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Press Versus Truth I: Incitement in Palestinian Texts: IHT Versus Reality


We all wish for the day when Palestinians and Israelis will live in peace and say only nice things about each other. The International Herald Tribune apparently thinks that wishing makes it so.

In an International Herald Tribune article entitled "Palestinian Textbooks: Where is all that Incitement?" Roger Avenstrup explains that in fact, there is no incitement, just a plot by Ariel Sharon.

Avenstrup writes:

Detailed analyses of the textbooks have been done by research institutes. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem commissioned studies from the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information IPCRI) , and in Europe the Georg Eckert Institute facilitated research...

The findings? It turns out that the original allegations were based on Egyptian or Jordanian textbooks and incorrect translations. Time and again, independently of each other, researchers find no incitement to hatred in the Palestinian textbooks.

[emphasis added]

But... The things that you're liable to read in the International Herald Tribune, they ain't necessarily so.

As it happens only a few days before the same IPCRI published a study of Palestinian text books. Their press release and report stated:

Until now, the Palestinian Authority text books have not provided evidence that the Palestinian Authority has been implementing a policy of peace making.

Palestinian text books have confused messages and it is not difficult to come to the understanding that the main political theme imparted to the students is that Israel should not exist and that is essentially the Palestinian goal. Assuming that this is not the political message that the Palestinian Authority adheres to, there is a need to make real revisions and amendments in the Palestinian text books.

As IPCRI is a joint Palestinian-Israeli group, the IPCRI report dealt with the problem of anti-Palestinian bias as well:

International and Israeli reports on Palestinian text books claim that the Palestinian educational system is one of the primary evidences of a lack of Palestinian political will to make real peace with Israel. The failure of the Palestinian text books to address issues such as recognizing the existence of Israel explicitly automatically raises these questions found in the various reports. It should be mentioned, that in our view, some of the reports and some of the motivation for writing the reports were part of the anti- Palestinian propaganda campaign waged by various right-wing Israeli and pro-Israeli groups, nevertheless, the substantive critiques with quotations and hard evidence cannot and should not be ignored by the Palestinian Authority as a mere anti-Palestinian propaganda campaign.

[emphasis added]

The IPCRI recommendations are based on two previous IPCRI reports ( http://www.ipcri.org/files/4&9report.pdf and http://www.ipcri.org/files/textbooks.pdf. These studies examined only the new Palestinian texts, not the older ones, some of which are apparently still in use. A few examples from these studies are illustrative. They note that Israeli cities and towns such as Acco (Acre), Jaffa, Haifa and many others are listed as Arab Palestinian towns in the new Palestinian texts, and there is almost no mention of Israel at all, except as "The Israeli Entity" and similar circumlocutions. The studies found no mention of Jews in Ancient Israel in Palestinian texts, but there were numerous references to "Arab" Canaanites and "Arab" Jebusites who supposedly founded towns such as Acre and Jerusalem. There were also frequent references to Jihad (Holy War) and martyrdom, including an apparent reference to the need to "liberate" all of Palestine. Hebrew writing on stamps of the British Mandate period was deliberately omitted.

It should be noted on the one hand, that these new Palestinian texts are far less problematic than the texts used in other Arab countries or the older texts, but on the other hand, that day to day incitement in Palestinian media may be much worse than the distortions in the texts. However, in this article, we are not trying to weigh the effects of Palestinian incitement, but only to point out that the International Herald Tribune grossly misrepresented the findings of IPCRI and probably those of several other groups. Avenstrup also ignored even less favorable reports from other groups such as the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), but at least, that was not a direct fib.

IPCRI went to great lengths to document the problems in new Palestinian texts. Nonetheless, Avenstrup and the International Herald Tribune chose to ignore them. It is hard to see how Roger Avenstrup and the IHT translated the clear indictment above into a clean bill of health, but they did. Avenstrup is touted by the IHT as "an international education consultant." Apparently, reading comprehension is not part of that job description.

It is not the first time that an article in a respected journal directly contradicts or ignores the facts. Usually, such fibs are defended on the grounds that "opinion" articles can take poetic license with facts. Caveat Lector - let the reader beware. Next time you read an article by an "expert," remember, "it ain't necessarily so."

Ami Isseroff

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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/00000320.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: 13 comments

Just a note on the textbook complaints; and just how much recognition do Israeli textbooks give to Palestinian existence?

