In September, 2000, Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti Defamation League(ADL), led a delegation of donors to dedicate a new ADL office in Jerusalem, and then meet with parties to the sensitive negotiations that continue between the Israeli gov’t and the Palestinian Authority.
Foxman brought the delegation to meet Yassir Arafat, inviting a select group of journalists and photographers to witness the session.
Since ADL had been assured by Arafat in April 1999 that Arafat would initiate a new curriculum, I wondered how ADL would confront Arafat with the fact that the new school books that have just been published for the first time by the PA and introduced to the first and sixth grade still continue to prepare Palestinian pupils for war with Israel.
Our news agency had indeed purchased a set of these texts from the PA curriculum center in El Birah, and we’ve begun to peruse them.
In the Palestinian sixth grade civics text, you see the picture of the Hamas icon, Izzadin Al Khassam, eulogized as the ultimate Palestinian folk hero. Jaffa and Acre are described as occupied lands that must be recovered. Jews are mentioned as a target for scorn in Islam. According to the new Palestinian texts, not only does Israel not exist – no Jews even live there, while all natural resources belong to the Arab nation.
Yet when Foxman led the delegation to meet Arafat, Yediot Aharonot reported that they held a lively discussion of the peace process. ADL delegation members told me that the discussion with Arafat did not mention Palestinian education. At the conclusion of the session, Abe Foxman handed Arafat a letter about the school books. Although Foxman and the ADL staff had never seen, perused nor studied the new PA school books, Foxman wrote Arafat that “we are encouraged by reports that the new textbooks do not have incendiary anti-Israel or anti-Jewish passages. However, we are disappointed that the textbooks appear to do nothing to educate Palestinian children on the peace process, the existence of the state of Israel, or promote tolerance between Palestinians and Israelis…Indeed, the maps of the region do not designate the state of Israel”
ADL had apparently relied on misleading “reports” which had stated that the new schoolbooks were be devoid of anti-Israel and anti Jewish passages.
ADL’s lack of desire to examine or peruse the schoolbooks of the PA is not new.
Each year, the annual survey of worldwide anti-semitism that is funded by the ADL has been devoid of any study of the schoolbooks of the Palestinian Authority, even though the schoolbooks have always been made available to the ADL for review.
Yet even without school books at hand, Foxman could have raised other aspects of Palestinian education with Arafat, such as the “educational summer camps” of the Palestinian Authority that were held this summer for 25,000 youngsters, which the New York Times on August 3rd reported as nothing less than a training ground for young Palestinian terrorists.
Foxman could have used the Arafat meeting to question the daily call for liberation of all of Palestine and all of Jerusalem that is communicated on the official media of the Palestine Broadcasting Corportation, a media outlet that is under the direct control of Arafat.
Instead, Foxman used the meeting with Arafat to inform the Israeli public that American Jewish leaders had found Arafat to be a “healthy, stark, alert and ready” for negotiations with Israel, as Foxman portrayed Arafat to Yediot on Sept. 21st.
Before departing from Israel on September 25th, Foxman was invited to speak from the rostrum of the Knesset forum on Antisemitism, where he declared that “no true peace can come until Arabs in their education are innoculated against anti-semitism.
In that light, I asked Foxman why ADL staff would conduct a study of the new books of the Palestinian Authority, and why the ADL had never included them in its studies on anti-semitism. He responded by saying that that he stood by his letter to Arafat, saying that Arafat’s new books were a step in the right direction. I then asked him how he could say that if he had never seen the books, which I took out from my briefcase to show him. Foxman shrugged his shoulders.
Abe Foxman went on to say that the older schoolbooks in the Palestinian Authority were published by Egypt and Jordan, noting that Israel had never objected to the Jordanian and egyptian schoolbooks. Foxman apparently forgot that Israel had censored the anti-Israel passages in these books until the PA took over in 1994 and reinstated them.
Foxman also neglected to mention that these books remain in the curriculum of the Palestinian Authority school system, with their persistent calls for Jihad and their constant description of Israel as a Nazi entity.
Meanwhile, the ADL website section on PA anti-semitism has not been updated in two years. Why?
The writer is the bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency