish-Israeli “other” as a
foreign occupier with no rights, with almost no past in the country and with no
holy places there at all, whose mere presence in the country today, as
individuals and as a state owning collective, is illegitimate – by that the PA
schoolbooks in UNRWA use contribute to the development of an aspiration among
the students to make the adversary “disappear” by whatever means.



The mere presentation of the Jews living in the country
as foreign occupiers with no right to be there, as we have seen, makes them
automatically part of the forces of evil in the eyes of Palestinian students in
UNRWA schools. To that one should add the attribution to the Jews of genocidal
intentions regarding the Palestinians: “The first group of Jewish settlers
came to Palestine from Russia in 1882 and the second group was in 1905. The
coming of the Jewish throngs to Palestine continued until 1948, and their goal
was taking over the Palestinian lands and, then, replacing the original
inhabitants after their expulsion or extermination.”

(National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 20)


And, indeed, “the Palestinian people was expelled
from its land as a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, suffered from
massacres and was forced to emigrate to the neighboring countries” (National
, Grade 6 (2014) p. 12). In no place do the PA schoolbooks used by
UNRWA admit that it was the Palestinians who started the war following the UN
partition resolution of November 1947. Thus the exclusive responsibility for
the results of that war is placed on the Jews’ shoulders, which intensify their


Demonization of the Jews and their state is expressed
in several ways in the PA schoolbooks in use by UNRWA. What increases its
impact is the fact that these books almost totally refrain from providing the
student with objective information about the Jews or Israel which would have
balanced the numerous demonizing textual pieces. There are no details in the
books about Jewish history, the Holocaust, Jewish culture, the structure of
government in Israel, Israeli society, economy, daily life, etc. No reference
is made either to the Jewish or Israeli individual as an ordinary human being. Israel and its Jews are portrayed as an alien and threatening group, which contributes to
their demonization in the schoolbooks.


As for the State of Israel, it is responsible
exclusively for many evils that have befallen the Palestinians and other Arabs,
beyond occupation of the country and expulsion of its inhabitants. The present
research has found over twenty accusations against the Jewish-Israeli
“other” in schoolbooks used in UNRWA schools, under the ultimate
title “occupation”: “Some intra-family violence problems emanate
from the occupation and its destructive influence on our society. I will clarify

(Civics, Grade 8 (2013) p. 55)


“Killing of cities has become an ordinary thing
during the occupation that does whatever it can to dismantle every
civilization-related infrastructure in our society.”


(Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 1
(2015) p. 61)


“[Assignment:] Let us mention the names of some
Palestinian villages that the Israelis destroyed, removed their remnants and
established on their lands colonies [musta’marat] and settlements [tajammu’at

(National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 54)


Intentional murder of Palestinian children is
attributed to Israel in a language exercise: “The Palestinian child stood
facing the enemy’s bullets like a brave soldier.”

(Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 2
(2015) p. 28)


And more: “Blowing up Palestinian houses
constitutes one form of suffering experienced by the Palestinian people at the
hands of the occupation. I will mention other forms of such suffering” (Reading
and Texts
, Grade 8, Part 2 (2015) p. 13); “The occupation has thrown
those who struggle [against it] into painful captivity [i.e, jail] (Our
Beautiful Language
, Grade 5, Part 2 (2014) p. 68); “[Assignment:] Let
us explain the reason for the increase in poverty rate in Palestinian
society” (Civics, Grade 7 (2014) p. 51, and on the preceding page
several reasons are mentioned including “the occupation and armed violence”);
“The interest in Palestinian popular heritage has become a pressing
necessity due to its exposure during the occupation to attempts at erasing
Palestinian identity and the foundations of Arab identity and heritage” (National
, Grade 7 (2013) p. 44); “…Burning of Salah al-Din’s ancient
preacher podium [minbar] at Al-Aqsa Mosque” (National Education,
Grade 7 (2013) p. 55); “I will write a short report on the Israeli settlements’
impact on environmental pollution.”


