I would like to share my thoughts and concerns about the Text Book Study in the light of the recent exchanges between Arnon and the Research Team, and my own notes to you in the last few months.
As I told you I could not make it on Monday owing to my having to testify in a toxic tort case in Beersheva. But I look forward to meeting you before you get on the plane.
What are we committed to?
We want educational environments and texts which promote the core values of life and respect for life of all, notably the other. Incitement in all its forms undermines these values because it leads to terror, political violence, atrocity crimes and genocide. If we can prevent incitement we may be able to prevent much of the above. Because incitement is man-made, it can be eradicated. Therefore the long term goal is the eradication of incitement, especially when directed to children. The other long term goal is the promotion of positive measures of life and respect for life and dignity.
Recommendation: Let’s keep our eye on the ball. We want texts which promote sanctification of life and live and let live, not death and martyrdom from killing the other. We want to promote the former and rid the texts of the latter.
What has the Textbook Project accomplished?
It as shown the feasibility of using quantitative methods (sampling, a prior defined variables and categories) for ascertaining whether texts promote or undermine these values. This is a major accomplishment, and the team –all the members, and especially the coders–should be congratulated for carrlying out such a.difficult effort. BUT We have to be certain we are not mismeasuring or missing incitement -as Pearson and Spearman mismeasured and nissed IQ. More fundamentally we have to be certain that we do not allow preconceived concepts to distort what we report,and observe–or not report and not observe-, and to ensure that observation is not distorted by interpretation–i.e. sliding down the slippery slope.
What are the Limitations?: Questions remain concerning definitions of the variables, how they are classified and measured, what materials are included and excluded, and whether there may be biases and distortions associated with all of the above.
Recommendation: These must be addressed.
What did the Study not examine? It did not examine the content of the overall formal educational environment of children-summer camps, youth movements, children’s educational TV, and in the case of the PA or Palestine, and the parallel to the Israeli ultra orthodox educational system.
Recommendation: The Report’s executive summary should explicitly note these limitations and exclusions, commit to addressing them and call for extending the monitoring to these environments.
What modifications are necessary before the Report can be endorsed? Do its methods measure what they seek to measure?–Or in more technical language, what are the sensitivity and specificity of the screening tools? Do they measure or mismeasure incitement?
The study uses the term delegitimize to lump together statements which dehumanize, demonize, defame and delegitimize-a term which conventionally means denying or ignoring the existence of the other. The first three are much worse. Does such lumping fail to “capture” the first three of the above? (Would Mein Kampf be classified as a bad case of delegitimization, along with leaving out X on the map)
Recommendation: Reexamine text passages described as delegitimizing to see whether they contain elements of the first four D’s. This reexamination requires experts more senior than the coders. Use search words -e.g.snake,venom,etc etc to help do this. See Gross’s studies.
How should the Study deal with statements taken from ancient texts, including the Bible and Koran?
Not scoring inflammatory statements taken from ancient texts (including the Bible and Koran) against “infidels” and so on is a fundamental omission. Teaching historical stories or legends -especially from theological sources-which incite or dehumanize. To demonize or delegitimize is a classic stratagem for avoiding being criticized for doing so in contemporary sources.
Recommendation: The study should revisit these excerpts. It should determine whether the presentation in the school texts is descriptive, normative or critical. These texts should be critiqued in the light of core values of respect for life and so on. This applies to how textbooks teach and contextualize genocidal passages in the Bible and Koran.
Do the Textbooks cite classical texts which promote what is now called Positive Deviance-i.e. positive measures?
Wasatia has collected many such examples.
Recommendation: Examine the ratio of positive to negative classical citations
Does the Textbook study capture motifs captured or not captured by “hands on” peer reviewed reviews?
- Do cross examination to assess agreement, disagreement and errors of omission and commission in the study and the Hands-on Review.
- Require the study to include a structured critical review of prior knowledge.
- Discuss how this study confirms, or hardens or modifies previous impressions.
- See what is missing in the Textbook study which other studies capture and vice versa.
- Members of the SAP should be asked to participate in this review-with additional peer reviewers.
Is it valid to automatically classify passages as “negative” when they accurately describe actions of the other-especially violent acts-are bad?
E.g. Hebron Massacre in 1929 and Deir Yassin in 1948. Doing so is one more example of sliding down the slippery slope to moral equivalence.
Recommendation: Task an Israeli and Palestinian historian-along with philosophers/theologians with knowledge on Just War theory to review whether descriptions of “bad” events or actions are true.
Problem: Lumping Palestinian and UO as equally negative fails to capture a fundamental qualitative yes-no difference between the two concerning glorification and implicit imitation of those engaged in acts aimed at willfully killing civilians-those who attack wedding ceremonies, schools, buses, bar mitzvahs, pizza parlors as martyrs.
Many excerpts in Palestinian texts describe perpetrators of terror as shahids, i.e. worthy of emulation. Ultra-orthodox texts describe victims of terror as kadosh. They do not describe the perpetrators as kadosh.
Recommendation: Scan the texts for use of the term martyrs and determine how and why they are presented as models for emulation.
Errors of omission: How does the Study address the central role of the Mufti in allying Palestinian society and the Arab world with the Nazis, Eichmann and the goals of the Holocaust (6,000,000 killed)? Here the example of Israeli state texts on how they teach Deir Yassin (109 killed, not including 25 captured soldiers who were executed), is an exemplary role model.
Recommendation: The Commission should explicitly endorse the use of Professor Dajani’s textbook in Arabic on the Holocaust to rectify this omission-although the introductions by a European political scientist and by Asmi Bashara are very problematic.
Problem; The treatment of what are called Narratives? Does the Study give a pass to Narratives whose motifs and messages defy established historical facts? Are they used to bypass universal core values of respect for life, UNESCO standards, which should be the values guiding the study –i.e.as an instrument of demonization, disinformation and delegitimization. Do Narratives promote moral equivalence?
Recommendation: Critically Examine the content of all so called narratives for factual accuracy and the values they project.
Conclusion: In peer review terms, I would say the Study, requires reanalysis and major revisions along the lines I suggest. After addressing these limitations, the study design and methods could be extended to the entire educational environment far and wide throughout the region, from Tunisia to Pakistan. (See chapter) Incitement and hate language are pandemic in the region. I for one would certainly like to be involved in both.
This is an open letter. Open discussion is good. have always believed that public health is for the public.
Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH
Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine
POB 12272 Jerusalem Israel