Palestinian Authority education and the future of peace

The problem of the Palestinian approach toward reaching an agreement with Israel isn’t just a matter of the policies and actions of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 4, 2007. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 4, 2007.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Before we can discuss the probability that Israel will reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, we must first investigate some background issues that highly affect the Palestinians’ attitude, namely how they are educating their children.
The problem of the Palestinian approach toward reaching an agreement with Israel isn’t just a matter of the policies and actions of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. If we take a look at the textbooks used in Palestinian elementary and high school classrooms, it’s practically impossible to remain optimistic about the chances of reaching any sort of peace arrangement in the near future.
One of the main themes that can be found in every Palestinian educational school book since the establishment of the State of Israel, is the idea that the Zionist entity and the Israeli occupation are repugnant and should be fought against until they are eradicated.
Some people were hopeful that with the advent of the Camp David Accords in 1978 and then the establishment of the PA in 1994, this situation would get better, but unfortunately, they’ve been terribly disappointed.
In fact, it appears that the wording in Palestinian textbooks has become even more extremist and radical on these topics.
In August 2017, the Center for Middle East Policy published a study that thoroughly examined 200 elementary and high school textbooks used in PA schools, including schools in east Jerusalem, which follow the PA’s curriculum.
The content found in these textbooks was quite disturbing. The books consistently discuss the delegitimization of Israel, encourage the violent struggle against the State of Israel, and portray Israelis and Jews in general as the evil enemy. Whereas the older textbooks speak about the “Israeli Occupation,” newer versions describe the “Zionist Occupation.”
They claim that the occupation began not in 1967, but in 1856 – the year Moses Montefiore bought land to build Yemin Moshe, the first Jewish neighborhood that was established outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
These books accuse the Jews of giving Canaanite names to new settlements, which they say were ostensibly stolen from Palestinian culture. They also accuse the Jews of attempting to take control of the Temple Mount and other holy Muslim sites.
Palestinian textbooks state, for example, that the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple is actually a wall of the al-Buraq Mosque, from which Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
THE PALESTINIAN school books claim that the Palestinians are the only ones who have full rights to all the land and that the Jews have no place in the Middle East. The books completely ignore actual historical events that took place in the region and fail to mention the Jewish people’s connection to the land as described in the Old Testament, upon which the Koran is based. They even go so far as to say that Israel is responsible for the rise in cancer rates among South Hebron Hills residents due to its proximity to the nuclear reactor in Dimona.
These textbooks claim that the Jews had no right to settle on the land. They glorify violence and encourage the murder of Jews, which will lead to their eventual expulsion from the region. The books encourage the young children to fight against the Jewish occupier and yearn for the complete destruction of the State of Israel.
It is no surprise, then, that the study concluded that it is unlikely that the Palestinians and Israelis will ever be able to coexist alongside each other.
These textbooks, which are paid for by UNRWA and other UN relief organizations, are used to teach more than half a million Palestinian school children. Complaints have been filed by Israeli organizations and the Israeli government for years now, but the situation remains unchanged.
Moreover, a new chapter was recently added to Palestinian textbooks that glorifies Dalal Mughrabi, who headed the terrorist cell that carried out a bloody bus bombing in 1978, which killed 38 Israelis, 13 of them children. In addition, schools, streets and squares in the PA have been named after Mughrabi.
Over the years, the PA has perpetuated the memory of murderers and terrorists by naming streets, monuments and squares after them, and thereby creating an ethos of the Palestinian shahid (martyr).
Terrorists who murder innocent women and children are revered as glorious heroes as a way of creating Palestinian nationalism.
Furthermore, the PA also uses the foundations of Islam as a way of intensifying the Palestinians’ feeling of occupation and persecution.
Under these conditions, it’s hard to imagine how future generations of Palestinians can be expected to engage in acts of tolerance, understanding and coexistence.
What we should expect instead is an intensification of extremist ideas and actions.
Who knows – maybe a new Palestinian leader will come forward who has a true vision, a desire for coexistence and a willingness to improve the lives of his people. Only time will tell.
The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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