- Schoolbooks indicate the values which a society wishes to inculcate in the minds of its younger generation.
- When they are published by the government, they indicate its long-run intentions.
- Hence the importance of schoolbook research in societies in conflict such as the one existing between Israel and the Palestinians.
- I have been researching the attitude to the conflict in Middle Eastern schoolbooks since 2000.
- The Palestinian Authority schoolbooks first appeared between 2000-2006 and again between 2016-2019. This is a summarizing presentation based on more than 350 schoolbooks. I have not yet fully accomplished the examination of the latest books published in 2019.
- These books are used in the PA territories, as well as in Gaza and in most schools in East Jerusalem. They are mandatory in all schools in these areas, including the private ones and those operated by UNRWA.
- From the very start, the PA schoolbooks have featured 3 fundamentals as far as the conflict was concerned: De-legitimization of both Israel’s existence and the very presence of the Jews in the country – including the denial of the existence of Jewish holy places there, demonization of both Israel and Jews, and advocacy of a violent struggle for liberation instead education to peace and coexistence.
- Substantial worsening of this attitude has been traced in the books that started to appear in 2016, both in deepening these fundamentals and in their expansion to scientific and technical school subjects on a larger scale than before.
- The teachers’ guides, which I studied in 2019, give a much wider perspective, not only of the said fundamentals, but on the actual indoctrination process, and they reveal a variety of means used in this context.
- Following are some examples:
De-legitimization of Israel’s Existence
- Israel is presented as an occupying state from its very beginning, established on the ruins of the Palestinian people in 1948, an event described by the term Nakbah – Catastrophe. That is a cardinal item in the PA indoctrination made to fit the students’ various ages [2,3].
- Israel’s pre-1967 territory is called “the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948” .
- Worsening: The name “Israel” has been replaced by the epithet “Zionist occupation”  contrary to former usage . Interpretation: Deepening of the former non-recognition of Israel and transforming of a concrete entity – Israel – into a mythical, all-evil, entity – Zionism.
- Palestine replaces Israel as the sovereign state in the region [7, 8, 9, 10].
De-legitimization of the Jews’ Presence in the Country
- Jews have no rights to the country whatsoever, but rather “greedy ambitions” .
- They are colonizing settlers [12, 13].
- Non-recognition of the legitimacy of the Jews’ presence in the country is expressed by the absence of Jewish cities from the map, or their appearance under Arabic names .
- Erasure of Hebrew as an official language in the country in history .
- Worsening: Denial of the Jewish past in the country , contrary to the usage in former schoolbooks .
- Denial of the Jews’ ties to Jerusalem [18, 19].
- Denial of the existence of Jewish holy places in the country [20, 21].
Demonization of Israel
- Any society in conflict demonizes the adversary society by its very presentation as an enemy and the narration of its past attacks. But if the schoolbooks also contain some objective information about the adversary society, with some recognition of its status, its members are described as ordinary human beings and there is some self-criticism of past actions done against the adversary society – then, the demonization is somewhat blurred.
- All that can be found in the Israeli schoolbooks in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians. It does not exist in the Palestinian schoolbooks. There, the Zionist adversary is wholly evil and constitutes an existential threat to the Palestinians who are depicted as the ultimate victim, who shares no responsibility whatsoever for the conflict.
- During the study of the Palestinian schoolbooks, over 40 accusations against Israel have been found, beginning in its very establishment on a usurped land, the massacre and expulsion of its inhabitants and the destruction of cities and villages, through murder of Palestinian children, assassination of Palestinian leaders, aggression, house demolition, uprooting trees, targeting various Palestinian economic branches, Palestinian heritage and vital services such as education and health, desecrating holy places, imposing siege and limiting free movement, arrests, torture and maiming, and ending in responsibility for drug abuse and in-family violence in Palestinian society. Following are few examples: [22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27].
- There are some de-humanizing expressions as well [28,29].
- The teachers’ guides enhance the demonization through assignments , repetitions of demonizing details in statements, questions and answers , emphasizing the cases of children in the conflict, and encouraging the creation of “appropriate” feelings vis-à-vis the demonizing items .
Demonization of Jews
- Within the context of the conflict, Zionists/Jews are presented as racist with genocidal intentions towards the Palestinians [33, 34, 35].
- A teacher’s guide reveals a trend of connecting massacres perpetrated by to Jewish religious thinking .
- The Jews are said to have expelled the Palestinian natives in what is described as “ethnic cleansing” .
- But Jews are demonized as well outside the context of the conflict, either as a corrupt nation in its essence, or as enemies of Islam from its early days [38, 39]. Such demonization is very powerful in a society that is mostly traditional and has direct impact on painting the conflict in religious colors, with detrimental effect on the issue of peace [40,41].
