This week, President Bush, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, announced that the U.S. government will renew funding for “humanitarian needs” of the Palestinian Authority, on the assumption, as Bush emphasized, that this aid will bolster the “moderate” elements of the Palestinian Authority.
One of those “humanitarian” needs involved funding the schools of the Palestinian Authority.
The question remains, however, whether the U.S. government should consider schools of the Palestinian Authority as one of those “moderate” elements that should once again be funded by the U.S. government.
Indeed, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told this reporter that, following the death of PLO leader and founder Yassir Arafat in November 2004, one of the clear promises made by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was that he would introduce textbooks that would promote peace and tolerance. When Rep. Sherman and 34 other congressmen confronted Abbas during his trip to Washington in May 2005 with the crass anti-Semitic incitement that was then being taught in the Palestinian schools, Abbas’ defense was that these school books were published before he was elected leader of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005, and he promised to make improvements.
Now, two years later, new PA textbooks for 11th and 12th grade have been published, and the first books published during Abbas’ reign hardly educate for peace with Israel.
Instead they promote the ideal of a violent struggle against Israel.
Dr. Arnon Groiss, who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Princeton University, and who serves as a senior researcher for the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, www.edume.org, translated these new schoolbooks and was recently invited to make a presentation for the European Parliament in Brussels, because of the EU member funding for the Palestinian Authority school system.
Dr. Groiss reported that the new PA schoolbooks teach the following values:
* Jews are foreigners and have no rights whatsoever in Palestine. * The Jews have a dubious and even murderous character. * Israel is an illegitimate usurper who occupied Palestine in 1948 and 1967. * Israel is the source of all kinds of evil done to the Palestinians. * Peace with Israel based on reconciliation is never sought. * A violent struggle for liberation is encouraged instead. * The exact area to be liberated is never restricted to the West Bank and Gaza alone. * Jihad and martyrdom are glorified and terrorist activities against Israel are implicitly encouraged. * The West is imperialist, aspires to world hegemony, directs a cultural attack against Islam and supports Israel. Groiss note that the PA schoolbooks teach the students that Palestine and Jerusalem has been Arab since antiquity, on account of the ancient Canaanites and Jebusites who are presented as Arabs. All others, including the Jews, were foreign invaders with no legitimate rights in the country.
In these new Palestinian schoolbooks, which were produced by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, not by the Hamas, Jewish holy places in the country are not recognized.
Instead, they are presented as Muslim holy places usurped by the Jews. Groiss points out that the Jewish holy place of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem is renamed “Bilal bin Rabbah Mosque” in 2001, while in 1996 it was still called “Rachel’s Dome” in another textbook. We are witnessing here a new myth in the making.
In his presentation, Groiss brought up numerous examples of how the new Palestinian textbooks teach that Israel is solely responsible for the conflict and the Palestinians are Israel’s victims. The Arab armed opposition to the U.N. Partition Resolution of 1947 is not mentioned, nor is the invasion of seven Arab armies on the day that Israel declared independence in 1948.
Groiss assembled a list of 25 accusations against Israel that appear in the Palestinian school books, which include the following:
* Israel contributes to Palestinian social ills and family violence * Israel causes the increase of drug abuse cases in Palestinian society * Israel pollutes the Palestinian environment * Israel usurps Muslim and Christian holy places * Israel strives to obliterate the Palestinian national identity and heritage
The books also glorify those who kill Jews and achieve martyrdom; one book reads: “… The flow of blood gladdens my soul, as well as a body thrown upon the ground, skirmished over by the desert predators.” In other cases, martyrdom is described as a wedding party.
These new Palestinian schoolbooks thus obliterate Israel as a sovereign state, present it as an enemy that one should fight to the end.
In other words, in Grioss’ words, “they teach war rather than peace.” The question that the Bush administration must now cope with is whether or not to fund the Palestinian war curriculum in the framework of “humanitarian” gestures for “moderate” elements in the Palestinian milieu.
This article appeared in the June 20th edition of the Philadelphia Bulletin, June 20th, 2007