- Saperstein: No matter who is chosen as the new leader of the Palestinian people, as long as children are taught to hate, the chance to achieve a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians will remain elusive.
WASHINGTON, January 7, 2005 In anticipation of the upcoming Palestinian elections, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement calling upon the newly elected Palestinian leader to immediately address anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian textbooks:
As the Palestinian people prepare for presidential elections and, we pray, a new era of democracy and peace, we reiterate our longstanding concern regarding anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian classrooms. Even the most optimistic short-term improvements toward peaceful coexistence cannot succeed if hatred and ill-will is inculcated in Palestinian children. For this reason, we cannot stay silent when children learn senseless hatred and incitement to murderous violence in Palestinian schools and call on whomever is elected President to address this issue immediately.
Recent studies of Palestinian textbooks conducted by responsible groups across the political spectrum in Israel, such as the Israel Resource News Agency and the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), show that negative characterizations of Israelis as imperialists and colonialists with no historical connection to the land of Israel continue to plague the Palestinian education system. A study released by IPCRI in November 2004, finds that it is not difficult to come to the understanding that the main political theme imparted to the students is that Israel should not exist and that is essential the Palestinian goal. Even more disturbing is the study s finding that one cannot but come to the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority is encouraging Jihad in the narrow sense of Holy War against Israel and against Jews. No matter who is chosen as the new leader of the Palestinian people, as long as children are taught to hate, the chance to achieve a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians will remain elusive. We cannot let the potential of this new era go unfulfilled.
Even at this promising moment, we remember that the breakdown of the Oslo process and the constant violence over the last four years have taught us that the pursuit of peace cannot lie exclusively with governments. It must emanate from all levels of society. Palestinian textbooks that plant seeds of hatred push the chances for peaceful coexistence and a two-state solution, the surest way to guarantee Israel s future as a Jewish and democratic state, further away.
We fervently hope and pray that the upcoming elections lead to the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership that acts forcefully and effectively in seeking to abolish terrorism and end expressions of hatred toward Jews and Israel in all aspects of Palestinian culture.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.
Contact: Alexis Rice or Dena Wigder 202.387.2800