Posted by Robert Rosenberg @ 12/23/2004 03:23 PM CST

In reply to Robert Rosenberg: In my reading of the report, I recall it noted that Israel had made strides in improving the manner in which the Palestinians and Palestinian national aspirations are presented to school children. I am entirely unaware that any Israeli government or government representative has suggested or asserted that neither the Palestinians or Muslims have any association with the region. Compare that with statements made in a UK TV interview with Yassir Arafat some months ago, and documents produced by the PLO / PNA.
In Sharons recent speech I heard him refer to the legitimate Palestinian national aspirations, which means that the leading representative of Israel acknowledges that they do indeed have a right to self-determination provided that this does not endanger the well-being of others.
Over the last 10 years the PNA has been required to demonstrate through its actions (i.e. the revisionof schoolbooks) that it does explicitly recognise the State of Israel and its right to exist. This is part of both 242 & Oslo. That they still are not able to do this suggests that the Palestinian nation still does not accept Israel and possibly seeks to attain its 1947 war aims in the future.
I have the uncomfortable feeling that Palestine is somewhat like Germany post WW1, where is seeks to blame someone else for its loss and clings to the idea that were it not for the influence of the "someone else", they should have won the war. If this is the case(& I hope it isn't) then we must all prepare for another war that the Palestinians will lose in devastating fashion.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 12/23/2004 09:28 PM CST

You should also make clear that IPCRI, like Avenstrup, concluded that "While there are many areas for improvement in the Palestinian text books, it can be said that these new text books do not incite against Israel or against peace."


Posted by John Allan @ 12/24/2004 01:41 AM CST

The issue of the schoolbooks is an important one as they are an officially sanctioned statement of the national perspective, and act as an effective barometer of the internal and actual Palestine stance. The Palestinian Authority has been tasked over the last decade to demonstrate two things:
1. That it eschews violence and the incitement to violence, and formally states that it is opposed to violence against Israel and Jews.
2. That it recognises Israel's right to exist.
It has been a constant criticism that the PA has failed to do these two things. The schoolbooks have been the litmus test of their position.
Whilst it is correct that the books no longer incite violence against Israel or Jews. It is not evident that they explicitly oppose violence. This affords teachers and others to expound such ideas to children knowing that they are not in conflict with the formal internal statements of their society.
The failure of the Palestinian Authority to identify Israel as a legitimate national state and neighbour in the schoolbooks is explicitly indicative that despite contrary statements to the international community, the Palestinian Authority does not recognise Israel's legitimacy. If it's internal statements concurred with its external statements then Israel would be depicted as a neighbouring state and as legitimate.
The current situation with the schoolbooks creates the situation where the Palestinian leadership leaves itself with the option to deny that it has ever recognised Israel and that future action against Israel with the objective of ending its existance is legitimate. As the schoolbooks must reflect actual Palestinian thinking, it is clear that the PA does not recognise Israel nor its right to exist and that its statements to the contrary are intentionally deceptive. It also means that there is no prospect that peace will ever be achieved.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 12/24/2004 12:10 PM CST

For me this issue of the schoolbooks is a kind of cruel joke. Israel is dispossesing palestinians of his land and installing ilegal settlers at a fast path never known before Oslo. Israel is building the fence-wall-obstacle kilometers inside the Green Line and devastating palestinians lands. The brutality in the controls is public and notorious. IDF raids on Palestinian areas are increasingly bloody (like the one in Jabaliya were very few Israeli soldiers were hurt because snipers shoted silouettes on windows causing an appalling toll of children and inocents dead). On the other hand, it has never been documented anything wrong about the the schoolbooks, only the typichal buzz. ¿You really thing the source for hate in Palestinian children is coming from the books? ¿You seriously rule out the posibiltiy of the children hostility towards Israel coming from seeing their fathers humiliated in the controls, there schoolmates shot down while at home and their grand fathers olive trees uprooted by caterpillars? ¿Why you keep insisting on this? Is time for peace and is time for truth so stop with schoolbooks, Arafat's wife corruption and the number of police services. The problem there are the settlers and the negative to offer anything in Jerusalmen. If we mus continue seeing violence for a couple of more generations do not blame schoolbooks ignoring settlers, controls and raids you can see daily if you connect TV.

Posted by Aleph @ 12/27/2004 03:22 PM CST

In truth despite what is said in the schoolbooks doesn't control everything. Other factors such as family and friends play a role in this.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 12/29/2004 12:19 AM CST

