Palestinian schoolchildren studying at the UNRWA Gaza Elementary School in Gaza City in 2010. IRIN/Creative Commons
Palestinian schoolchildren studying at the UNRWA Gaza Elementary School in Gaza City in 2010. IRIN/Creative

Soon after the Oslo peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel was signed 24 years ago, the two sides set up a committee to review Palestinian textbooks, known for their virulently anti-Semitic description of Jews. The thinking was that peace can only come about when each of the two societies viewed the other with respect, if not political agreement, and stopped preaching hatred and violence, as the Palestinian texts and media did.

Little came of those efforts, though there were assurances that future Palestinian textbooks would reflect a change. Now comes a thorough and thoroughly devastating report on a new generation of Palestinian textbooks used in schools throughout the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. Based on their attitudes toward “de-legitimization and demonization” of Israel and “indoctrination to violent struggle instead of peace,” the 44 new texts, going back to the summer of 2016, are in some ways worse than the old ones.

In a meeting at our office last week, Arnon Groiss, a retired Israeli journalist and scholar of Mideast studies who has researched Mideast schoolbooks and published dozens of reports on them since 2000, told us the more recent PA texts distort history and leave no hope for peaceful coexistence. He and Ronni Shaked, a professor at Hebrew University with expertise on Palestinian society and its views of the Mideast conflict, prepared a detailed 230-page report published by the Center for Near East Policy Research, funded in part by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Groiss, who has studied, translated and analyzed more than100 PA texts, found that the new ones expressed “non-recognition” of Jews having rights in their ancient homeland. Attachment to the land was described as “greedy ambitions,” and Zionism as a colonialist movement and an aspect of Western imperialism. Israel does not appear on maps, the word “Jews” is replaced with “Zionists,” and Jews are demonized as enemies of Islam’s prophets and accused of massacres of Palestinian children.

The report concludes that the new textbooks “emphasize more than their predecessors that Israel’s pre-1967 territory is an integral part of sovereign Palestine, and further increase the intensification of the liberation struggle.”

By contrast, Groiss has found that Israeli textbooks treat individual Palestinians and Arabs with respect and include self-criticism of Israeli actions in warfare.

The United Nations should be called out on using the PA-published textbooks, which defy the spirit of educating for peace and coexistence toward “the other,” ascribed to by both UNESCO (the UN agency for education, science and culture) and UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for the 1948 war and its refugees).

Pro-Israel activists on the issue are hopeful that Portugal’s Antonio Guterres, who became UN secretary-general in January and is seen as more concerned about UN bias toward Israel than his recent predecessors, may take action. Meantime, Washington should continue to press the UN, as Ambassador Nikki Haley has until now, on addressing its blatant anti-Semitism, with the new PA textbooks a prime example.

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