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Palestinian Education: What is the lesson?


Is the Palestinian Authority teaching kids to hate? And if so, are they really learning to hate? And if so, what lessons should we draw from it?

Palestinian Media Watch (PM) incitement watchers Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook tell us:
If you want to know whatís really at the heart of the Palestinian conflict with Israel, ....[g]o to Palestinian children.

They note numerous instances of incitement in Palestinian education., such as youths as saying on PNA TV:
"We must expel all Israelis from Palestine. Because Israel - there is nothing called 'Israel' in the world. The Israelis [came] from Holland, America, Iran."

Marcus and Crook continue:
...years of anti-Israel indoctrination have been alarmingly effective in teaching ... that the overriding goal of the next generation ... should be to eliminate Israel.

Elsewhere, Marcus and Crook claim:

Palestinian society actively promotes the religious belief that their deity craves their deaths. Note the words of a popular music video directed at children, broadcast hundreds of times on PA TV, which depicts the earth thirsting for the blood of children: "How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids, how sweet is the scent of the earth, its thirst quenched by the gush of blood, flowing from the youthful body."

Marcus has been following Palestinian incitement as a negotiator under the Nethanyahu government, as Director of the Palestine Media Watch (PMW) and in studies of Palestinian textbooks carried out by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP).
Marcus and Crook's article implies two separate questions: "Are Palestinian kids being educated to hate?" and "Is destruction of Israel the goal of the Palestinians?"
Some would minimize the problems in Palestinian education. Veteran San Francisco dialogue activist Lionel Traubman writes:

"Where do persistent reports of incitement in Palestinian textbooks come from?" asks Nathan Brown, a Jewish professor of political science at George Washington University.
"Virtually all can be traced back to the work of .. the 'Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace,'" ... Those involved "rely on misleading and tendentious reports to support their claim of incitement," writes Brown, in a 2001 report delivered at Israelís Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace.

Brown's study, conducted several years ago, was limited to the new Palestinian textbooks, issued to replace the old, and much worse, Jordanian texts that had been in use. Not all the new texts were complete then. CMIP published a revised report based on Marcus's original work, that confirmed serious problems in the texts and teachers guides in use in 2001.

However, the problem of incitement is obviously not limited to texts, and even regarding the texts, conclusions similar to those of Marcus and CMIP were reached in a 2002 report by Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) noted problems as well, despite some laudable efforts to teach peace and coexistence, also cited in the CMIP and MEMRI studies. These are systematic and scholarly works, not "anecdotal" or " based on the statements of a few people," as Traubman alleges. We cannot ignore repeated urgings to martyrdom, admiration of a hero who "irrigated the land with his pure blood" and maps and exercises that show Haifa and Acco as Palestinian cities.
Television programs that show children eager for martyrdom reinforce the same message.

Textbooks and TV programs do not give a complete picture of education. Children don't necessarily believe everything they learn in school, and hate or love can be transmitted in the home and in the street as well. In a society where media and education are manipulated by the government, citizens tend to ignore the government messages. Seventy years of Soviet education did not turn all Russians into incorrigible haters of the USA, and over 30 years of Baathist bumf didn't make Iraqi Shi'ites and Kurds into Saddam Hussein enthusiasts. A PNA negotiator, confronted with Marcus's evidence of incitement in official Palestinian media said, "I didn't know about this. You have to watch Palestinian Media. I don't." Palestinian houses sport antenna dishes, and everyone agrees that the most watched TV channels are Al-Jazeera and other non-Palestinian sources. Individual Palestinians have also complained out from time to time against suicide bombings and violence, and in private, I have never met a Palestinian who endorses the violent, bloodthirsty messages seen on PA TV.

However, we can see the results of this education in the wave of violence that has engulfed us, in continuing (though waning) Palestinian support for suicide bombings, which are still supported by about half the respondents, in dioramas of suicide bombings proudly exhibited by college students, 17 year old suicide bombers, and 7 and 8 year old children sent on scouting missions for terror attacks.