To Butros & Aleph:
You are both correct in asserting that events and contacts influence perceptions. However the issue of the schoolbooks is an important one.
How a nation state describes itself, its current situation and its relationship with the outside world in the form of its official schoolbooks is indicative of its actual stance. Thus there is legitimacy in Israel interpreting the absence of references to Israel and the Jewish associations with the region as being a fundamental negation by the PA of Israel's right to exist. Equally if the PA as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian nation continues to consider that Israel has no legal right to exist, then by extension any agreement with Israel is not binding upon the Palestinian nation. However this apparent stance is seemingly in conflict with statements made by various PA officials since the early 1990's.
In order for us to understand this we need to evaluate what possible motives the PA has in continuing to deny Israel's existance, and right to exist as a sovereign state. One explanation might be that the Nakhba is still so traumatic for the Palestinians that they cannot face the fact that they and their allies have lost all the wars against Israel, and so they prefer to ignore the fact by pretending that Israel does not exist. It may be that the PA is holding out on absolute recognition as a negotiating tool, believing that Israel so values recognition by the PA that it would foolish to squander it now whilst Israel is still occupying a large proportion of the territories. It might be that the PA leadership is too fearful of authorising the publication of standard texts which explicitly acknowledge Israel's existance, believing that if they did the "Arab Street" would rise up and overthrow them.
Or it may be that the Palestinians have no intention of ever actually recognising Israel and such negotiations that do occur are simply a ploy to end the occupation and provide a base for the PA military forces to launch a war.
However as recognition of Israel has been a central plank of Israeli position statements, it cannot have escaped the PA leadership that failure to recognise Israel would inherently undermine any peace negotiations.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 01/04/2005 11:18 PM CST


Posted by IZAAK @ 01/06/2005 02:06 PM CST

To Rod : The legal and formal representations of the palestinians have reconized Israelsince Oslo. I understand the importance of the shoolbooks but I cannot accept that when we are discussing why Israel did not follow neither Oslo nor the renegociations of Oslo, this issue arises. Israel must keep to the given word and if it does not, it is not fair to start moronic excuses such as the "we do not like palestinian schoolboks and they reflect the true position". Can someone tell what is going to be tought in the jewish ortodox schools with the money given to them to buy the support of the religious parties to Sharon? would someone accept this as a reason for palestinians to not accept 1967 frontiers? I thing that as "public opinion" we must stop eating each stupid excuse Israel puts. Very few people in Israel accepts 1967 frontiers and this is a big obstacle to peace, much bigger than schoolbooks. Settlers are the problem and the rest is smoke and mirrors to cover up while creating an irreversible situation. We have a responsability and we must be serious. So we must critize these books in proportion with all the other problems and not use it as an excuse to allow Israel to continue with its current policy : frontier on the fence, Abu Dis capital, settlers wherever they want to establish themselves (except Gaza) and right to vetoe the return of refugees to the Palestinian state outside Israel (if this abortion planned by Sharon can be called "state").

Posted by Aleph @ 01/07/2005 07:22 PM CST

To Aleph: You are correct in asserting that every aspect needs to be afforded it's appropriate degree of relevance. However I am not convinced that the Palestinian leadership is as committed to a two state solution as you suggest. It is my recollection that the alleged ratification of the recognition of Israel to took a long time to achieve after Oslo. I am concerned that a significent proportion of the Palestinian leadership regards the Oslo etc processes as a mean to an interim solution. In essence a return to pre-June 1967. I am also not convinced that the Palestinian leadership is capable of delivering peace. The achievement of peace must be predicated by the establishment of effective government that is capable of managing it's relationship with Israel and others.

The Palestinian political agenda appears, to me at least, to be focussed upon gaining control over territory rather than establishing administrative functions to prepare for control. The 242 solution of Land for Peace which successive Israeli governments generally followed took no account whatsoever of what would occur when the exchange had been carried out. There was some assumption that from formal recognition of Israel by all the belligerent states that normalisation of relations would then occur.
If we look at the success of Zionism, the Zionists in 1948 effectively had the means of administration and they formed the fabric of the society they served. Thus the progression to statehood was relatively smooth. Also the Zionists were committed to the subordination of the armed forces to the civilian government.

For the Palestinians the situation is almost exactly opposite. The current leadership is composed largely of a civilianised revolutionary military command. As in all situations like this the progression to civil government is fraught with difficulty, and there exists a tendency to return to militarism when the civilian approach fails to deliver results according to plan. The repeated outbreaks of violence are evidence of this.

Nothing to date that I have seen of the Palestinians gives me any confidence in their ability to live in peace with Israel in a way that will encourage Israel to establish and maintain normal inter-state relations. My feeling is that Palestinian society today is much like German society after WW1. Although it is painfully aware of the consequences of the conflict, it cannot bring itself to acknowledge its own active role in the creation of the conflict nor it's systemic failures during the conflict. Thus it seeks to apportion all culpability for its failure upon others. (Look at this sites attempt about 5 years ago to get both sides to acknowledge their own wrong doings.) I am deeply worried that this failure to acknowledged history and the current state will inevitably lead to another round of conflict. However should this occur it is likely that the consequences for the Palestinians will be absolutely catastrophic.

