(September 30, 2020 / JNS) A Palestinian student in fourth grade opens his math book and is asked to count the number of martyrs in Palestinian uprisings based on an accompanying photograph of raised coffins at a mass funeral. A reading exercise with the letter “h” (hāʾ, ه) for first-graders includes the word shahid (“martyr”), placed in a list of other words that include hujum (“attack”) and harab (“run away”).
These are just some of the real examples taken from Palestinian textbooks used to teach children in schools run by the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, according to a recent study by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se).
IMPACT-se, a research and policy institute that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula through UNESCO-derived standards of peace and tolerance, has released an updated report on the new Palestinian school curriculum taught in P.A. and UNRWA schools in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem for the 2020-21 academic year and published in September 2020. The problem, according to the organization, is that these textbooks incite to terrorism and violence.
IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said “it is disastrous that over 1 million Palestinian children are condemned to yet another year of sitting in P.A. and UNRWA schoolrooms being fed hate and incitement on a daily basis.”
While the Palestinians have agreed to change the curriculum, they have yet to deliver on their promises.
P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Minister of Education Marwan Awartani both went on record stating that positive changes to the textbooks would be made. A Palestinian cabinet announcement in May approved a plan to make changes to the P.A. curriculum for the upcoming academic year. Three days later, it was presented at a meeting with donor nations in Ramallah.
But according to IMPACT-se, no substantive changes have been made to the new Palestinian curriculum, the textbooks remain openly anti-Semitic and continue to encourage violence, jihad and martyrdom, and peace is still not presented as preferred or even possible.
In fact, while IMPACT-se has identified 152 modifications in the remaining 40 newly revised Semester 1 textbooks, roughly 88 percent reflect adjustments that simply keep the problematic material intact or made it worse.
These types of findings are not new. Previous IMPACT-se studies have found incitement in Palestinian textbooks and a 2010 study funded by the U.S. State Department and carried out by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, also found incitement in Palestinian textbooks.
The main findings of the report show that this year’s textbooks promote anti-Semitism, reject peace, and fail to discuss tolerance and coexistence. The textbooks encourage martyrdom and jihad, insert violence into science and math exercises, glorify terror, spread dangerous libels, erase Israel from maps, dehumanize and demonize Israelis, and delegitimize Jewish self-determination and history.
‘Fundamental problem is ideology itself’
According to Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, a nonprofit Israeli research institute that studies Palestinian society, “the Palestinian Authority leadership sends the same hate and terror-supporting messages to its population through all the structures it controls.”
He told JNS that PMW finds “the same glorifying of terrorists, the same maps in which the state of ‘Palestine’ erases Israel, the same denial of Israel’s right to exist in P.A. schoolbooks that the P.A. disseminates through its controlled media, social media, and public events for adults and children.”
Marcus said P.A. schoolbooks “are not the problem, but one of the many symptoms of the fundamental problem, which is the Palestinian Authority ideology itself.”
“Until the P.A. leadership is replaced by a peace-seeking leadership, the P.A. will just keep juggling the hate and terror messages between the various mediums it controls, while promising the donor countries to eliminate the hate,” he said. “The perplexing question is why haven’t the donor countries recognized that by funding the terror-supporting Palestinian Authority, they are undermining peace to the detriment of both Israel and the Palestinian population?”
While the Palestinians have refused to make any substantive changes, others have decided to try and influence change thanks to efforts by IMPACT-se and PMW.
In June, Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide announced that more than half of the 2020 planned funding to the P.A.’s education sector had been withheld until “positive changes are seen,” also stating that changes were being made to the curriculum by the P.A.’s quality-control committee.
British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly announced on Sept. 9 that he had discussed incitement in the P.A. curriculum with both Shtayyeh and Awartani on his most recent visit, and that the United Kingdom welcomes “the P.A.’s work to revise its textbooks and their intention to publish updated content for the start of the school year in September 2020.”
Palestinians, Qataris refuse to ‘improve the content of textbooks’
In addition to the P.A., a new report from IMPACT-se has also found that Qatar—a key backer of the Palestinian terror group Hamas—has included incitement and anti-Semitism in its curriculum.
IMPACT-se reviewed 238 textbooks for the calendar years 2016-20 using international standards based on UNESCO and U.N. declarations, in addition to other recommendations and documents on education for peace and tolerance.
The institute determined that the Qatari curriculum “does not meet international standards, despite some improvements having been made in this last academic year.”
According to Sheff, some Middle Eastern countries are now improving the content of their textbooks in terms of how they relate to Israel, while the Palestinians and Qatar refuse to do so.
In what can certainly be deemed good news for Middle Eastern schoolchildren, Israel and peace in general, a United Arab Emirates’ Islamic-studies textbook, published just two weeks after the announcement of a peace treaty between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, supports the peace initiative.
In a first-ever review of a new set of UAE school textbooks published in the past two years in relation to peace tolerance and ethics education, IMPACT-se found encouraging lessons that promote peace.
“It is remarkable that a textbook that teaches about the UAE-Israel treaty was on the desks of schoolchildren in the Emirates just two weeks after the announcement of the agreement,” said Sheff.
According to IMPACT-se, textbook reform has been an integral part of the country’s push towards modernization and national development. Central within this textbook reform is the “Moral Education” curriculum, introduced in the UAE in 2016 and taught in grades one through 12.
“Students are presented with the religious, ethical and national reasons to support the agreement, and employ critical thinking in completing an exercise about the importance of peace-making,” said Sheff.
“Unlike Palestinian children, Emirati children have been receiving a systematic peace education for several years,” he added. “Clearly, the citizens of a country that teaches peace-making, conflict resolution and the acceptance of ‘the other’ at school will be more likely to embrace peace treaties signed by their leaders.”
“There are leaders who understand the importance of a peace education for the health of their own countries,” he said. “But Palestinians are bucking the trend, firmly following the Iranian school of curriculum development and are demanding that the Europeans pay for it.”
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