Study by German commission: Schoolbooks biased against Israel

“Pupils connect Israel with a warmongering society,” says expert.

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June 24, 2015 04:10
2 minute read.
The BDS

Students in a classroom [Illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BERLIN – German schoolbooks present a one-sided view of Israel as an aggressive, warlike country while ignoring that the Jewish state is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, according to a new study by a joint Israeli-German commission reported on Monday by the daily Tagesspiegel paper.

“Pupils connect Israel with a warmongering society,” said Simone Lässig, director of the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research.

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The institute sponsored the work of the commission, made up of German and Israeli academics and pedagogical experts. The Tagesspiegel reported the results of the analysis from 1,200 history, geography and social studies textbooks covering five German states – Bavaria, Berlin, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony.

The study examined 94 articles relating to the depiction of Israel and 25 chapters from history books addressing the Holocaust. The commission also analyzed 44 Israeli schoolbooks.

The commission said Europe’s influence in the region should be part of the curriculum, as well as the role of the Arab League.

“One can hardly find anything about the socialist kibbutz experiment” in German schoolbooks, noted the authors of the report.

According to the report’s authors, the equal claim to territory in the region by Palestinians and Israelis needs to be stressed. Textbooks should avoid “a clear partisan view for one of the parties in the conflict.”

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The study noted that “tendentious and one-sided photographic presentations” of Israeli soldiers inflicting violence on weak-appearing Palestinians lead to student bias.

The Tagesspiegel showed in its online report a photograph of the June LGBT parade in Tel Aviv as an example of what German pupils should be learning about Israel as a diverse, liberal nation.

The commission recommended that Israeli textbooks address Germany’s confrontation with its Nazi history post-1945. It found that Israeli schoolbooks devote too little space to German democracy after the defeat of Hitler.

The commission’s study comes at a sensitive time in Germany, with rising anti-Israel anti-Semitism and an initiative from conservative politician Klaus Steiner in Bavaria to exempt Muslim pupils from visiting concentration camps as part of Holocaust education. Steiner justified the exemption in a speech in the Bavarian parliament, saying: “There are a lot of children from Muslim families who do not have a connection to our past.... We have to approach this topic carefully with these children.”

In an angry June letter to German Federal Education Minister Johanna Wanka, Shimon Samuels, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal’s European office in Paris, wrote: “To hear such language from a mainstream German politician reeks, at best, as Holocaust denial and, far worse, a German endorsement for such radical Islamist and Iranian intents, summed up as, ‘the Holocaust is a lie, let’s make it a reality.’” Samuels noted that Germany invested $20 million in a five-year plan “to create centers of Islamic theology at four major universities: Tubingen, Frankfurt/Giessen, Munster/Osnabruck and Nurenberg/Erlengen. The latter two are in Bavaria, which has a reportedly checkered Nazi history.”

He asked, “Will your €20m. training program for Islamic instructors be... serving as a recipe for jihadism and ISIS [Islamic State] recruitment?”

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