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Middle East

Israel-Occupied Palestinian Territories

Schoolbooks Say 'Fighting Israel Is Islamic Duty'

New text books for Palestinian school children teach them to hate Israelis, Israelis say. (Photo: Tom Spender/IRIN)

Palestinian schoolchildren are being taught to hate Israel and to see fighting Israelis as a holy Islamic duty, according to a report by an Israeli media monitoring group.

New Palestinian 12th grade textbooks published in December deny Israel's existence and teach 11-year-olds that the Palestinian struggle is part of an overall war between Muslims and their enemies, according to a Palestinian Media Watch report entitled "From nationalist battle to religious conflict."

The Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education said it was reviewing the issue.

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"The books don't allow for a Palestinian child to accept Israel as a neighbor. When you define the conflict as a religious war you are no longer fighting for your own national identity or territory but for Islamic destiny. You have to accept either Islam or Israel," said Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch's director.

"I would be happy if the books talked about a national struggle to get as many rights as possible. But to package it as an everlasting war is to generate years of conflict. It's child abuse against their own kids," he said.

Some 926 Palestinian children and 118 Israeli children have been killed in violence since 2000, according to nongovernmental organization Remember These Children, which monitors the number of minors killed on both sides.

Palestinian Media Watch translated various segments of the new Palestinian textbooks. Lines translated from the "Arabic Language, Literature and Criticism" textbook read: "Palestine's war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, their lands, and their houses, and established the state of Israel."

Jihad for Allah

The "Islamic Education" textbook contains the lines: "The Ribat for Allah is one of the actions related to Jihad for Allah, it means: Being found in areas where there is a struggle between Muslims and their enemies … the endurance of Palestine's people on their land … is one of the greatest of the Ribat and they are worthy of a great reward from Allah."

Palestinian Media Watch also accuses the Palestinian textbook authors of denying the existence of Israel in the "Physical Geography and Human Geography" book. Its report reads: "The size of the 'state' of 'Palestine' is said to be more than 10,000 square kilometers, which is the figure one gets only if Israel did not exist, as the full West Bank and Gaza Strip total only 6,220 square kilometers.

"Maps of the region likewise teach children to visualize a world without Israel, as Israel does not exist on any map and its area is marked as 'Palestine.'"

Dr. Mohammed al-Subu, acting head of Palestinian curriculum development, said, "The problem is there is no trust between the two sides. The P.M.W. is talking about two or three pages referring to historical Palestine and what happened in 1948, when some of the Palestinians became refugees. It doesn't refer to recent history."

He said the textbooks for pupils in grades one to 11 had all been vetted and deemed acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.

"Now we are discussing the grade 12 textbooks word by word and if there is anything improper, we will fix it," he said.

The Palestinian Authority began educating Palestinian children in 1994. Prior to the Palestinian curriculum, Gaza children used Egyptian textbooks and West Bank children used Jordanian textbooks.

The international community has in the past influenced the content of Palestinian textbooks, according to Marcus, whose group first began monitoring textbooks in 1998.

Incitement Material

"By the time the 2001 books came out we saw a lessening of the incitement material. [But] in the new books, the intensity of the language is much stronger than we have seen it since then," he said.

Marcus criticized the Belgian government, which is credited in the front of the new textbooks for helping to finance the publications.

"It's a shame that Belgium is funding this stuff because it is not helping the Palestinians. The children read it and just see Israelis as monsters but we don't want to harm them at all," he said.

Pierre Gillon, deputy head of mission at the Belgian Embassy in Tel Aviv, said the Belgian government was investigating.

"We are conducting some preliminary analysis into the reports about the schoolbooks," he said.

Israeli schoolbooks have also proved controversial. Last year, Israeli education minister Yuli Tamir revealed that maps in some Israeli textbooks showed land Israel conquered in the 1967 war—the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights—as part of Israel even though they are deemed occupied territory under international law.

Much of the world believes the Green Line—the pre-1967 ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan, which controlled the West Bank—should be the basis for an international border between Israel and the West Bank section of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was reported in the Israeli press in December as saying the Green Line could be included in textbooks but added that the Israeli government and public would not accept the Green Line as an international border. © IRIN

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

 


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