War Indoctrination instead of Peace Education
- With an enemy such as the one described here, peace is not an option. With such an enemy, a violent struggle should be waged until its total removal. The legitimacy for violence is religious – in the name of the defense of Islam and its holy places (Al-Aqsa Mosque), moral – due to the adversary’s inherent evil, legal – because the adversary is regarded as a foreign occupier against international law, and logical – since it constitutes an existential threat.
Absence of Peace Education
- Indeed, none of the PA schoolbooks includes a call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict or a mentioning of coexistence with Israel – contrary to the situation in Israeli schoolbooks as far as the conflict with the Palestinians is concerned. There are one or two expressions in favor of peace in general, but not in the context of the conflict. Even the description of the Oslo process, including Arafat’s letter to Rabin at the eve of the signature of the agreement in which he recognized Israel’s right of existence in peace and security and renounced terror, is not utilized for advocating peace and coexistence with Israel. In fact, the emphasis within the discussion of the Oslo Accords is on the return of thousands of Palestinians to the homeland and the establishment of the PA, rather than on its being a first step towards peace.
Education to Violent Struggle for Liberation
- The main item in this education is the PA official anthem titled “Fidai” .
- The struggle as it is presented to first graders .
Liberation of the whole country, not just the West Bank and Gaza
- It is not the 1967 territories but, rather, the country in its entirety that should be liberated. The anthem of Al-Fatah youth movement mentions the Revolution (i.e., the Al-Fatah activity which started in 1965) and Haifa and Jaffa , and the return of Jaffa is mentioned in a language exercise .
- In free Palestine there is no room for Israel .
- A revealing text in a draft textbook talks explicitly about the need to eliminate Israel, but it was carefully deleted in the final edition of the book .
Inserting Religious Elements into the Struggle
- Jihad and martyrdom, as well as the need to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque  are made part and parcel of the strugge. The presentation of the Jews as enemies of Islam serves this goal as well.
- A teacher’s guide clarifies the martyrdom indoctrination .
The Right of Return as Part of the Liberation
- The issue of the refugees is part and parcel of the curriculum, beginning in the description of the flight/expulsion, through the unbearable life in the refugee camps and the yearning to the former places of residence, and ending in the violent return to those places.
- Worsening: Emphasis on the return to liberated Palestine, rather than to Israel [50, 51, 52].
- A teacher’s guide reveals the powerful indoctrination in this respect .
Worsening: Terror as Part of the Struggle
- Terror – purposeful attack on civilians – is an integral part of the liberation struggle. It is implicit in the older books and explicit in the newer ones. Al-Fatah’s terrorist activity is exalted under the titles “revolution”, “resistance” and “self-sacrificing operations [amaliyyat fidaiyyah]” [54, 55, 56, 57].
- A teacher’s guide clarifies that the female terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who led a terrorist attack on an Israeli civilian bus in 1978 in which 37 were killed, including 13 children, has become a super-heroine, equal to Yasser Arafat and higher in status than Izz al-Din al-Qassam, the historic inspirational figure of Hamas terrorist organization .
- Emphasis is put on minute details in the case of Dalal, in order to entrench her memory in the students’ minds .
- Ideologically, an attempt is made to confront Western concept of terrorism by presenting that as resistance to occupation .
Worsening: Concrete Reference to the Adversary
- What should be done with the 6 million Jews after the liberation? Total extermination is hinted in a poem studied in class .
- The teacher’s guide reveals that this poem has a melody and the students sing it in class .
- The burning of Jews by Molotov Cocktails in a civil bus in the settlement of Psagot near Ramallah is described as a barbecue party .
- According to the PA schoolbooks, the conflict is a life-or-death struggle between two unequal parties. On the one hand, a native population, and, on the other hand, a mythical evil power – Zionism – represented by foreign settlers who try to create false evidence – historical and archaeological – in order to legitimize their false claim of belonging to the country. Their motive in their aggression is described as basically racist and genocidal.
- This foreign population occupied most of Palestine in 1948 and the rest of it in 1967, massacred the natives, expelled hundreds of thousands of them in what is depicted as “ethnic cleansing”, destroyed their houses and villages and settled there instead of them. That catastrophe – Nakbah in Palestinian parlance – had two results: the establishment of “the Zionist entity” on the land of Palestine and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. In order to put an end to the catastrophe and make Palestine free, both should be eliminated. Moreover, the PA vision includes not only the erasure of the State of Israel, but rather the “removal” of its six million Jewish citizens from the country.
- This is an ominous curriculum. It is clear from the material found in the schoolbooks, especially those ones that were published lately, and more so – from the teachers’ guides, that the PA prepares its school children for a total war against Israel and against the Jewish population in the country, with grave implications for the younger generations of both Jews and Palestinians.
- This kind of “education” should cease if it is aspired to solve the conflict peacefully.