OpinionMiddle East

For any chance at peace, the Palestinian education system must be overhauled

The U.S. peace plan calls for Palestinian education reform, and the context cannot be ignored; 20 years of research show that the PLO has transformed Palestinian schools into a tool of war against Israel.

Palestinian Authority textbooks. Credit: Matzav.com.
Palestinian Authority textbooks. Credit: Matzav.com.
David Bedein
David Bedein
David Bedein is director of the Nahum Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research.

The U.S. “Peace to Prosperity” plan presented by U.S. President Donald Trump proposes unprecedented criteria for the formation of a Palestinian state. Among them is this one: “The Palestinians shall have ended all programs, including school curricula and textbooks, that serve to incite or promote hatred or antagonism towards its neighbors, or which compensate or incentivize criminal or violent activity.”

The context of this directive cannot be ignored; our 20 years of research show that the PLO has transformed Palestinian schools into a tool of war against Israel.

Just last month the PLO issued a textbook dedicated to Dalal Mughrabi, who commandeered an Israeli bus in 1978 and murdered 38 Jews, including 13 children. Four pages about Dalal present her as a role model for fifth graders to emulate.

According to Dr. Arnon Groiss, who translates these school books, “The contents of Palestinian education are exactly the opposite of any peace plan.” The P.A. textbooks used in all schools of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as in some schools in Jerusalem, says Groiss, are based on three fundamentals:

1) Delegitimization of Israel’s existence and the very presence of Jews in the country, including a denial of Jewish history there and the very existence of any Jewish holy places, which are portrayed as Muslim holy places taken over by Jews.

2) Demonization of Israel, which is depicted as the root of all evil and solely responsible for the conflict, while the Palestinians are presented as the ultimate victim. Jews are described as racist colonialists that harbor genocidal intentions towards the Palestinians, and are portrayed as enemies of Islam.

3) Calls for the violent “liberation of Palestine,” including Israel’s pre-1967 territories, which are described as Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. This indoctrination is enhanced by the addition of religious notions such as jihad, martyrdom and the need to “liberate” the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This transforms the national conflict into a religious one, distancing prospects for peace. Terrorism and the perceived “right of return” are presented part and parcel of the liberation struggle, and there are hints in the books at the eventual extermination of all the Jews residing in the country.

The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry’s entire curriculum is based on indoctrination to war.

Here are some clear guidelines for an overhaul of the Palestinian curriculum:

Avoid delegitimization of the State of Israel and of the Jewish presence in the country

• Maps that show today’s boundaries should at least mark Israel’s pre-1967 territory as “Israel”. Such a territory must not be left un-named and certainly not be named “Palestine”, as that constitutes a distortion of the situation on the ground.

• Israel should be presented as a sovereign state in every text.

• Every reference to a region or site within Israel’s pre-1967 lines must not describe such as Palestinian-under-occupation.

• Discussions of the Holy Places in the country should refer to the Jewish holy places alongside the Muslim and Christian ones. Reference to a place which happens to be sacred to Jews  (such as the Western Wall, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem) should state that fact.

• Discussion of demography should include the number of Jews living there (nearly 7 million in 2019). Maps that show cities should include the Jewish cities as well under their Hebrew names (such as Tel Aviv, Ashdod, etc.).

• The books should not describe Israel’s pre-1967 territory as “occupied Palestine,” nor use terms like  “the lands of 48,” “the Interior” instead of  “Israeli territory.”

Avoid demonization of Israel and Jews

• Schoolbooks must not demonize Israel and/or Jews, or dehumanize them, or describe then in any manner that goes beyond presenting Israel and/or the Jews as an adversary with its own rights, interests and positions. Jews should not be presented as enemies of Islam. It is desirable that neutral and objective material be added to the books with regard to subjects including Israeli government structure, economy, science and technology, Hebrew culture and Jewish history.

• P.A. school books studied in UNRWA schools should include self-criticism (i.e., the rejection of proposals for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the massacre of unarmed Jewish neighbors, etc.)

Advocate peaceful solutions instead of violent struggle, jihad and martyrdom 

• Books taught in UNRWA schools should emphasize that peace and coexistence is a strategic choice and that negotiations are the way to achieve a solution to any conflict.

• The books should refrain from presenting violence as a means of conflict resolution.

• Islamic terms such as jihad and martyrdom should be mentioned only in their historic context, and not as a goal to pursue.

• Any discussion of the nakba (“catastrophe,” meaning the creation of Israel) should stress that it was the result of a war initiated by the Arabs, contrary to what is claimed today in new P.A. books.

• The “right of return” should be presented as the PLO position regarding “the refugee issue,” while any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be achieved in negotiations on the basis of mutual agreement only.

The “peace to prosperity” plan of action would put an end to such activity.

Full disclosure: Besides examining school books used by P.A. schools, the Center for Near East Policy Research has researched and filmed the conduct of full-fledged paramilitary training in UNRWA educational facilities over the past decade.

David Bedein is the director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.
The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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