(Human Geography, Grade 6 (2014) p. 83)


“[Assignment:] The occupation throws the
principles of international law overboard. I will give three examples”

(Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 1
(2015) p. 51)


A grade 1 book describes one of the “open
day” activities in school saying: “Some students staged a nice
show” with an illustration showing an Israeli soldier pointing his weapon
against a Palestinian elderly couple:

(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 1, Part 2 (2014)
p. 132)


And there are also poetic accusations: “The poet
described Jerusalem in [his poem’s] line 6 as the Arabs’ sister, that the
enemies were sharpening their knives in order to slaughter her. What does the
poet expect the brethren [to do] in the case of their sister?” (Reading
and texts
, Grade 8, Part 1 (2015) p. 46).


Other accusations:

Attempts at taking control of Muslim holy places;
desecration of Muslim and Christian holy places; demolition of houses:
“Expression: Let us answer the two following questions: What do the
workers do? What does the bulldozer do?”

(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 2, Part 1 (2014)
p. 80)


Uprooting of trees: “Expression: Let us express
orally what is [shown] below:”

(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 2, Part 1 (2014)
p. 71)


And more:

Aggression against neighboring Arab states and robbery
of their water, robbery of Palestinian land and water, damaging various
branches of Palestinian economy, causing trouble to the Palestinian woman and
family, assassination of Palestinian leaders, besieging the Palestinians by
means of the separation fence that is always presented as a wall – without
mentioning that it was built in the wake of Palestinian suicide bombing
attacks, oppressing the Palestinian Bedouins – including those living in the
Israeli Negev region, etc.


Demonization of Jews outside the scope of the conflict
is mostly done in classes of Islamic Education in the context of the
political rivalry of some of the Jews in Arabia with the prophet of Islam, and Christian
in the context of the Jewish establishment’s opposition to Jesus
Christ and his disciples. In both cases, the mere reference to these issues
greatly contributes to the propagation of hatred to Jews in general, not just
those historical Jews who were involved in those affairs. Following are two
examples of demonization of Jews in these contexts:


“[Question:] What is indicated by the [Jewish
tribe of] Qurayzah’s violation of their contract with the Prophet
[Muhammad]?” (Islamic Education, Grade 9, Part 1 (2015) p. 51). The
relevant chapter in the book does not provide any answer to this question, but parallel
books in other Arab curricula state in this context that the Jews were
tricksters then and they are so now, and it is most probable that that is what
the teacher will say in class.  


“The doors were closed where the disciples were
gathering for fear of the Jews” (Christian Education, Grade 3 (2002
– the latest edition of this book so far) p. 86).


In conclusion of this chapter, the following excerpts,
taken from a poem titled “the Flame-Clad Horizon”, describe an
occupier in the general sense, not necessarily Israel, but the inclusion of
this poem in a PA schoolbook automatically transforms it into a demonizing
piece against Israel, especially in view of its mention of the orange orchard,
which has become a repeating motif in Palestinian poetry symbolizing the
yearning for lost Palestine:


“How would you respond if an alien person attacked
your family – having been dazzled by his weapon he bared a wolf’s fang… How
would you respond if your roots within you were challenged, if the adversary
planted his spear in your land’s heart, opened fire on the field that burned
its wheat, and continued insistently to spoil, destroy, murder, hide your sun
from you, strangle the freshness of your time, undermine your house’s walls
upon you, and color with blood the bright daylight? How would you respond if he
claimed that the date palm grove, and the orange orchard, and your Arab olive
tree, and yourself, and your wife Salma and your decent sons – are war spoils
and seized possessions, and [it is] either staying alive without any right or
perdition to that one who does not obey orders? How would you respond?”



(Reading and texts, Grade 9, Part 2 (2014) pp.
51-53. A question on p. 55 reads: “Who is the alien person in the
text?” and in an exercise on p. 56 the student is requested to choose a
given explanation to certain expressions, including the following one:
“the orange orchard = the robbed land”).


This poem elevates the demonization of the
Jewish-Israeli “other” in the eyes of the Palestinian student to a
level of existential threat. The logical consequence: One should fight such an
enemy; it is impossible to make peace with it.


Indoctrination to a Future War against Israel

Indeed, the schoolbooks issued by the PA, whether in
use by UNRWA or elsewhere, do not include even one word in support of a
peaceful solution to the conflict and a peaceful co-existence with Israel. There are statements in favor of peace in general, such as the one appearing in the
Palestinian Declaration of Independence, issued in Algiers in 1988. But the
only reference there to Israel is made in the context of the demand to end
Israeli occupation – without any explanation where it ends territorially.


