The Teaching of Geography:

How to Use a Simple Exercise Book to Deliver a Hidden Political Message

During Operation Defensive Wall, in Spring 2002, the IDF discovered a number of documents and materials belonging to terrorist organizations. In Jenin, a geography exercise book belonging to a student was found. It is assumed that the student lived in the refugee camp nearby.

The exercise book in question, The Geography of Palestine, was used by the student to prepare his homework in the subjects of geography and the historical geography of ‘Palestine’. It provides us with a rare opportunity to review the methods used to instill political messages into youngsters and also high school graduates studying at colleges and universities in the ‘territories’. Here, the means is the study of geography.

Personal identification details appearing on the first and last pages of the exercise book indicate that it belonged to a student who apparently studied in 1999 at the College of Educational Sciences (Kulliyyat al-‘Ulum al-Tarbawiyyah). This is a teachers’ training college in Ramallah, also known as The United College of Ramallah for Teachers. This college is operated by UNWRA and accepts the children from the refugee camps. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the student in question is a resident of the Jenin refugee camp, who studied in Ramallah.

The messages expressed in the exercise book are identical to those imparted in the geography lessons at primary and at junior high schools as detailed above. The pupils learn to relate to ‘ Palestine ’ as a single geo-political and historical entity, which has an Arab-Palestinian-Islamic character only. The connection between the Jewish People and Land of Israel is ignored - or minimized at the very least. . The terminology used by the pupil is entirely Arab-Islamic oriented, without any reference to Israeli - Jewish phrases.

Examples of Content Found in the Exercise Book

Following are some examples of the notebook’s content (in order of writing):

a) The borders of Palestine: Palestine is situated on the southeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Red Sea... (p. 4).

b) The character of Palestine: Palestine is an Arab/Middle Eastern/Islamic/Mediterranean State (p. 5).

c) Nations that have inhabited Palestine (pp. 5-7): The four major peoples or nations that have inhabited Palestine are the Arabs, Palestinians, Hebrews and the Jews:

  • Arabs: Arrived in Palestine before Islam. They comprised one of the Semitic tribes, while living there.

  • Palestinians: Dwelt in the south of Crete and migrated to Palestine.

  • Hebrews: As previously mentioned, they did not establish any civilization in Palestine. They inhabited Palestine for a total of 170 years.

  • Jews: Arrived in Palestine only after the First World War, following the Balfour Declaration and Britain’s pro-Jewish policy. They arrived in large numbers from many countries and from various races.

d) The Origins of the Hebrews: Historians are divided regarding the source of the Hebrews. According to Kamal Salibi, the Hebrews originated in the Arabian Peninsula . The place where Moses died is not known. This is proof that the Jews never entered Palestine. Moses was born in Egypt and died in Egypt (p. 7). [Note: Kamal Salibi is a famous Lebanese historian. He claimed in his book that the Hebrews originated from the Arabian Peninsula and therefore have no claim on the Land of Israel ].

e) Regions of Palestine: Palestine comprises of five regions: The coastal plain, the mountainous areas, the valley (Jordan Valley), the Palestinian Desert and the Arava Valley (Negev). This is followed by details about the areas included in each of these regions. For example, the Umm el-Rashrash [Eilat] mountains and Beer-Sheba are part of the Palestinian Desert; Haifa, Acre and Gaza are all part of the coastal plain. The Jerusalem Mountains, Hebron and the Galilee are all part of the mountainous regions. The Banias, Hula Valley and Tiberius are all part of the Valley. (p. 12). In other words, the land consists of one Palestinian Arab state, including areas currently administered by Israel.

f) Page 13 – Map of Palestine

This is a map of 'Palestine', which appears in numerous Palestinian textbooks and on the open market in the 'territories' in similar forms. In the areas inside the State of Israel, which is not mentioned by name, the cities named are those that were populated entirely or mainly by Arabs, or those that had mixed populations, until 1948. These include: Jerusalem, Haifa, Acre, and Beer-Sheba (with the addition of cities in the West Bank and Gaza, such as Hebron and Nablus). Tel-Aviv, Netanya, Hadera, Bat-Yam, Holon (and other distinctly Jewish / Zionist cities) does not appear on the map.

g) The Galilee, defined as "Northern Palestine" (no page number in the exercise book): The map of the Galilee does not include any reference to any Israeli populated area. (For example, the city of Carmiel near Safed does not exist.) Rivers and mountains are marked only by their Arabic names (pp.35, 36). In one place it is noted that the mountains of the Upper, Central, and Lower Galilee "are considered Northern Palestine" (no page number). In a homework assignment about the characteristics of the Galilee Mountains, the pupil wrote, "These mountains are inhabited by the Druze. Jews failed to settle in these areas due to the absence of conducive conditions"-[an apparent reference to the "Judaification of the Galilee" Program].

h) Heavily populated cities [in 'Palestine']: Acre, Haifa, Lod, Ramla, Gaza, Rafiah, al-Arish - but Tel Aviv is not mentioned.(p. 30)

Topological Division of Palestine


Above are two maps which appear in the exercise book and which deal with the division of “Palestine” into land strips. This is completely contrary to the accepted division, which does appear on pages 11-12.

These unusual maps present a lateral dissection of ‘Palestine’. They denote the Coastal Plain as a territorial continuation of the Palestinian cities located in the Judean and Samarian hills. Therefore, for example, the “Hebron Hills Plain” constitutes an extension of Hebron and the Hebron Hills; the “Jerusalem Hills Plain” constitutes an extension of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Hills; the “Nablus Hills Plain” constitutes an extension of Nablus [Shechem].

The large Israeli population centers on the Coastal Plain (including Tel-Aviv, Netanya, Hadera, Bat-Yam, Holon, and Ashdod) are, as usual, not mentioned at all.

In our opinion, this warped division is an attempt to illustrate that the Coastal Plain (densely populated by Israelis) is nothing but a continuation of the populated Palestinian area, starting on the hills inland.

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