The blame for the recent kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers can be placed at the feet of the Palestinian Authority’s education system, Ministry of Strategic Affairs director general Yossi Kuperwasser said on Monday.
Speaking to Jewish educators from around the world at a conference on Israel education organized by the government, the World Zionist Organization and iCenter, Kuperwasser differentiated between the Israeli educational system and that of the PA, asserting that each promoted a radically different worldview.
“When we see the kidnapping of three Israeli children, youngsters, and they are murdered, we can easily attribute this act to the messages delivered to the Palestinian state in the education system,” he said.
Israelis, he continued, “teach our children to look for peace, to seek peace” and to “respect the right of the other.”
Given that Israeli education is “totally different” from that of the Palestinians, last week’s murder of Israeli-Arab teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir was “a strategic surprise for anybody living in Israel.”
Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and burned alive in what police believe to be a revenge attack in response to the murder of Israeli teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Gil- Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah by Palestinians.
“Not only to condemn it, we are totally shocked,” Kuperwasser said. “We have to say what went wrong here and repair it.”
Condemnations are insufficient and must be accompanied by strong efforts to educate against such behavior, he said.
“What is most important in our education is to educate to think,” he added.
Kuperwasser is outspoken in his critiques of what many see as incitement in the Palestinian media and educational curricula, having previously stated that it creates an “ethos of conflict and encourages” continued hostility toward Israel.
“The Palestinians have a full system of indoctrination” including government-sponsored television programs, PA youth magazines and summer camps, Kuperwasser told the press during a briefing last year.
At that briefing he showed reporters an image culled from the Facebook page of the Palestinian Authority Education Ministry in which a snake with a star of David on its forehead could be seen strangling a young Palestinian. On another such page, a Palestinian teacher had posted a picture of a suicide bomber and challenged students to identify her in exchange for chocolate.
Speaking to the educators, who represented a number of Jewish denominations and ideological groupings, Kuperwasser added that the issue of Jewish education is of more long-term strategic concern to Israel, than either Iran or the Palestinians.
“We have to educate ourselves here in Israel and in the Diaspora to understand this issue of legitimacy, this issue of why we should have and why we are eligible to have a nation state for the Jewish people here in the ancestral home of the Jewish people,” he said.