PMW has an important comment on the latest generation of Palestinian school books and the way that certain peace groups process the material therein. A thirty-five page report from PMW has led Hilary Clinton to condemn the books, but now a “peace” group — Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (BTS) — has written to Clinton urging her to reconsider, to see these books as committed to democracy and a peaceful solution.
Nothing describes better how differently people from the PCP world process the same data as people from the HJP. For the latter, the material is catastrophic and part of the warmongering ideology that has so contributed to the current “cycle of violence”; for the former, the material is an improvement, moving in the right direction, committed to civic values like peace and democracy. It’s not clear what BTS’s remarks are based on, so we’ll have to see how this shakes out, but right now, the evidence suggests that the people with their eyes open are at PMW.
As for agendas, are the folks at Brit Tzedek v’Shalom naive enough to think that they don’t color their assessment of these materials with their agenda? Or do they think we’re too stupid to notice? I would actually argue that the abysmally low expectations that the people at BTS have for the Palestinians — okay so they deny Jewish history… but they’re for democracy — is part of the racism of low expectations.
At the end of their article, Marcus and Crook throw down the gauntlet to Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. Let’s hope they respond.
Feb. 24, 2007 21:34 | Updated Feb. 24, 2007 21:41
Supporting peace education in the PA?
By ITAMAR MARCUS AND BARBARA CROOK
Anyone who hopes for peace should be horrified by the content of the latest set of Palestinian schoolbooks. In many respects, these new books for Grade 12, written by Fatah-appointed Palestinian educators, are the worst of the textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authority since 2000.
These newest books deny Israel’s right to exist, anticipate its destruction and define the conflict with Israel as religious, not merely territorial.
As we point out in our latest report “From Nationalist Battle to Religious Conflict,” the ideological divide between Fatah and Hamas appears to be disappearing.
Hamas has always defined its war with Israel as religious and existential, and now that is what all Palestinian children will learn in school: “Ribat for Allah is one of the actions related to jihad for Allah, and it means: Being found in areas where there is a struggle between Muslims and their enemies. The endurance of Palestine’s people on their land these days… is one of the greatest of the Ribat.” (Islamic Education, grade 12, p. 86-87)
THE PALESTINIAN conflict with Israel is a unique and eternal ribat with a special Islamic destiny: “The reason for this preference [of the Palestinian Ribat] is that the momentous battles in Islamic history took place on its land.” As to when there will be peace with Israel? Never, according to the schoolbooks: “[Palestine’s] residents are in a constant struggle with their enemies, and they are found in Ribat until Resurrection Day.”
Israel’s right to exist is denied and Israel’s founding is called a theft: “Palestine’s war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, their lands and their houses, and established the State of Israel” (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p. 104). Israel is called: “the Zionist entity,” and “Zionist Enemy.” Israel’s existence since 1948 is an “occupation” (ibid pp. 104, 122).
The conflict will eventually end – not with peace, but with Israel’s destruction, effected by Palestinians of all ages and abilities: “Palestine will be liberated by its men, its women, its young and its elderly” (Arabic Language and the Science of Language, grade 12, p. 44).
THE BOOKS anticipate this future destruction of Israel by painting a picture for the Palestinian child of a world in which Israel already does not exist. The place of Israel is marked as “Palestine” on all maps, and “Palestine” is defined as a dawla – the Arabic word for “state,” not a geographical region.
This “state” is said to have water access to both the Mediterranean and the Red seas, a situation possible only in a world without Israel. (Physical Geography and Human Geography, grade 12, p. 105)
Likewise, the size of “Palestine,” the “state,” is said to be more than 10,000 sq. km., a situation possible only if Israel does not exist, since the West Bank and Gaza Strip together total only 6,220 sq. km.
Because Israel has no right to exist, and must be fought and destroyed for Islam, violence and terror against Israel since its founding are justified and glorified as muqawama, resistance: “The tragedy of Palestine of 1948… and afterward the muqawama in which the inhabitants carried acts of most glorious heroism and sacrifice” (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Commentary, grade 12 p. 105).
THE WORLD cringed in horror at the Iranian Holocaust denial conference. But the new PA schoolbooks teach World War II without the Holocaust. There are extensive details about the history of the war, lessons about the Nazi “race theory” and even mention of “an international court to bring to trial the senior Nazi leaders as war criminals.” (The History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century, grade 12, p. 46).
However, the books fail to mention why the Nazis were on trial, or that their “race theory” involved elimination of Jews and other minorities.
It is clear that the newest PA schoolbooks are a tragic recipe for incessant war. Israel is presented as an illegitimate enemy to be hated, fought and destroyed. Even the most well-meaning student is left with no justification or religious option to accept Israel as a neighbor to live beside in peace.
THEREFORE, anyone who is truly interested in peace and peace education should be appalled by these new books, repudiate this hate material and demand that the books be discontinued and rewritten. US Senator Hillary Clinton said earlier this month that this curriculum, together with PA media targeting children, “basically, profoundly poisons the mind of these children” and that these books are “an indoctrination,” not an education.
But an American Jewish group, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom-Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace has rushed to defend these hate-filled schoolbooks. As reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the group wrote Clinton urging her to “re-examine claims that the Palestinian schoolbooks indoctrinate hate.” The group argued that the books encourage “a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” and are better than those used in most of the Arab world because they “endorse democracy.”
This superficial defense of PA books, compared to the fully-documented, 35-page PMW report, with its line-by-line descriptions of hate education, leaves us with the strong impression that no one from the group has actually read either the schoolbooks or our report. If so, the group’s eagerness to defend these new texts is irresponsible.
We just find it hard to believe that Brit Tzedek v’Shalom has actually studied these grade 12 textbooks and is seriously endorsing an educational curriculum that denies Israel’s right to exist, justifies terror and promises an eternal religious battle for Israel’s destruction, knowingly defending incitement to murder.
TRAGICALLY, the Palestinian Authority will exploit this Jewish group’s ill-considered approval of its new texts. Can Brit Tzedek v’Shalom be so blindly determined to champion the Palestinian cause that it will defend even the indefensible? In the past, groups such as Brit Tzedek v’Shalom created sufficient uncertainty about PA hate-education to ease international pressure on Palestinian leaders to pursue peace education.
Our challenge to Brit Tzedek v’Shalom: If you are as dedicated to peace as we are, you have a moral obligation to publicly retract your defense of the PA-sanctioned books described above and demand instead that the authority pursue peace education.
Marcus is director and Crook associate director of Palestinian Media Watch.