Key Themes in Palestinian Schoolbooks
The following notes pertain to extensive research into Palestinian schoolbooks conducted by the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities for the Palestinian Territories starting with the academic year 2001/2002.
A review of Palestinian schoolbooks in use during the academic years 2001-2003 reveals several important themes:
- The existence of the State of Israel is totally ignored. This is expressed through the systematic avoidance of mentioning the name ‘Israel’ alongside ‘Palestine’, or alongside other Arab countries in the region such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
- In the areas that are part of pre-1967 Israel , the only cities mentioned are those with a significant Arab/Moslem population. Some of these had mixed populations until 1948 such as Haifa and Safed, or were inhabited primarily by Arabs (Nazareth, Beer Sheba and others).
- The texts systematically omit cities which were established by the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, and which today have a typically Israeli/Jewish character but minimal Arab population. Examples include Tel-Aviv, Netanya, Hadera, Bat-Yam and Holon.
- The maps show that the region consists of one state, Palestine. There is no place in any form for a second state called Israel. Towns and cities within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are characterized in the same way in ‘Palestine’ as in ‘Israel’. The same can be stated about historical sites or even roads, which are marked in the same way, whatever the section of the map.
- Jerusalem is depicted as the ‘capital of Palestine’, while Israel's sovereignty and even the existence of a Jewish presence in West Jerusalem are totally ignored.
- The Holy Places relevant to Islam, and occasionally those relevant to Christianity, are mentioned. Those pertinent to Judaism are consistently omitted.
- Neither the Jews nor their sages are mentioned in the list of holy sites in ‘ Palestine ’. For example, in Hebron, the ‘Al-haram al-Ibrahimi’ (known as Ma’arat Hamachpelah in Hebrew and as the Tomb of the Patriarchs in English) is depicted as an Islamic site. This is the burial place of Abraham, the founder of Judaism and accepted as a major prophet by Christians and Muslims. Judaism regards this site as second in importance only to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
- All mention of the Jews is omitted from discussions of ancient cultures in the region.
It is important to emphasize that all these themes also appear in the maps distributed in the ‘territories’ by the Palestinian Authority and by associated non-governmental organizations.
It is clearly evident that geography serves as a political tool for the Palestinian Authority, and that the maps and geographical data distributed by the Palestinians have become an important means of disseminating the messages of the non-recognition of Israel .
They completely ignore its existence.
They have also been used to publicize additional messages, such as deepening awareness of ‘Palestine’s’ Arab-Islamic character, instilling hatred toward Israel, and imbuing the value of the ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian refugees.