Instead of support for peace and co-existence with
Israel, one finds in the PA schoolbooks used in UNRWA schools calls for a
violent struggle for the liberation of Palestine: “[Assignment:] I will bring
together the poetic lines and the feelings they express in the following
[examples]: ‘A morning of glory and red liberty watered by the martyrs’ blood…’
– ‘The hope for the liberation of Palestine.”

(Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 1
(2015) p. 12)


The national anthem of the PA is also used for this
purpose (excerpts): “…With my decisiveness, my fire, the volcano of my
revenge and my blood’s yearning to my land and my home – I climbed mountains
and went into struggle, defeated the impossible and smashed the shackles… With
the winds’ storm and the weapon’s fire, and my people’s resolution to go into
struggle, Palestine is my home, Palestine is my home, Palestine is my revenge
and the land of steadfastness.”

(National Education, Grade 1, Part 1 (2016) p.


Another song related to the youth movement of Al-Fatah
organization, the dominant body in the Ramallah-based PA government, stresses
that the liberation activity – “Revolution” in Al-Fatah’s parlance –
covers as well Israel’s territory within its pre-1967 borders (and it should be
remembered that the said organization itself started its operations before the
Six-Day War of 1967): “I am a lion cub [shibl – denoting a male
member of Al-Fatah youth movement], I am a flower [zahrah – denoting a
female member in that movement]. We have carried the revolution ember to Haifa, to Jaffa, to Al-Aqsa [Mosque], to the [Dome of the] Rock.”


(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 2, Part 1 (2016)
p. 42)


And more: “I swear: You shall return, my homeland;
daylight shall follow [the present] night” (Our Beautiful Language,
Grade 3, Part 1 (2014) p. 16), and also in the following poem (excerpts):
“I swear, O my homeland, I shall never forget Beisan [Beit Shean], Acre and Tiberias; shall I forget Lydda or Ramla? Shall I forget golden Jaffa? Shall I
forget [Sheikh Izz al-Din] al-Qassam’s Jenin? Shall I forget Arab


(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 3, Part 2 (2015)
p. 83)


Within this violent struggle for the liberation of Palestine – which includes Israel’s pre-67 territory – Islamic traditional values, namely,
holy war (Jihad), standing on guard against Islam’s enemies (Ribat)
and martyrdom (Shahadah) are utilized. An example of a Jihad-promoting
piece is presented by a poem titled “Palestine” (excerpts): “O,
my brother, the oppressors have exceeded [all] bounds and, therefore, Jihad and
sacrifice are necessary… Therefore, draw your sword from its sheath, because it
should be put in the sheath no more… Palestine, our chests defend you; it is
either life or destruction.”


(Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 1 (2015) p. 44)


Among the exercises accompanying this poem on page 45
is one where the student is requested to write “yes” or
“no” next to the following sentences: “- The poet thinks that it
is time for Jihad and sacrifice; – The poet thinks that the only way to
liberate Palestine is by Jihad”.


An example of the Ribat-promoting pieces in the
PA books used in UNRWA schools: “The Muslim who resides in Palestine,
guards its soil and defends it, is regarded as one who stands on guard [murabit]
in God’s cause and he deserves much reward from God” (Islamic Education,
Grade 5, Part 1 (2014) p. 74)


As for martyrdom, a poem titled “the Martyr”
in a grade 7 book glorifies martyrdom and describes death and blood colorfully.
Its last verse explicitly encourages the student to aspire for martyrdom.
Verses of this poem are used as language exercises in several other books


“I will carry my soul in my palm and toss it into
the abyss of destruction; [I would] either [have] a life that gladdens a friend
or a death that would enrage the enemies… By your life! I see my death, but I
hasten my steps toward it; I consider my death without my stolen right and
without my country as an aspired goal; hearing [weapons’] clash is pleasant to
my ear and the flow of blood gladdens my soul, as well as a body thrown upon
the ground, skirmished over by the desert predators; his blood covered the
earth in crimson and burdened with fragrance the eastern wind; he fell asleep
to dream the dream of eternity and there enjoy the prettiest sights [i.e., in
Paradise]; by your life! This is the death of men and whoever asks for a noble
death – here it is!”

