Palestinian School Books: Educating New Generations in Hate and Jihad?
May 15, 2007

On May 15, 2007, IMPACT-SE participated in a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, titled: “Palestinian Schoolbooks: Educating New Generations in Hate and Djihad?” IMPACT-SE was invited to this event in order to present the findings of its research on Palestinian Authority textbooks, grades 1-12. This research has been conducted for the past six years and was recently completed. The full PowerPoint presentation will be linked to the site shortly.

The new textbook publication process of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which started in 2000, ended last year with the introduction into the curriculum of the schoolbooks for grade 12.

This project was financed with donations given by Arab and international bodies and several states, mainly European, notably the government of Belgium, which is referred to in the preface page of each book[1].

IMPACT-SE has monitored the seven-year process, examining the attitude expressed in the books to the “other” and to peace.

The findings are extremely worrying: The PA textbooks do not educate for peace with Israel. Rather, they promote the ideal of a violent struggle for liberation against Israel in its integrality.

  • The Palestinian Authority textbooks teach the following fundamentals[2]:
  • Jews are foreigners and have no rights whatsoever in Palestine.
  • The Jews have a dubious and even murderous character.
  • Israel is an illegitimate usurper who occupied Palestine in 1948 and 1967.
  • Israel is the source of all kinds of evil done to the Palestinians.
  • Peace with Israel based on reconciliation is never sought.
  • A violent struggle for liberation is encouraged instead.
  • The exact area to be liberated is never restricted to the West Bank and Gaza alone.
  • Jihad and martyrdom are glorified and terrorist activities against Israel are implicitly encouraged.
  • The West is Imperialist, aspires to world hegemony, directs a cultural attack against Islam and supports Israel.

Let us now refer to some of these points in more detail:

The PA schoolbooks teach the students that Palestine and Jerusalem has been Arab since antiquity, on account of the ancient Canaanites and Jebusites who are presented as Arabs. All others, including the Jews, were foreign invaders with no legitimate rights in the country.

The 5.5 million Jews living in Israel are not counted among the inhabitants of the country, unlike Israel’s Arab citizens and unlike the Palestinians of the Diaspora, as shown in a table of Palestine’s population in 1999[3].

The Jewish holy places in the country are not recognized. They are presented asMuslim holy places usurped by the Jews. Thus, the Jewish holy place of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem is renamed “Bilal bin Rabbah Mosque” in 2001, while in 1996 it was still called “Rachel’s Dome” in another textbook[4]. We are witnessing here a new myth in the making.

The Jews’ national language – Hebrew – is erased, literally, from official documents: a Hebrew inscription is deleted from a stamp issued by British Mandatory authorities before 1948 and reproduced in a Palestinian textbook[5].

The PA textbooks stereotype the Jews as treacherous and murderous people. Here is a particularly demonizing piece saying that “your enemies killed your children, split open your women’s bellies and drag your revered elderly men by the beard to the death pits”[6].

The anti-Semitic fabricated “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were presented in a history textbook as “the confidential resolutions of the first Zionist congress”.[7] Under international pressure a new edition of the book was issued without this statement butit could not be found in the stores and there is no indication that it replaced the older one in class.

Israel’s legitimacy is not recognized, and its name does not appear on the maps where “Palestine” refers in many cases to the whole country[8].

Israel is solely responsible for the conflict and the Palestinians are Israel’s victims. Their own responsibility for the conflict due to their armed opposition to the UN Partition Resolution of 1947 is not mentioned. The list of accusations against Israel appearing in the books includes more than 25 items among which are the following:

  • Israel contributes to Palestinian social ills and family violence
  • Israel causes the increase of drug abuse cases in Palestinian society
  • Israel pollutes the Palestinian environment
  • Israel usurps Muslim and Christian holy places
  • Israel strives to obliterate the Palestinian national identity and heritage

Peace with Israel is never advocated and the liberation struggle encompasses the whole country, as indicated by text and illustration[9].

A poem glorifying martyrdom reads: “…The flow of blood gladdens my soul, as well as a body thrown upon the ground, skirmished over by the desert predators”[10]. In other cases, martyrdom is described as a wedding party.

The Fida’is who attack Israelis are praised, those among them who are imprisoned are called “prisoners-of-war” and those killed in action are given the title “martyrs”.

The Palestinian schoolbooks thus obliterate Israel as a sovereign state, and as a legitimate neighbor, and present it as an enemy that one should fight to the end. Hence, the Palestinian textbooks do not leave room for dialogue, and contribute to the present state of violence. In other words, they teach war rather than peace.

Grave worsening of these fundamentals has taken place in the latest schoolbooks for grade 12 (ages 17-18), published in 2006 under the new Hamas government, notably with regard to the three following subjects:

  • The struggle against Israel is given an emphasized religious character by using the Islamic concept of ‘ribat’ which has the connotation of a Muslim garrison – in this case, the whole Muslim population of Palestine – standing ready to fight the enemies of Islam[11].
  • A new claim has been leveled against Israel: its practice of racial discrimination against the Palestinians since 1948. A whole sub-chapter is dedicated to this claim in a history textbook[12].
  • The anti-West indoctrination has become an integral part of the curriculum and covers whole chapters in the history textbook of grade 12.

This worsening is even more dramatic in view of several commendable and interesting innovations which had been introduced in some schoolbooks of grade 11 (ages 16-17) in 2005 and early 2006, under PA President Mahmud Abbas, following Yasser Arafat’s death and before Hamas took control of the textbook publishing process. Here, for the first time ever, information is given about Jewish history in Jerusalem and in ancient Palestine[13], the name “Israel” appears on two maps[14], the need to exercise tolerance towards Jews – from an Islamic point of view – is discussed[15], and there is a clear cut admission that it was the Arab side which started the war in 1948 in defiance of the UN Partition Resolution[16]. In addition, there is in these books a sharp decrease, in both number and intensity, of expressions praising Jihad and martyrdom. Unfortunately, these beginnings of a change for the better were abruptly cut short under the Hamas government, as has been revealed by the grade 12 books.

All that leads us to two main conclusions:

  1. The forces opposing peace and reconciliation now have the upper hand in the PA. No one can even take for granted that the existent books of grade 11 with the improvements will not be replaced by other ones, more in line with the views held by Hamas.
  2. The case of the grade 11 books proves that improvement in the PA curriculum is possible when the international community raises its voice on the basis of the data provided by research and abides by international and European standards.

[1] See slide 2
[2] See slide 3
[3] See slides 4, 5.
[4] See slides 6, 7.
[5] See slides 8-10.
[6] See slides 11, 12.
[7] See slides 13, 14.
[8] See slides 15, 16.
[9] See slides 17, 18.
[10] See slides 19, 20.
[11] See slides 21-23.
[12] See slides 24-26.
[13] Modern and Contemporary History of Palestine, Part I, pp. 9, 11
[14] Modern and Contemporary History of Palestine, Part II, pp. 57, 58
[15] Islamic Education, Part II, pp. 101-113
[16] Modern and Contemporary History of Palestine, Part II, pp. 30, 33, 35