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
– 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.
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
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.
• 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
• 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
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?”)
• 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
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.
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