 (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1 (2014)
p. 75)


Furthermore, martyrdom is seen as a wedding party:
“O, my homeland, I shall not cry in this wedding party [urs],
because our Arabness refuses that we mourn the martyrs”:


(Linguistic Sciences, Grade 8, Part 2 (2014) p. 60)


As regards terrorist activities within the liberation
struggle, they are not referred to in the PA schoolbooks used by UNRWA, except
for one case in which terrorist attacks against Israel by Palestinians based in
southern Lebanon are favorably described in a literature textbook. Following
are three excerpts: “Everyone knows that I am in the South [an explanatory
note clarifies: “the South: South Lebanon”]. I left the city [Amman]
and the family ten years ago in order to join the fighters”; “We in
the South are facing death any minute… youngsters such as Saleh [his killed
son] fall every day on the soil of the South”; and in a remark by the
textbook authors: “[the story]… describes the Palestinian struggle against
the occupation through the personality of Saleh’s father who moved away from
his personal crisis – taking revenge for his martyred son – to the wider cause
of the homeland’s freedom, by joining the Fedai activity.” (Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 1 (2015) pp. 28-35: The first quote is
taken from p. 30, the second one – from p. 33 and the third – from p. 34)


But if the PA schoolbooks usually refrain from
mentioning terrorist activities against Israel, those ones who perpetrate them
are praised and glorified. Fedai, a term taken from Islamic history and
denoting a fighter who is ready to sacrifice his life for a cause [fida’
= sacrifice], is the title given to members of the Palestinian armed
organizations responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli
civilians. The fida’is are glorified, including within the PA national
anthem sung in school: “Fidai, fidai, fidai, O my
country, the country of [our] forefathers; fidai, fidai, fidai,
O my people, the people of eternity; …I shall live as a fidai, and
continue as a fidai, and die as a fidai until it [my country]

(National Education, Grade 1, Part 2 (2015) p.


The killed fida’is earn the title shahid
(martyr) and are revered, as revealed by the following language exercise:
“Those who were present rose in honor of the martyrs” (Our
Beautiful Language
, Grade 6, Part 1 (2014) p. 89). Those imprisoned are
called “prisoners of war” and are also honored, as can be seen in
another language exercise: “I will express orally my delight following the
release of one of my homeland’s prisoners-of-war” (Reading and Texts,
Grade 8, Part 1 (2015) p. 27)


“The Right of Return”

This issue constitutes an essential element in
Palestinian education and an integral part of the perceived struggle for
liberation. The PA schoolbooks, including those ones in UNRWA use, emphasize
the “right” of those Arabs who left, or were expelled from their
places of residence in Mandatory Palestine during the 1948 war or afterwards –
some 6-8 hundred thousand people – to return and reclaim their property in
full. Most of them are no longer alive, bearing in mind the seventy or so years
that have since passed. But that “right” is constantly transferred to
their descendants – whose number reaches several millions today – through their
registration as “refugees” by the UNRWA administration, contrary to
the treatment of all other refugees in the world who lose the refugee status in
their new places of residence. Moreover, UNRWA strives to gather the
descendants of those refugees in so-called “refugee camps” scattered
in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and prevents their
rehabilitation outside those camps. This way, UNRWA perpetuates their state of
poverty and misery for generations, contrary to any humane logic. The issue of
“the Right of Return” has also a grave and immediate impact on the
conflict: We have seen that the PA schoolbooks ignore the 7 million Jewish
inhabitants of the country, while they count the several million Palestinians
outside the country as its legitimate inhabitants. Thus, the
“illegitimate” Jews should leave in order to leave room for the
return of the “legitimate” outsiders. In other words, the return of
the “refugees” is equal to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.


The “Right of return” issue is found in the
books in various forms: direct didactic information, stories, language
exercises, poems, charts, photographs and illustrations, and even in
mathematical contexts. Following are few examples: “The Zionist terrorist
organizations forced thousands of Palestinians to go into exile [away] from
their land, under threat of arms, which caused the emergence of the refugee
problem” (National Education, Grade 7 (2013) p. 21); language
exercise: “It is the Palestinian refugee’s right to return to his
homeland” (National and Social Upbringing, Grade 4, Part 1 (2016)
p. 40); “The camp is not considered the Palestinian refugee’s original
domicile. Rather, it is a temporary place where he has been forced to live. All
Palestinians wait for the return of each Palestinian to his city or village he
was forced to leave.”


