The new report of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, just released, represents the fifth time CMIP has done a review of textbooks used by the Palestinian Authority. In the early years of the PA, textbooks used were Jordanian in the West Bank and Egyptian in Gaza; these books (a carry over from the days when Jordan and Egypt occupied these respective areas) were twice reviewed by CMIP. In 2000 and 2001, the PA began publishing its own textbooks, for grades 1, 2, 6, 7, and 11. These were twice reviewed by CMIP as well. In 2002, the PA published texts for grades 3 and 8. With their release, 50% of the books used for Palestinian children are now published by the PA, and 50% are the old Jordanian and Egyptian books. This latest report reviews 35 books in various subjects.
The report is dated May 2003, although it was just released now. This is because there was a delay, as an attempt was made to meet with the PA Ministry of Education. The EU Commission in Jerusalem tried to organize this, but it appears it will not take place until September.
Earlier textbooks released by the PA had the emblem of the PA on the cover; now these books have an emblem for the “State of Palestine.”
The conclusion of this report is that there is no substantial improvement in the textbooks, in comparison to earlier textbooks. The criteria used for determining this are 8 main criteria from UNESCO, plus two criteria added by CMIP: image of the other and orientation to peace and co-existence.
- There is no improvement with regard to recognition of the Jews as a people with religious and historical ties to the land. Doesn’t give Jews right to religious holy places.
What is a minor improvement in this regard is a reference to Judaism as being a “heavenly” religion, which means monotheistic. But that’s it.
- There is no recognition of Israel as a State, and as a Jewish State. Israel is not listed on any map.
- There is negative stereotyping of Israel and increased demonization of Israel. Until now Israel was responsible for environmental problems, economy, etc. Now internal family violence is seen as the fault of Israelis as well.
- There is no mention of the Oslo agreements. No explanation of anything that was signed, or any commitments made.
- There is glorification of Jihad-which is represented as the Islamic view of war. There is praise for death.
The solution to the current problems is represented as being the liberation of Palestine and the return of every refugee. 25% of the time, liberation refers to the territories; 75% of the time, it refers to all of Israel since ’48.
The “right of return” is depicted as “a red line that cannot be crossed.”
There are some new, potentially positive elements; it is difficult to assess their significance. They may be an attempt to appease the international community, or may be a glimmer of softening of the previous stance.
- Jews are presented as believers of “two divine books,” i.e., Torah and psalms.
This positive is negated elsewhere by a denigration of Shabbat observance.
- There is one reference that seems to broaden the conception of tolerance: “compare the International Covenant on Human Rights with the Islamic conception.”
- There is a reference to pluralism at the start of Palestine, but it’s unclear whether Jews are included.
- The notions of peace and coexistence are referred to with the inclusion of the 1988 Declaration of Independence (in 1988 the PLO, from Algiers, declared a state).
- There is one statement rejecting terror. But elsewhere are several quotes approving it.
- There is one unique statement that life is better than death.
- There is previously a story told that Ben Tabet, an advisor to Muhammad, was told to learn the language of the Jews to avoid their trickery. Now the story is told that Ben Tabet was to learn the language of the Jews, but without a reason why.
- For the first time it is said that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions (the religions of heaven). No where is it explicitly stated that Jerusalem is holy to Jews; the student must extrapolate.
Question as to how these books compare with the older Jordanian and Egyptian books: Previously 12 very hostile statements were found in the Jordanian and Egyptian books; there are now five in the PA books. But the most offensive statements were in Jordanian and Egyptian books for grades 4 and 5, which are still being taught.
Conclusion: in the key parameters, at core, there is no change.
In response to question (by Arlene Kushner) regarding a recent more positive report on the textbooks by IPCRI (Israel Palestine Committee for Research and Information):
CMIP has analyzed the IPCRI report and will be publishing its findings. IPCRI raises a number of problematic issues but fails to draw any conclusions or seriously understates the depth of the problems.
IPCRI makes 85 references to the text but offers not one quote – just paraphrases.
Finds excuses for, or overlooks, or makes light of, lapses, e.g., as to why mention of Israel is omitted. In this instance, IPCRI refers to an “inadequate presentation,” but it’s not “inadequate” if there’s no mention, it’s nonexistent.
IPCRI makes no comment regarding such references as “Jewish infiltration to Palestine…” or the Balfour Declaration having awarded land to “one who doesn’t deserve it.”
The European Commission was instructed last year by the European Parliament not to fund PA textbooks if they incite. Though there are many who believe the IPCRI report will have the effect of releasing EU funds for PA books, Dr. Yochanan Manor, the director of the CMIP, thinks otherwise.
CMIP has met with Chris Patten of the European Commission and has been encouraged to prepare a proposal.