Arnon Groiss1

www.impact-se.org

29 October 2009

In the final report on the PA schoolbooks issued by IMPACT-SE in March 2008

under the title “Palestinian Textbooks: From Arafat to Abbas and Hamas” we checked

the attitude reflected in these books to the “other,” Jews and Israel in particular, and to

peace, especially within the Middle Eastern conflict. We reached the conclusion that

the fundamentals of the Palestinian Authority schoolbooks regarding these issues:

– Delegitimize the Jewish and Israeli “other” by denying the historical and

religious presence of Jews in Palestine and non-recognition of the State of

Israel

– Demonize the “other” by ascribing dubious and nefarious characteristics to

Jews (never portrayed as individuals) and the State of Israel

– Present a biased view of the Middle Eastern conflict by assigning Israel

exclusive blame and absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility for it.

– Stress the ideal of a violent struggle of liberation rather than advocating the

ideal of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The said report discerned some changes in that attitude for the better following PA

Chairman Arafat’s death in November 2004 and the ascendancy of Mahmud Abbas to

power, as well as a reversal of that development following the formation of the

Hamas-led PA government in early 2006. Nevertheless, all in all, the PA seven-year

schoolbook publishing project was described as dissatisfactory in this respect. Hope

was then raised that the situation would improve through the mechanism of

schoolbook reprinting which began in 2007.

Now, a year and a half later, we can sum up the reprinting process up to this point,

taking into account a relatively large number of books that have undergone some

change. Indeed, in three cases a term or even a whole quotation, brought forth in our

said report as proof of a Palestinian negative attitude, no longer exists in the books.

Thus, a book for grade 11 which described Jewish immigration to Palestine in modern

1 Dr. Arnon Groiss is Director of Research at IMPACT-SE. The bulk of the update research was

conducted by Mr. Ido Mizrahi, a researcher at the Institute. IMPACT-SE is a registered nonprofit, nonpartisan

research institute dedicated to peacemaking between peoples and nations by encouraging

acceptance of the “other” and rejection of violent conflict resolution. To this end, it analyzes school

curricula in the Middle East and worldwide to ascertain whether the material conforms to international

educational standards in the fields of education for tolerance and peace, whether the “other” is

recognized and accepted or stereotyped and demonized, and, if a conflict exists, whether peaceful

conflict resolution is advocated. This is done using strict academic research criteria, based on

UNESCO resolutions and declarations. The findings of its research are published and used to affect

change in curricula through policy makers, international organizations, civil society and public opinion.

2

times as “infiltration” has been removed from the curriculum,2 probably for serious

didactic reasons and not necessarily because of this description. In two other cases,

poetic verses expressing readiness to fight and self-sacrifice were omitted in the 2009

reprints.3

Other cases of omission included some statements which expressed hatred, of which

the most noted one is a poetic verse saying “They think out of their transgression that

the Euphrates [River] is theirs and the Nile [River] and the noble Kaaba are their

borders.”4 A case in point is Islamic Education textbook for grade 12 of which the

2009 edition omitted several pieces such as a reference to the precept of befriending

Muslims and alienating oneself from non-Muslims and criticism of “Orientalists”

(that is, Western scholars of Muslim civilization).5

But this is only part of the overall picture and by no means does it reflect a significant

shift in attitude. In fact, one can discern in the reprints a relatively “balanced” pattern

of changes in both directions, which leaves the core fundamentals unaltered.

Examples:

A text, which mentioned in 2002 the three monotheistic faiths in relation to the

land of Palestine and was followed by a question in which the student was

requested to name them, omitted in 2009 both the word “three” and the

question.6

An exercise, which employed the terms “mosque,” “church” and “synagogue”

in a book published in 2004, dropped the synagogue in 2009 and replaced it

with another term denoting a mosque.7 This case and the former indicate a

growing tendency, which is also reflected in the media, to play down the role

of Judaism in the history of Palestine.