(Islamic Education, Grade 6, Part 1 (2015) p.


The poems dealing with this subject in the books add to
it the emotional dimension, stress its inevitability and add an additional
characteristic missing in other forms of discussion of this topic – the violent
character of the return. Following are excerpts taken from a poem titled
“We Shall Return”: “…Tomorrow we shall return and the ages will
listen to the footfalls during the return; we shall return with the thundering
storms, with the sacred lightning and the shooting star, with the winged hope
and the poems, with the soaring vulture and the eagle; indeed, thousands of
victims shall return; the victims of oppression shall open every door” (Our
Beautiful Language
, Grade 7, Part 1 (2014) p. 28).


And more forcefully in the poem titled “We Are
Returning”: “Returning, Returning, we are returning; borders shall
not exist, nor citadels and fortresses; call out, O those who have left: ‘We
are returning!’ Returning to the places of residence, to the valleys, to the
mountains, under the flags of glory, Jihad and struggle, in blood, sacrifice,
fraternity and loyalty; we are returning; [we are] returning, O hills,
returning, O heights, returning to childhood, returning to youth, to the Jihad
in the heights, to the harvest in the country; we are returning.”

(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, Part 1 (2015)
p. 50)



From the material reviewed here it becomes clear beyond
any doubt that the schoolbooks issued by the PA – with substantial European
financial support – do not educate for peace with Israel. Rather, the opposite
is true. The scope of de-legitimization and demonization of the Jewish-Israeli
“other” is so wide that a state of peace with it is inconceivable in
the students’ eyes. Indeed, there is no call for peace with Israel in the books. Rather, emphasis is put on preparing the students conceptually and
emotionally for a future war for the liquidation of Israel, with the supportive
use of traditional Islamic values (Jihad, Ribat, martyrdom) and the
“Right of Return” argument. The only flexibility seen in the books is
that, instead of explicitly talking about the elimination of Israel, they use the vague term “liberating Palestine from Israeli occupation”, while
stating clearly that the said occupation includes Israel’s pre-1967


In view of this situation, it is clear to any
intelligent person that no peaceful solution to the conflict is possible,
either presently, or in the future, without total change of this line of
thought, which the PA has been systematically inculcating into its students for
over twenty years by now.


But it seems that such a change is not coming. On the
contrary, the survey of the new twenty schoolbooks issued by the PA in the
summer of 2016 – this time, so it seems, without a restraining European
financing – has revealed that the PA didactic approach in this field has been
intensified. These books contain some new material that appears to be more extreme,
compared to former books. Stressing that Israel’s pre-67 territory is an
integral part of sovereign Palestine is part of this intensified approach. One
example of that is an assignment appearing twice, in which the student is
required to color a map of the country in its entirety in the colors of the
Palestinian flag (Islamic Education, Grade 2, Part 1 (2016) p. 4; National
, Grade 2, Part 1 (2016) p. 10). Another example is a poem portraying
cities in pre-1967 Israel as targets for liberation (Our Beautiful Language,
Grade 2, Part 1 (2016) p. 42). Even the “separation wall” has been
transformed in one of these books from a mere obstacle impeding Palestinian
free movement in the West Bank into a barrier preventing the Palestinians living
there from reaching the territories inside Israel from which they were
separated in 1948, such as Mount Carmel and Jezreel Valley seen in the picture

  (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 4, Part 1 (2016) pp. 32-33 and
the accompanying story pp. 34-35).


In addition, Tel Aviv, having been formerly considered
a city established by Jewish settlers and, accordingly, not shown on the map,
now appears on a map with an Arabic name (Mathematics, Grade 1, Part 1
(2016) p.143), possibly insinuating a newly developed Palestinian myth that
depicts Tel Aviv as an occupied Arab city. The book itself does not say that,
but such a myth is found on the Internet.


Another phenomenon in the new books of 2016 is
strengthening the violent character of the struggle for liberation. That is
done by introducing, for the first time, the tougher parts of the PA national
anthem, while a former book gives its somewhat milder part only (and compare National
, Grade 1, Part 1 (2016) p. 95 to National Education, Grade
1, Part 2 (2015) p. 59).


