Textbooks show both sides to blame for enmity
US gov't-funded study shows youth inheriting conflict through schoolbooks; PA welcomes results; Israel says findings baseless.
Israelis and Palestinians depict each other in
schoolbooks as an enemy and largely deny their adversary's history and
existence, according to a US government-funded study published on
Young minds are inheriting a century-old struggle for land and
legitimacy through their schoolbooks, said a panel of Muslim, Jewish and
Christian social scientists from the Council of Religious Institutions of the
Countries who give donations to the Palestinian Authority have
studied Israeli allegations of incitement to violence and even anti-Semitism in
Palestinian schoolbooks for over a decade, but the report said both sides bore
blame for ingraining enmity.
"The schoolbooks offer narratives to
motivate members of society to be part of the conflict," Daniel Bar-Tal of
Israel's Tel Aviv University, one of the lead researchers, told a news
conference. "In conflict societies, people not only shoot at each other, but
struggle for the narrative, the image of the other and of themselves." The
conclusions drew strong reaction from the governments of each side, with
Palestinians happy to have Israel included in a comprehensive study and Israel,
which boycotted the investigation, calling it "biased and
A bilingual research team examined 168 textbooks, homing
in on cases in which the other side is discussed and assigning the passages with
one of five labels, from "very negative" to "very positive." In a double blind
study, researchers agreed on the designations in over 90 percent of cases, a
degree of unanimity that authors say lent a degree of scientific rigor lacking
in previous, more subjective examinations of the subject.
describing the other, the study classified 84 percent as "negative" or "very
negative" in Palestinian books, compared with 49 percent in Israeli state
schools and 73 percent in Israeli religious schools.
But of the passages
designated "very negative," most characterized the other "as the enemy," rather
than "de-humanizing" or "demonizing" them, the study by the Jerusalem-based
Along those lines, a 12th-grade Palestinian textbook
described "Zionist occupation and its usurpation of Palestine and its people's
rights" as "the core of the conflict".
A fourth grade Israeli religious
textbook teaches that "Israel is a young country surrounded by enemies, like a
little lamb in a sea of seventy wolves." The study also found that Israeli state
schools more directly tackled negative aspects of its own past - such as a 1948
massacre of unarmed Palestinian civilians - than Israeli religious and
Palestinian schools did.
Maps ignore the other side
A vast majority of
maps in Israeli and Palestinian textbooks either totally omitted the other side,
or showed interim borders without naming the other side.
the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in a 1967 war. It annexed East
Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally and has accelerated
settlement in the occupied West Bank, while withdrawing from Gaza in
Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza
with East Jerusalem as their capital. Peace talks have been frozen since
Exercising limited self rule in the West Bank, the Palestinian
Authority has struggled to build a national identity and institutions.
recycled Jordanian and Egyptian schoolbooks until it began to write its own
curriculum in 2000, progressively erasing confrontational references to Jews and
celebrations of martyrdom.
But Israeli and US officials have not been
convinced by these changes, and say that Palestinian school materials continue
to promote hatred.
Israeli non-governmental organizations have repeatedly
presented findings alleging incitement to the US Congress as well as the
European and Canadian parliaments.
The US State Department provided
$500,000 for the latest research, after a study it performed itself in its
annual rights review of the Palestinian Territories in 2009 faulted Palestinian
textbooks for "imbalance, bias and inaccuracy".
Palestinian Authority Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad "welcomed" the results of the new study, according to a
statement from his office, saying it "absolved Palestinian textbooks of the
flagrant accusation that they incite hatred toward the other".
education ministry said that the findings' "attempt to draw a parallel between
the Israeli and Palestinian education systems is baseless and has no grounds in
"The result of the 'research' shows that the decision not to
cooperate with the investigation was justified," the ministry said in a
statement sent to Reuters.