The Education Ministry harshly criticized a US State Department-sponsored study
on how Israeli and Palestinian textbooks depict each other, calling its findings
“biased, unprofessional and profoundly nonobjective.”
titled “Victims of Our Own Narratives? Portrayal of the ‘Other’ in Israeli and
Palestinian School Books” and released on Monday, aimed at evaluating what
images of the other are presented to school children in the books.
found that the majority of both sets of texts represent the other as the enemy,
with only 11 percent of Israeli textbooks and one percent of Palestinian
textbooks representing the other in a positive light.
and demonizing characterizations of the other are rare in both sets, the study
found, very negative characterizations of the other could be identified in 26%
of Israeli state school books and 50% of the Palestinian ones sampled.
total, 492 Israeli and 148 Palestinian books in literature, history, languages,
geography, social studies, civic education and religion were sampled for the
A grant from the US State Department funded the study
conducted by an Israeli-Palestinian team of academics led by Professors Bruce
Wexler of Yale University, Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University and Sami Adwan
of Bethlehem University.
The three presented their findings at a press
conference held in Jerusalem.
The Education Ministry explained it chose
not to cooperate with the study, “those elements who are interested in
maliciously slandering the Israeli educational system and the State of
The Anti-Defamation League supported the Education Ministry’s
criticism, calling the study “distorted and
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad,
however, welcomed the study on Monday, saying the research shows its
“conclusions are not in line with its standing preconceived positions,”
Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
Fayyad also said he had
instructed the Education Ministry to study the report and use its
recommendations as a guide for updating its curriculum, Ma’an
The data collected also showed that books from both education
systems tend to present unilateral national narratives, showing the other as the
enemy and omitting information about them.
Neutral depictions were found
in 40% of Israeli books and 15% of Palestinian ones.
out that “historical events, while not false or fabricated, are selectively
presented to reinforce each community’s national narrative.”
information about the religions, cultures, economies and daily activities of the
other, as well as the existence of the other on maps, also seems to have been
omitted in most of the books.
In terms of self-representation, it was
found that over half of the Israeli textbooks presented the Israeli side in a
positive to superior way while the same was recorded for self-representation in
the Palestinian books.
Moreover, Israeli textbooks appear to be more
self-critical than Palestinian publications.
In addition, the report
states that while present and problematic in all school systems, the negative
presentation of the other, the positive, noncritical presentation of the self,
and the absence of images and information about the other, are more pronounced
in Israeli ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian school books than in Israeli state school books.
the researchers explained, the narratives in the school textbooks reflect the
state of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They also suggested
that “there is much to do in general in the educational system and in particular
with the school textbooks, if the parties in conflict decide to embark on the
road to peace.”
The study already sparked controversy on Sunday, before
the publication of the findings, as several members of the Scientific Advisory
Panel, the body that was to review and critique the report, said they were not
given a final copy of the report prior to the announcement of Monday’s press
One SAP member, who did not wish to be named, had said that
this document had the potential to be “another Goldstone Report,” a reference to
the UN report on the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza that was released in
“The clear impression is that this is a ‘study’ the conclusions of
which were known in advance, before any professional work was done, and
certainly does not accurately reflect the reality,” the ministry wrote in a
“The attempt to create a parallel between the Israeli and
Palestinian educational systems is without any foundation whatsoever and has no
basis in reality.”
The researchers defended the veracity of their study
in a statement on Monday.
“The Israeli-Palestinian schoolbook study is
among the most comprehensive, fact-based investigations ever done of school text
books,” the researchers, Wexler, Bar-Tal and Adwan said in a
“Frankly, I think that the minister of education is a great
example of the power of these unilateral narratives,” Wexler said on
“That man cannot see beyond the blinders that have come into his
mind by developing as a product of a national narrative that can’t understand
the types of things we’re talking about here, and by the way, national leaders
who have those blind spots, like he does, make for poor and dangerous national
leaders,” he continued.
Wexler, Bar-Tal and Adwan also made clear that
the study does not come to evaluate the truthfulness of the presentations, but
suggests that they are selectively chosen to support the national narrative on
The Government Press Office, in response to the report, said
that on Tuesday Strategic Affairs Ministry director-general Yossi Kuperwasser
will present new data and new studies on incitement in the PA education system.