The Real Problem with Palestinian and Israeli Schoolbooks: A Response to IPCRI’s Statement of March 23, 2008
The Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) lately issued a statement claiming that the main problem regarding the Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks “is the almost total lack of any reference in each side’s text books to the other side. Israelis and Palestinians learn almost nothing about each other. This intentional lack of reference is an indication of the fact that both sides have yet to come to terms with the political and national existence of the other.
This statement is factually incorrect since both the Palestinian and the Israeli textbooks do actually refer to each other. The real problem is in which terms. In this respect the Palestinian approach is radically different from the Israeli one.
It is true that there is still much to be done in order to enhance peace education in Israeli schoolbooks. But focusing on this sideline issue in order to find a way to put the Palestinian schoolbooks on a par with the Israeli ones is highly misleading.
We in the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (formerly the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace – CMIP) can point to other, more crucial, problems in the said textbooks.
The Palestinian textbooks deny any legitimacy to the Jews and their national movement in Palestine. They demonize them, glorify jihad and martyrdom and advocate a violent struggle for the liberation of Palestine which by no means is confined to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli schoolbooks, by contrast, do actually refer to the Palestinians and present them as a people whose national movement is in conflict with the national movement of the Jews, a conflict that should be solved by a territorial compromise between the two nations.
Measuring Israeli and Palestinian school textbooks by different criteria – lenient for Palestinian books and rigid for Israeli ones in order to come out with similar impression – is not professional work. The criteria should be the same for all. Having accomplished its overall assessment of the PA seven-year schoolbook publishing operation, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education is about to update its reports on Israeli textbooks and then compare both according to the same criteria, draw its final conclusions and submit its recommendations regarding their improvement.