The History of Palestinian Schoolbooks:
1967 to the Present
Palestinian Schoolbooks and the Future of Peace in the Middle East
The key to peace is a change of attitudes - and that starts with education.
Several thoughtful and comprehensive reports have been published since the start of 2003 which highlight serious deficiencies in the Palestinian Arab education system - a system significantly funded by the international community. The Arab child starts to hate Israelis, and the cycle of violence begins.
We refer to two important examples:
PRISM Group: "Palestinian Children: What are they being Taught? "As part of its continuing review of the rights of children in the Middle East, the Prism Group has conducted a thorough survey of materials offered to Palestinian children in their schools..."
IPCRI - A binational and non-governmental organisation, the Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) published a report highlighting the failings of the Palestinian education system. IPCRI's co-directors, Gershon Baskin, PhD and Zakaria al Qaq PhD are respected for their contacts with the current Palestinian leadership. While disclaiming incitement, Baskin and al Qaq state in the report that the Palestinian textbooks "fail to apply the principles and concepts (of religious tolerance) to include Jews and the State of Israel… and although the curriculum provides the opportunity for students to recognize and respect beliefs and practices of “others”, the concept of the “other”, in most cases, is limited to Christians. The findings are clear.
No less worrying is the keen interest taken in this matter by Hamas, an organization outlawed in both Europe and the United States as a terror organization. Even the PA has recognized that this terrorist group intends to target and infiltrate the field of education (document).
Until 1967, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were governed by Jordan and Egypt, respectively. After the Six Day War, the Israeli authorities continued to use the same educational materials for people living in these areas, while censuring overtly racist comments against Jews (see CIMP report). When the Oslo Agreements in 1993 allowed the Palestinian Authority (PA) to print their own resources, it opted to use the Jordanian texts in their original forms (see CIMP report). This was the start of the process of incitement.
At the beginning of the current decade, the PA commenced replacing the former Jordanian and Egyptian texts with their own literature. Every year, the books of two grades have been revised. As of September 2003, 8 grades have received new materials.
In other words, these new materials are the most up-to-date, modern and pluralistic that the PA can produce. They are intended for use for years to come.
Undoubtedly, the crude comments of the past have been replaced. However, the writings, exercises and agenda of the new books, while phrased more carefully, are equally evil. They are designed to bring home the message to a new generation the following:
- Jews have distorted the history of the Middle East
- Israel has no right to exist
- Palestine is part of a pan-Islamic Arab nation.
The website refers to over a dozen books. One of the best examples, covering all of these themes is Altarbiya Alwataniya Second Grade – National Education – Part 1.
When compared to how children in Western countries are educated, it is clear that such an approach to education and the raising of a young generation is totally unacceptable. Pupils in Europe, America or Australia are taught about the pluralism of cultures and religions. They learn to appreciate that different people have different customs.
In contrast, it is evident that Palestinian children are denied the opportunity to hear how their Semitic cousins have deep biblical and historical attachment to the region.
Are Palestinian Children Abused?
It is a generally accepted fact that the use of Palestinian children in demonstrations and encouraging them to use violence against Israelis is a contravention of their basic rights, as prescribed in the Geneva Convention.
In light of the evidence on this website, it can also be stated that the PA is deliberately prohibits these minors from receiving the education, which they deserve. This too is an abuse under the same internationally agreed human standards.
UNESCO's guidelines clearly detail what education a child has a right to expect. These can be summarized under the phrase: accurate facts, avoiding prejudice and miscomprehension, while seeking the common cause of all mankind. It is evident that the new Palestinian schoolbooks do not pass this test.
There have been many surveys of the books printed since the year 2000. Many of the authors have had a preset agenda. IPCRI, the Israel / Palestinian Center for Research and Information is an independent resource and sponsored by the EU amongst others. Its findings in March 2003 have shown that "these schoolbooks fail to apply the principles and concepts (of religious tolerance) to include Jews and the State of Israel..." (see IPCRI report).
A further independent report by the Prism Group notes the failure of the PA in providing suitable education. This document states how Palestinian children are also subjected to a torrent of propaganda in the home environment and at summer camps (Prism report).
Who Sponsors the Printing of the Books?
The introductory page in eleven of the school books featured on this site specifically mentions that the governments of Belgium and Italy, as well as UNESCO, helped in the production of the material.
Further, it is known that UNRWA devotes a significant proportion of its annual budget towards education, the maintenance of schools and the printing of books. European countries are amongst the largest donors to UNRWA, with the EU itself contributing EUR 1.03 billion between 1993 and 2001 alone. The funding has continued since then, directly and through other agencies. (See The Funding of the Palestinian Education System, a report prepared by the Prism Group.)
It has also been well established that UNRWA buildings have been misused by Palestinian organizations; most school buildings are replete with racist and political graffiti. There is documented proof to show that Palestinian organisations regularly plan terrorist attacks from UNRWA establishments.
In addition, individual countries, in particular Ireland and Norway are known for giving donations directly to the PA to promote projects in education.
The overall UNESCO budget stretches into trillions of dollars. A web search reveals that the organization is committed to supporting education in Palestinian areas (see report). However, it is practically impossible to obtain detailed figures as to the level of investment. For some unexplained reason, the information is not released in the public domain. One small glimpse shows that the 2000-2001 appropriation for the "Transdisciplinary Project... education for a peace culture", which is primarily detailed for Palestinian children, was almost US$3.0 million.
What is left unexplained is how UNESCO has decided that Palestinian children are not educated properly "because of the continued sealing off of these territories and the continuing curfews..." (see report). Certainly, the continuing violence of the Intifada cannot be conducive to learning. The question is why UNESCO places no blame on the PA or its politicization of youth activities, as clearly detailed in the IPCRI and Prism reports.
The neutral observer is left with 2 burning questions:
- If the PA is only able to produce books of such substandard quality that infringes international standards set by UNESCO and others, why do countries continue to help this project?
- In the light of IMF (click to IMF report) and other reports (Click to footnote link) and the vast and continued misuse, why have the relevant international organizations not stopped funding until they receive transparency of financial procedures. Vast sums of public monies are disappearing for little return on investment.
Our message is simple. We do not object to helping the Palestinian education system. Proper support is needed, and support absolutely has to be backed by full and reasonable controls. In the current situation, the world's support is contributing to the destruction of peace and not to stability.