Palestinian education

Palestinian leaders could have spent the decades since Oslo preparing their people for coexistence with Israelis.

March 1, 2016 23:06
3 minute read.
The graffiti reads "All of us are martyrs."

A Palestinian woman walks past a wall with graffiti depicting a gunman from the Al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, in the West Bank village of Awarta. The graffiti reads "All of us are martyrs.". (photo credit: ABED OMAR QUSINI/REUTERS)

A number of seemingly insurmountable obstacles are preventing Israelis and Palestinians from ending decades of conflict. One of them is the unrelenting incitement planned and executed by the purportedly “moderate” Palestinian Authority and funded by the European Union, among other international bodies.

Just this week we received two reminders about the seriousness of the problem.

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On Monday, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research division at Military Intelligence, told The Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent Yaakov Lappin that Israel has been too soft on Fatah and the Palestinian Authority leaders who openly promote incitement.

On Tuesday, Israel Radio’s Arab affairs correspondent Gal Berger revealed the results of an extensive investigation into school textbooks used by the PA that provide, in Berger’s words, an “ideological infrastructure” for violence against Israelis.

Kuperwasser, who is now the director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed to incitement by top PA leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas, as the main cause of violence in recent months.

Though there was no explicit order to commit acts of terrorism, Abbas did “act in a way that allowed everyone to understand what he wanted,” Kuperwasser said. “He talked about the need to prevent infiltration of settlers to al-Aksa. He has not stopped talking about the importance of ‘popular resistance.’” Kuperwasser lamented how there was no price for encouraging the Palestinian public to continue carrying out attacks, and said the current violence is a “result of the long-standing and ongoing incitement and the inculcation of the people in the pillars of Palestinian national identity, with particular impact on children’s psychological make-up.”

Berger, meanwhile, provided concrete evidence of precisely how this incitement and inculcation are carried out. He reviewed more than 60 textbooks approved by the PA’s Education Ministry for grades 1-12 for 2015-2016 and found that, despite attempts since the Oslo Accords to stop incitement in official PA schools, little has changed.

History books that deal with World War II, for instance, make absolutely no mention of the Holocaust. Young Palestinians who graduate from official PA schools are never taught what the Nazi regime did to the Jewish people.

They can have no understanding of what convinced the majority of countries belonging to the UN to vote to create a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one. They cannot understand what motivated so many Jews to leave Europe and immigrate to Israel before, during and after the war.

Textbooks that teach about Islam glorify “shahids” or those who give their lives in service to Islam, including in holy war. School children are taught that all of the sins of the shahid are forgiven, and that he or she reaches the top level of heaven. Non-Muslims have rights only as the subjects of Muslim rule.

Additionally, official PA textbooks regularly ignore the existence of the State of Israel. Cities such a Haifa, Tiberias, Jaffa, Ashdod and Petah Tikva are described as parts of “Palestine.” The total area of “Palestine” is identical to that of Israel including the West Bank. Even land that became part of Israel after the War of Independence is referred to as “occupied.”

Both the Palestinian leadership and its official school system are sending out the same messages: The State of Israel lacks all legitimacy and the Jewish people are colonialists with no ties to this land. Using violence and even giving one’s life to fight against Israeli “occupiers” is a religious duty that is rewarded in the afterlife. These messages are hardly conducive to peace and reconciliation.

Unfortunately, the EU and other international bodies that provide funding to the PA and its education system have not done enough to persuade the its leadership to revamp school textbooks and stop incitement.

Palestinian leaders could have spent the decades since Oslo preparing their people for coexistence with Israelis.

Instead, they have chosen to reinforce intransigence and hatred.

There will be no resolution to the conflict until this changes.

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