by Ariel Bolstein
Anyone who dreams of peace in the Middle East must first root out this incitement from the education system.
Over the years we have grown accustomed to the international community treating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a double standard. In the majority of cases, the world is quick to blame Israel for all the problems in the region, whereas the Palestinians are commonly met with forgiveness and understanding. It is especially grating when these double standards spread afield throughout Europe, because we should be able to expect that our friends -- with whom we share similar moral values and a desire for progress -- not to turn a blind eye when those values are trampled on by those who harbor ill will toward Israel. It is therefore encouraging to learn that the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, a reputable German think tank, is focusing a spotlight on the Palestinian Authority educational system.
Recently published research by the MFFB deals with the textbooks used in the first to ninth grades in the PA, including schools operated by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. Textbooks are the most important indicator of a society's values. They reflect everything we seek to pass on to the next generation. And in the case of the Palestinians, the MBFF research reveals, the next generation mostly receives messages of burning hatred.
Textbooks in the PA contain condescending and degrading language about Jews. There isn't a lack of examples. No place where Jews live, regardless of location or size, is described as a city, village or community. These places are only depicted as Arab villages and towns. On the subject of those places where Jews live, whether in large numbers as in Tel Aviv or a small kibbutz, researchers found that they are universally referred to as "settlements." The word "Israel" is also hard to find in Palestinian textbooks and is replaced with terms like "the occupation regime," or "the Zionist terrorist organization." History books ignore all vestiges of Jewish civilization. Maps in the PA's geography textbooks provide no redemption either -- Israel simply does not appear in them. The authors of one textbook didn't even spare the Mandatory-era stamp. On the original stamp, produced by the British, the name of the land appears in three languages, but Palestinian students will only see its censored version, without Hebrew, which was erased.
And if anybody thinks this is all arbitrary, the researchers offer their primary conclusion and determine unequivocally: In no Palestinian textbook will one find any call for peace, tolerance or mutual understanding. Meanwhile, calls to fight and carry out violent attacks against Israelis appear frequently. Those who perpetrate such attacks are glorified and praised profusely. Terms like "jihad," "shahid," "heroism," and "sacrifice" are reserved for acts against the "Zionist enemy." As early as the second grade, textbooks emphasize the importance of shahids (martyrs) and implore the young pupils to visit the families of those who have fallen on the altar of jihad.
The researchers conservatively describe the inciting textbooks as "problematic," but also don't hesitate to conclude that these books promote and entrench hatred against Jews and Israelis, and contribute to legitimizing violence as a means to resolving the diplomatic conflict. Anyone who dreams of peace in the Middle East must first root out this incitement from the education system. Considering the fact that PA schools are largely funded by European donations, responsibility for teaching this hate and its consequences falls on the shoulders of European leaders.
Ariel Bolstein is the founder of the Israel advocacy organization Faces of Israel.
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