The Palestinians need to wake up to the fact that once the withdrawl from the Territories has been achieved that the future state of Palestine will be dependent upon the goodwill of Israel. PM Blair made it clear last year that although he percieved Israel had broken Int'l Law regarding the location of the fence, it remained entirely legal for Israel to close it's int'lly recognised borders to the Palestinians and others. Blair gave the very strong hint to Israel that he at least would block any EU attempt to pressure Israel to open it's borders if it chose to close them.

In my opinion Israel's best option at the moment is to withdraw unilaterally from the territories as fast as possible, and then invite the Palestinians to initiate state to state dialogue. Ultimately if the Palestinians choose not to recognise Isreal's right to exist then they have to live with the consequences of that. If they choose to launch cross-border attacks then as a state they will have initiated war, against which Israel would have the freedom to respond within the context of int'l law.
In regards to the settlers the Palestinians have inadvertently played into their hands, aided by Israel. Had the PA said to the settlers, "Stay as permanent residents or become citizens of the Palestinian State - We welcome your contribution", I believe most of them would have run away back to Israel. However the Palestinian objection to any or all Jews within their state drove forward the creation of the expatriality that the settlers now enjoy.

Apologies for length of this reply

Posted by Rod Davies @ 01/07/2005 10:11 PM CST

I have just finished reading, "The Disinherited" by Fawaz Turki and , "A Tale of Love and Darkness" by Amos os. Both are articulateadvocates for their seperate views. Will we ever know how many Arabs and Jews lives in Isreal during this century. I believed that the Arabs outnumbered the Jews by 3 to 1, but mush of the Jewish land was purchaced before their state was declared. There has beeen many conflicting reports by historians and the subject, for me, has been a problem

Posted by Ron Nelson @ 01/09/2005 07:27 PM CST

To Rod : Yesterday I was reading a philosophy of science book.The particular chapter I read was about the difference between "plausability" and "factual reality". The story Barak, Sandy Berger et al have put toghether and you explained in your note is fairly plausible but it is completely false. The true story is that before Oslo, Israel tryied to negociate with the representatives of the inhabitants of the territories (e.g. Ashrawi). They told Israel that they will only negociate "final status" and only as an application of the 242. Then Israel look for PLO and made a deal. PLO would accept the Berger's idea of "peace by slices" and Israel would give him the representation of the territories' inhabitants. This was what was done and the Asharawi kind of people accepted unhapily. Then Israel completely ignored Oslo and unleashed a great programme for populating Cisjordania. PLO fought against its own people when spontaneous riots and suicidal bombing planned by Hamas started, due to Israel attitude and Hamas strategy respectively. This erodes the PLO's position already weak. When PLO understood the mistake and were trying to come back to fight, Israel physically destroyed PLO (called at the time PNA). So it was the bad faith of Netanyahu what cause the situation not the inhability of former guerrilla fighters to set up a state or its allegded "fear to peace". As you keep saying. Mapai fought Stern in 1949. Mapai won because the armistice was mainly respected by Jordania who was the only one able (Arab Legion) to create true problems. What would have happened had Arab Legion forced hundreds of thousands of refugees inside the Green Line? I think Mapai would have lost their llegitimity and most jews would have joined Stern. So, yes PLO's people are shabby but Netaniahu&Sharon housing plan made its position untenable until they were forced to join resistance and thus be destroyed. I can't go into detail but I fully desagree with the idea that PLO thinks in 1967 frontiers as a "step" towards "throwing jews to the sea". Palestinians know as first person the degree of violence that Israel can unleash and they were ripe to accept an honourable deal that was never offered nor given. They were treasoned and cheated time and again. I think they still are willing to accept 1967 frontiers but it is not relevant because Israel is drunked of power and is going to impose their "Abu Dis capital and fence-frontier" plan with fire and blood.

Posted by Aleph @ 01/12/2005 01:19 PM CST

Aleph: It appears to me that you present a particularly one sided view of events that do not entirely accord with history. In my opinion neither Netanyahu or Sharon has enjoyed a better political advocate than Arafat and various other members of the PLO. Sharon & Netanyahu could with certainty rely upon Arafat to act in a way that would shift Israeli voter opinion away from supporting Oslo and other peace accords. My recollection is that the "peace bloc" in Israel accounted for almost 3/4's of the population up to the point where the PLO reverted to terrorism. From there on it has been a downward spiral.
Had the PLO set out with the objective of a establishing a modern civilian state which operated with transparency, I believe that the Rabin / Peres government would have managed to disengage the IDF from the territories. What no Israel government can allow is the creation of anarchy where the enemies of the state have freedom to operate, especially if the population of the nascent state of Palestine is to have access to Israel.
It needs to be borne in mind that both Israel and Palestine have breached Oslo.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 01/17/2005 10:47 AM CST

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