Palestinians reject plan to teach Abbas 'quotes' in schools

"Abbas trying to imitate Gaddafi," critics say.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab League's foreign ministers meeting to discuss unannounced U.S. blueprint for Israeli-Palestinian peace, in Cairo, Egypt, April 21, 2019. (photo credit: MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/REUTERS)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab League's foreign ministers meeting to discuss unannounced U.S. blueprint for Israeli-Palestinian peace, in Cairo, Egypt, April 21, 2019.
In a move that has drawn ridicule from a large number of Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority has announced that a booklet containing quotes from PA President Mahmoud Abbas will be taught in Palestinian schools.
Critics said that the decision was reminiscent of slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s The Green Book, which sets out his philosophy on governance, socialism, freedom and democracy.
According to some reports, Libyan children were obliged to spend two hours a week studying Gaddafi’s book, and extracts were broadcast daily on television and radio.
PA Education Minister Marwan Awartani said his ministry was committed to printing the controversial booklet, titled Our President, Our Role Model, and distributing it to all Palestinian schools.
“Teaching pupils these quotes is an important initiative to develop their creative skills so as to emphasize our national identity,” Awartani explained.
He made his announcement during a press conference in Ramallah that was attended by several PLO and Fatah officials, as well as representatives of Palestinian civil society organizations.
Scores of angry Palestinians took to social media to denounce the introduction of the Abbas booklet to the school curriculum, saying it came in the context of efforts to “suck up” to the PA president.
“Regardless of my opinion of President Abbas and whether I agree or disagree with him, this is a matter concerning our curriculum, ideology, politics and beliefs,” commented east Jerusalem political analyst Rasem Obeidat. “What is worrying is the hypocrisy of some in the Palestinian arena and the dangers this decision poses to the cognizance and culture of our children and students.”
Obeidat warned that imposing the booklet on Palestinian schools would mean “raising a new generation in a culture of allegiance and subordination.”
Several Palestinians complained that the PA leadership was trying to imitate Arab totalitarian regimes, where leaders are glorified and idolized, especially through the media and the educational system. They accused Abbas of seeking to copy “dictatorial cultures” of Arab heads of state, including Gaddafi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi.
Ehab Mansour, a former PA Education Ministry official, told the Al-Khaleej Online site that even Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat, did not make such a decision.
“Abbas’s achievements for the Palestinians don’t deserve to be included in a booklet,” he said. “There are many who criticize him for his eagerness to negotiate [with Israel] and the division of the homeland. The endorsement of the booklet is totally rejected, and an attempt by Abbas to imitate the approach of Muammar Gaddafi.”
Commenting on the decision, Palestinian writer Nadia Harhash said she first thought it was a lie, a joke or a rumor.
“Will the booklet be like The Green Book of the late [dictator] Muammar Gaddafi?” she asked.
She said she did not know, and cannot understand, how the new education minister could embark on a move that “destroys Palestinian consciousness.”
She and other Palestinian critics sarcastically asked whether the booklet would include controversial statements by Abbas, such as his 2014 assertion that “security coordination [with Israel] is sacred,” his criticism of rocket attacks against Israel and his remark that he does not want to return to his birthplace, Safed.
More than 200 Palestinian academics, media personalities and political activists signed a petition urging the PA to rescind the decision to include the Abbas booklet in the school curriculum.
“We say ‘Yes’ to educating our children about the values of freedom, dignity, equality and critical thinking,” read the petition. “Palestine is not just a piece of land. Palestine means freedom and dignity.”
Hamas also dismissed the PA’s intention to teach the Abbas booklet in schools and called it an “attempt to corrupt the culture of a Palestinian generation.” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “it’s clear that he who instilled the culture of coexistence, security coordination, rejection of the resistance and the strangulation of the Gaza Strip can’t serve as a role model figure for this generation.”