Peace education

Why is it that Palestinians hold such slanted opinions about Israel and Israelis?

Empty Classroom (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Empty Classroom
Surveys carried out over the past few decades by respected Palestinian research institutes, as well as by international bodies such as the Pew Research Center and the Arab Barometer initiative, have consistently found Palestinians to hold bigoted and highly negative opinions of Israel and Israelis.
In nearly every single opinion poll that has been conducted among Palestinians, well over half surveyed have consistently expressed the opinion that Israel’s aspiration is to extend its borders to cover all the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and to expel its Arab citizens.
Palestinians also think Jews have no historical roots in what they refer to as Palestine.
In 2011, the American political consultant Stanley Greenberg commissioned a survey of Palestinian opinions on behalf of the Israel Project. Seventy-two percent declared it morally right to deny that “Jews have a long history in Jerusalem going back thousands of years,” while 90% said denying that Palestinians have “a long history in Jerusalem going back thousands of years” is morally wrong.
Similarly, in a 2015 survey commissioned for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy by David Pollock, fieldworkers from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion asked residents of the West Bank and Gaza about Jewish rights to the land. Only 12 percent agreed that “Both Jews and Palestinians have rights to the land,” while more than 80 percent asserted that, “This is Palestinian land and Jews have no rights to it.”
These findings and others were compiled in a comprehensive essay by Daniel Polisar entitled “What do Palestinians Want?” that appeared in the November 2015 edition of the online magazine Mosaic.
Why is it that Palestinians hold such slanted opinions about Israel and Israelis? At least part of the answer lies in the educational messages taught to Palestinian children from a very young age, even at institutions belonging to the more “moderate” Palestinian leadership.
Delegitimization of Israel and the Jewish national movement; the presentation of Israel as an evil entity that needs to be eradicated; the deletion of Israel from maps of the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea; the fostering of a culture of martyrdom. These are some of the educational messages being conveyed to Palestinian schoolchildren in the official Palestinian Authority school system, according to a study by Impact-SE, a research center based in Jerusalem that analyzes education around the world based on standards set by UNESCO, as reported Monday by Ariel Ben Solomon, The Jerusalem Post’s Arab Affairs correspondent.
The following Hadith appears in a textbook presently used in the 11th grade by PA schools for Sharia Studies: “The Messenger [Muhammad] already announced [the good news of] the end of the Jews’ oppression upon this Holy Land and the removal of their corruption and of their occupation thereof...The End of Days will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them to a point that a Jew will hide behind a rock or a tree, and then the rock or the tree will say: ‘O Muslim, O God’s servant, there is a Jew behind me, so come and kill him...”
A seventh-grade textbook, Our Beautiful Language, refers to the pre-1967 Israel as “occupied” and talks of the “return” of Palestinians to this territory. An eighth-grade textbook, Reading and Texts, encourages students to wage jihad: “Oh brother, the oppressors have exceeded all bounds and jihad and sacrifice are necessary.”
Israel still does not appear on textbook maps (with one exception) and the “Israeli occupation” is regularly used to refer to areas inside the Green Line such as Yaffo and Haifa.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that opinion polls consistently reveal Palestinians’ deep prejudices against Jews. Taught from a young age that Jews are oppressors, colonialists with no historical ties to the land and expansionists that seek to expel the Arab population, it is only natural that Palestinians will have negative opinions about them.
Israeli intransigence, military aggression and settlement policy are often touted as the main obstacles to reaching peace. However, as long as the Palestinian educational system perpetuates hatred of Jews and rejects the concept of an Israeli state within any borders, it is difficult to believe that the next generation of Palestinians will be any more predisposed to peace than the generations that have preceded it.