Finally, the authors’ preface to the 2016 textbooks of National
and Social Upbringing
for grades 3 and 4 refers, for the first time, to the
role of these particular books vis-à-vis the occupation: “This book is
intended to build and strengthen the set of values and nationalism among the
younger generation of our sons the students… in order to withstand the various
challenges imposed by the occupation that oppresses our land and uses various
means in order to continue its hegemony and control over our fate and resources
and liquidate all the local, regional and international efforts aiming at
liberation, construction and the establishment of the Palestinian state with
Jerusalem as its capital.”

(National and Social Upbringing, Grades 3, 4,
Part 1 (2016) page unnumbered)


The intensification of the PA line, if proven real by further
review of additional books to be published in due course, will make it much
more difficult to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict in the future.


But, while the demand for a change in the PA attitude
is intertwined within the peace process and very much dependent on the
political circumstances prevailing between the two parties to the conflict,
UNRWA’s situation is quite different. UNRWA is an international body and, as
such, it is not a party to the conflict and should adhere to the UN principles
of resolving the conflict peacefully. Consequently, it is unthinkable that
schools operated by this organization would teach texts that glorify a violent
struggle and call for Jihad against Israel. Especially so, when such a struggle
is not restricted to territories that might be considered occupied on the
global level, but rather covers territories recognized internationally as
belonging to sovereign Israel. UNRWA is also obliged, as a UN agency, to avoid
a situation in which a UN member state, such as Israel, would be presented as
illegitimate to students in its schools, whether in texts or on maps. A
textbook not showing Israel on a map should not enter UNRWA’s schools in the
first place! Even if Israel itself lets such books be taught in schools in East Jerusalem under its own sovereignty, due to political and other considerations, UNRWA
does not have that privilege, because, as an international organization, it is
not supposed to pursue political goals.


Beyond these issues, there is the professional aspect
of UNRWA’s educational mission, where it clearly fails by adopting questionable
didactic contents, to say the least, such as texts fabricating a Canaanite
origin for the Palestinians or falsifying a historical document (the Mandatory
stamp) within the PA de-legitimization campaign against the Jews.


Much worse is UNRWA’s betrayal of its moral obligation
towards its students’ well being, as it lets into its schools textbooks that
educate the children to war against the State of Israel, thus endangering their
very future.  


UNRWA should, therefore, check and revise the books used
in its schools. It is expected that the democratic donor states financing
UNRWA’s educational activity would demand just that. There are things UNRWA
should not teach!



Dr. Arnon Groiss – Professional Background


Dr. Arnon Groiss is a retired Arabic-language
journalist from the Voice of Israel Arabic Radio where he worked for 42 years
beginning in 1973. He is also an expert on Middle Eastern affairs having earned
his Ph.D. degree from Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern
Studies, as well as an MPA degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of
Government. Dr. Groiss taught for several years at the Hebrew University in the 1990s and 2000s. Between the years 2000-2010 Dr. Groiss served as chief
researcher and, later, as Director of Research at the Institute for Monitoring
Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE, formerly known as
the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace – CMIP), a non-political NGO
committed to studying the attitude to the “other” and to peace in the
Israeli and in other Middle Eastern curricula. During his work there Dr. Groiss
studied hundreds of textbooks of various school subjects and authored over ten
reports on Palestinian, Egyptian, Syrian, Saudi Arabian, Iranian and Tunisian
schoolbooks. The reports are available on the Institute’s Web site A summary of his
research of this subject is to be found in “De-legitimization of Israel in
Palestinian Authority Schoolbooks”, published in Israel Affairs,
Vol. 18 (2012), Issue 3, pp. 455-484, where he compares the PA schoolbooks with
other Arab and Middle Eastern ones, including their Israeli counterparts. Dr.
Groiss has presented his findings since 2000 to policy makers, fellow
researchers and people of the press on numerous occasions in various places,
including the US Congress, the European Parliament, the UK House of Commons,
the Israeli Knesset, the Canadian Parliament, the French Assemblée nationale
and elsewhere.  On the basis of his experience in this field, Dr. Groiss was
appointed as a member of the Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) of the
Palestinian-Israeli Schoolbook Research Project commissioned by the Council of
Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL). The project was funded by the
US State Department and ended in February 2013. Dr. Groiss’ evaluation paper of
this research project is to be found at


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