Over the past three years, the Center for Near East Policy Research headed by journalist David Bedein conducted three comprehensive studies of all Palestinian Authority school textbooks used by the UN Relief and Works Agency, the PA and Hamas schools.
These studies, delivered to the Office of the UN Secretary General, were carried out by Dr. Arnon Groiss, published by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, and funded in part by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The studies documented that the Palestinian educational system systematically “delegitimizes Israel’s right to exist, demonizes Jews and indoctrinates for war” rather than engaging in meaningful peace education.
This remains the case even though Israeli legislation that has governed the Civil Administration since the 1967 Six-Day War requires that Israel check every schoolbook used in territories under its control. Despite the law, since the Palestinian Authority inaugurated its own curriculum in August 2000, no Israeli government has enforced this oversight clause of the Israel Civil Administration Law.
Do any of the political parties running for Knesset plan on changing this? I contacted most of the parties running in the election. Their responses follow:
Labor-Gesher and Otzma Yehudit did not reply to my request for an interview.
The press spokesman for Blue and White refused to comment on this issue on the record. When I asked for a comment from party leader Benny Gantz at the Tel Aviv International Salon, his press spokesman maintained that policy and refused to answer.
Shas did not consider the incitement in the Palestinian schoolbooks to be an important election issue: “We won’t talk about that. There is an order of priorities.”
The press spokesman for the Democratic Union also did not reply to a request for an interview, so I asked Democratic Union head Nitzan Horowitz to comment on the subject at the Tel Aviv International Salon.
Horowitz replied that Israeli inspection of the Palestinian schoolbooks was not the only aspect of the Oslo Accords that had not been implemented and that many outstanding issues of contention remained between the sides: “What about the settlements? What about the checkpoints? What about the occupation?” He argued that it had been 26 years since the Oslo Accords were signed and there was still no two-state solution: “There are many problems and not just that.”
One woman in the audience was greatly dissatisfied with Horowitz’s answer. She asked what he had to say about the fact that Israel does not even exist in Palestinian textbooks. Horowitz replied that there was “no Palestine in Israeli schoolbooks, either.” At that point, many in the audience became enraged. One person expressed dismay that, when given the opportunity to do so, Horowitz refused to criticize the Palestinian side for not educating for peace. Horowitz responded: “I denounce every incident of incitement. I am just trying to put things into perspective. There are not only schoolbooks.”
The press spokesman for Yisrael Beytenu said he did not consider Palestinian textbooks to be an election issue, but “we must check into this. This is a very important issue. We agree that we must change this.”
The Likud press spokesman did not offer a suggestion on how to improve the Palestinian textbooks, but instead declared, “Our response is to build, build and build more. That is basically our response. They incite and they come to destroy and we come to build. The prime minister recently announced that he will apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. By applying Israeli sovereignty, the Jewish communities in the heart of our homeland will remain in Israel. All of the areas where sovereignty will be applied will be under the Israeli school system.”
The press spokesman for Yamina agreed that every school located in annexed areas should use the Israeli curriculum. But unlike Likud, Yamina aimed to eventually annex all of Judea and Samaria – a view confirmed by Naftali Bennett at the Tel Aviv International Salon. Yamina would solve the textbook problem by putting all Palestinian schools in Judea and Samaria under Israel’s Education Ministry, but offered no practical solution to the problem of extending citizenship and truly integrating almost 3 million Palestinian residents, against their will, into Israel.