Knesset Education Committee slams incitement in Palestinian schools

After MK shouting match, Zoabi removed from committee meeting

Incitement seen on Palestinian Authority official TV (photo credit: Courtesy)
Incitement seen on Palestinian Authority official TV
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee meeting on incitement in Palestinian schools and media grew heated Wednesday, with Arab MKs saying the discussion was Israeli propaganda.
Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus presented his organization’s report on Palestinian Authority education, which assessed the prominent educational messages that could impact peace with Israel.
The report documents that in formal and informal educational frameworks, killers of Israelis are portrayed as heroes and role models, and that children are taught that Israel will eventually be replaced by “Palestine.”
At least 25 Palestinian Authority schools are named after terrorists; three are named after Dalal Mughrabi, who led the most lethal terrorist attack in Israeli history in 1978, killing 37 civilians, 12 of them children.
Marcus showed the MKs a film from PA television, in which a student expressed pride “to attend the Dalal Mughrabi School, which bears this pioneering name,” and another student said her “life’s ambition is to reach the level that the martyr fighter Dalal Mughrabi reached.”
Another clip from televised news in the PA showed a boy saying he learned in school to “fight the Jews, kill them and defeat them,” and another told children that Jews are “Satan with a tail.”
The report also contains chapters on incitement in Palestinian textbooks, educational materials glorifying Hitler, and the PA policy of blocking joint peace-building activities between Palestinian and Israeli children.
Marcus explained that the messages Palestinian children are receiving are nationalist – that Israel is not legitimate on any borders and its existence since 1948 is an occupation – and anti-Semitic – that Jews are evil by nature, descendants of monkeys and pigs, and fated to be killed by Muslims.
Education Committee chairman Ya’acov Margi (Shas) said “the incitement can spread like wildfire. We will do what we can as a committee... to moderate the discourse in Israeli society and in Palestinian society.”
MK Anat Berko (Likud), who initiated the discussion along with MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu), expressed concern that Palestinian education materials encourage students to commit suicide attacks.
“We see a generation of victims of the PA, that chose for them the path of terror, of non-critical thinking and of considering violence to be normal, built-in,” Berko, a former professor of criminology whose expertise is Palestinian suicide bombings, said.
Throughout the meeting, Joint List MKs interrupted with objections.
MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint List) accused Palestinian Media Watch of “bias, distortion and incitement and one-sided research. The research institute marked its target, and [Berko and Ben-Ari] are relying on it, as if it is scientific.”
“I don’t understand the point of the discussion,” MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said.
“What do the initiators want? More statements about how the Palestinians incite? Everything said until now and all the presentations we were shown did not include one word, which is ‘occupation.’... We are talking about a Palestinian people living under an occupation for five decades. We’re talking about millions of Palestinians born in a reality of occupation that denies their basic human freedoms.”
Margi responded that he understands why Jabareen, who has a doctorate in law, would want to defend the Palestinians, but that he expects more from someone who came from Israeli academia.
“There is a big difference between a conflict and a legitimate political and grassroots struggle, and a situation in which the education system is producing another generation of Israel-haters,” Margi added.
Jabareen accused the Jewish MKs of being unable to see beyond the “Israeli media narrative” and said that Palestinian children have to be given hope that they will have a state with east Jerusalem as its capital, and that the root of the problem being discussed is the “occupation.”
MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said “we are not calling for violence; we are against stealing and expulsion. The Palestinians are now being expelled from their land. We are in favor of a political and grassroots struggle within the confines of international law.”
Zoabi added that “the international community does not accept Israeli propaganda,” and called for the committee to hold a meeting on incitement in Israeli schools.
“Israel has an army that persecutes Palestinian boys and kills them,” she claimed, leading to a shouting match between MKs, and eventually, to Zoabi being removed from the meeting because she refused to stop speaking when her time was up.
MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) called Zoabi’s comment shocking and accused her of not condemning the murder of Jews, even though “we all condemned the murder in Duma.”
Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi argued that Palestinian teachers can’t be told to relay different messages than the political leadership.
“I call to pass on the message of striving for a diplomatic and permanent agreement,” he said.
A principal from a mixed Jewish- Arab school in the capital’s Bet Hanina neighborhood said that he taught Jews and Arabs together for years, and that the students change once they get to know one another.
“No one has presented an alternative, how to make them not despair. The Palestinian population wants a change,” he said.
At the end of the meeting, Margi called on the Education Committee to increase oversight of east Jerusalem and all Arab schools to make sure incitement does not enter their educational materials, and called on the ministry to consider cooperating with its counterparts in other countries to increase supervision of Palestinian textbooks.