Short references to events related to ancient Jewish history in Palestine have

also been omitted in 2009.8

A poem has been added to a reprint which talks about loyalty to Jerusalem

against those who “sneak” into it, which questions the legitimacy of Jews as

that city’s inhabitants.9

Several additions of demonizing descriptions of Israelis such as “the

occupation has deprived the children of Palestine of happiness and smiles.”10

2 The Palestinian Society – Demographic Education, Grade 11 (2000). The quotation appeared on p.

21 (p. 4 in our report).

3 Our Beautiful Language, Grade 1, Part 1 (2000) p. 132 (p. 10 in our report); Arabic Language –

Linguistic Sciences, Grade 12 (2006) p. 85 (p. 16 in our report)

4 Arabic Language – Linguistic Sciences, Grade 12 (2007) p. 80 – omitted in the 2009 reprint p. 74

5 Compare Islamic Education, Grade 12 (2006) pp. 64, 116-117, respectively, to the 2009 reprint of the

same book.

6 Our Beautiful Language, Grade 3, Part 1 (2002) pp. 14-15; ibid (2009) pp. 10-11

7 Our Beautiful Language, Grade 4, Part 1 (2004) p.17; ibid (2009) p. 14

8 History of the Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5 (2004) p. 19: Queen of Seba’s visit to Jerusalem; ibid,

p. 46: Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign against Jerusalem in 586 BCE

9 Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part 2 (2009) p. 19, and see also other references to the city of

Jerusalem as exclusively Arab since the days of its “Arab” founders, with no mentioning of the Jews’

national and religious connection to it throughout history in Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part 2

(2008) pp. 14-17.

10 Arabic Language – Linguistic Sciences, Grade 12 (2009) p. 46, and see also Civic Education, Grade

6 (2009) pp. 52 (“the [Israeli] settlements exemplify the logic of force”), 55 (“What is it that enables

Israel to pollute the [Palestinian] environment?”)

3

There are several cases of addition of belligerent statements to the

schoolbooks in reprints.11

Martyrdom and martyrs are again mentioned in language exercises.12

Although a language exercise which included the sentence “I swear that I shall

continue acting on the path of the martyrs” was also omitted,13 another piece

was introduced in another book saying: “…the Palestinian mothers have

become unlike all other mothers in this world and continue for the sixth

decade to bury their children with trilling cries of joy!…the Palestinian

fathers continue to bury their sons calmly and promise to give the rest!…the

Palestinian of whatever age, religion, gender and affiliation becomes a martyr

project!”14

In conclusion, although positive changes have occurred in the reprinted books during

the last two years, they still do not amount to forming a clear departure from the

above-mentioned Palestinian negative fundamentals regarding the attitude to the

Jewish and Israeli “other” and to peaceful resolution of the Middle Eastern conflict.

11 “Thousands of victims shall return; the victims of oppression shall open every door” Our Beautiful

Language, Grade 7, Part 1 (2007) p. 37; “It seems to me that a treacherous dagger will dig in my back”

Linguistics Sciences, Grade 8, Part 1 (2009) p. 29; “Say to those who cry for home out of love that

battles do not want weeping” Arabic Language – Linguistic Sciences, Grade 12 (2009) p. 31, and see

also the Intifada poem in Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part 1 (2009) pp. 51-52.

12 Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 1 (2008) p. 144; Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 2 (2008) pp.

117, 187

13 Arabic Language – Linguistic Sciences, Grade 12 (2006) pp. 81, 85 – omitted in the 2009 reprint.

14 Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 2 (2008) p. 67

3 COMMENTS

  1. mendacity is an unknown concept in Arab poliikticak discourse.
    Reality and the :truth" about reality has no room in their vocabularies,
    It is procisely that admixture of realiy and fantasy in their vocabuklary that Goldstone and others before him fell victim to. amongdst otgher egrfgious error.
    .

  2. To the authors:

    Are these textbooks published by or based upon the books originally published under the auspices of UNRWA? If so, what precise role does UNRWA play?

  3. The answer to HMB is that these books are published under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority and used in UNRWA Schools, Fatah oriented PA schools, Hamas oriented schools and Arab schools in Jerusalem.

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