Regrettably, we must conclude that there are serious problems in Palestinian education. Despite doubts we might have as to whether particular statements are incitement, and despite the pitfalls of methodology in understanding a complex question such as education, there cannot be much doubt about the overall picture. That doesn't justify the second conclusion often drawn from the work of Marcus, namely, that the quest for peace is hopeless, or that there is no justice at all in Palestinian claims against Israel.

We can all agree with Marcus and Crook when they write that anti-incitement clauses must be included in any future treaties. However, such clauses would be meaningless if they are really right that according to Palestinians "the overriding goal of the next generation ... should be to eliminate Israel" and "The essence of the conflict is Israelís very right to exist ó not the question of borders or refugees."

Education and media in Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries feature rhetoric that is worse, if anything, than the Palestinian incitement. Everyone agrees that the texts which the Palestinian texts replaced were much worse than the current ones, and those texts are still in use in Jordan. Attempts to remove references to Jihad and martyrdom from Jordanian texts and those in other Arab countries are meeting stiff resistance. Egyptian media popularize the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Holocaust denial and the classic blood libel. Nonetheless, we have peace, however imperfect, with Egypt and Jordan, and we must hope and work for peace with the Palestinians and all Arab countries. The sane reality of peace must one day overcome the insane rhetoric of violence.

Ami Isseroff

PS: Those who still believe there is no problem should consider the case of the 14 year old would-be suicide bombers.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000192.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 3 comments

The government of canada gives it'self a lot of praise for the millions of dollars it give to the terrorist pa for the editing & printing of school books.

Posted by Dov Koret @ 02/21/2004 03:09 AM CST

A person / nation without a history has no future. If the history a nation teaches its children is a partial representation of the actual events then that nation will be condemned to repeat them until it brings itself to address its own past. Also unless reality is recognised it cannot be addressed, and the potential of the nation will be simply wasted.
So long as the Palestinians and other Arab nations teach their children that Isrealis and Jews are somehow diabolically different then peace will never be attained. How can the Palestinians expect engage appropriately with Isrealis if they do not recognise the reality of Israelis?
Further if Palestinian society places in the mind of its children the primary and possibly exclusive objective of asserting Palestinian control over Israel, then the Palestinian will never be able to live as neighbours to Israel. It is perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for unilaterally pulling-out of the OT's and building a continuous wall all along the 1949 green line, thus permanently separating Israel and Palestine.
Further one is compelled to question why Palestinian society should apply such emphasis upon such an unobtainable goal, when so many more attainable and productive goals exist. Building a stable and open society free of violence, with equal rights enshrined in law would be something worth promoting.
That Palestinian society does not do this is indicative of the degree to which it is committed to the establishment of a permanent peace with Israel. It suggests that there are few if any real drivers for the Palestinians to address their internal priorities and work for them. If the Palestinian leadership had any wit, they would realise that a stable egalitarian democratic and populous Palestine could easily emasculate Israel without the need of arms. The way to destroy Israel is to demonstrate that the basic Zionist argument, for a safe homeland for Jews, is unnecessary. Every obscenely racist schoolbook and every bomb simply reinforces Zionism.
This situation regarding the school books will never change until Palestinian parents have the courage to reject them for their children, and demand an education rather than some perverted brainwashing.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 02/25/2004 09:37 PM CST

There is nothing wrong with the existence of jihad and martyrdom in the Palestinian textbooks. Jihad does not mean suicide bombing, and martyrs are not those who kill innocents. Jihad and martyrdom are Islamic concepts, just as the duty of the Muslim combatants to protect civilian life. This duty, in the words of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), extends all the way to the animals and plants.

Those Jews who chose commiting suicide over Roman yoke at Masada are called martyrs.

The Palestinians, just like every other nation, have the right to honor their heroes as martyrs. This should not be mixed with the unfortunate fact that they are crippled by the Israeli occupation to such a degree that they cannot produce peace-making heroes, instead of suicide bombers.

Posted by Shawkat Zaim-oghlu @ 02/27/2004 11:37 PM CST

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