Israel and [the Palestinians] will ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and to peace in the entire region, and will refrain from the introduction of any motifs that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation. -Interim Agreement,Chapter 4, Article XXII, Par. 2 (1995)
In Israeli schools, peace education was introduced by the government after the 1993 Oslo Agreements to promote understanding of the nation’s efforts to achieve peace. More generally, throughout the system children are taught from books that encourage acceptance and respect for Arabs. Prejudice is deplored in stories and anecdotes. Arab traditions are presented as admirable and Arab people as good human beings with feelings like those of Jews. Hearts, flowers and doves decorate books about getting along with Arab neighbors.
Understandably, journalists would not be expected to report such ordinary information—unless it stood in dramatic contrast to the educational endeavors of Israel’s peace partners. And so it does. Yet the media have ignored the Israeli publications which promote humane images of Arabs, and, far more importantly, have turned a blind eye to the systematic incitement to hatred of Jews and Israel sponsored by the Palestinian Authority in PA schools. That Israel is in compliance with its Oslo commitments on this matter while the Palestinians are flagrantly violating theirs is equally unremarked by the media.
What do the Palestinian schools teach? Ninth-graders study from official textbooks that assert, "treachery and disloyalty are character traits of the Jews and therefore one should beware of them." Jews are cast as Satanic, violent and cunning, as "thieving conquerors" who have stolen Arab land and must be fought and defeated.
Jihad and martyrdom are glorified as the means to liberating "Palestine" and children’s poems contain calls to war and bloodletting. Fifth graders memorize such lines as, "I shall take my soul in my hand and hurl it into the abyss of death." The same verses are recited by children on official Palestinian television. Sixth-graders read of a young boy growing up with "the love of Jihad flowing through his veins and filling every fiber of his being." "Joy" comes only at "the sight of the enemy lying dead" or "fleeing for their lives."
"Palestine" replaces Israel on all maps in PA textbooks, and Israeli towns and cities are designated Palestinian locales. Jews are cast as enemies of Islam and European colonizers. An eighth-grade literary text denies Jewish connection to the Western Wall and children are taught to identify Muslim and Christian holy sites, while Jewish ones are omitted.
Bogus history teaches that Arabs lived in "Palestine" before the Jews. Thus, students learn Palestinian Arabs are descendants of Canaanites and Jerusalem is an ancient Arab city built before Islam. Jews are cast as an illegitimate, foreign, evil presence in the land of Palestine.
The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an independent non-governmental group, reviewed Palestinian textbooks and distributed these disturbing findings to Members of Congress and the media. The Wye River agreements created a Trilateral Committee on Incitement that includes discussion of the textbook issue.
And the media coverage of these alarming abuses? The New York Times has provided its readers just two sentences directly on the subject, in an October 25, 1998 article that otherwise wrongly suggested an equal culpability by Israelis and Palestinians for not having "alter[ed] the sense they had of each other" after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Ironically, Times correspondent Joel Greenberg has actually reported repeatedly on the PA’s education system. In early 1994, not long after the signing of the Oslo Accords, he wrote a lengthy, enthusiastic article entitled "Building Peace in Palestinian Schools." He said that a "team of Palestinian experts" was working on a "school curriculum, based on principles of pluralism, tolerance and `value-free’ instruction."
The reporter described how the new curriculum would encourage "respect for human rights." The Palestinians did see stumbling blocks ahead, however. Greenberg quoted a Palestinian educator who explained there could be difficulties with "the image of the Jew."
In June 1997, the same Times reporter returned to the subject. In a story entitled "Palestinian Maps For A Nation That Doesn’t Exist," Greenberg quoted a Palestinian saying, "We are free as educators not to lie to our kids and not to distort history." The reporter then noted that Palestinian children are taught they are descendants of Canaanites in a land devoid ofJewish history, but gave no hint to readers that this is itself, of course, a "lie" and fuels Palestinian enmity against Jews as intruders in a land to which they allegedly have no attachment.
Greenberg also reports without comment the following excuse for the Palestinians’ teaching the Canaanite invention and omitting Jewish history: "Mr. Yassin [director of the textbooks and publications department in the Palestinian Ministry of Education] suggested that the selective accounts were meant to avoid antagonizing Palestinians whose sensitivities might be inflamed by references to Jewish historical and religious links to their country."
Despite his energetic attention to developments in Palestinian schools when the PA first took control of the system from Israel, Greenberg has not been heard from on the subject since the pattern of fierce anti-Jewish and anti-Israel themes in the textbooks was exposed.
The New York Times was not alone in its evasions and silence on this story. National Public Radio’s Jennifer Ludden, talking about the introduction of the Palestinian’s own textbooks into PA schools, sounded this cheery note: "As this generation learns openly of its past, a brighter future seems under construction everywhere" (October 14, 1998). Although NPR was provided information on the PA textbook contents, there has been no coverage of it.
The Los Angeles Times’ Marjorie Miller wrote, in "The ABC’s of Palestinian Nationalism" (April 13, 1997), that Palestinians have difficulty teaching positively about a peace effort that has not satisfied all their "demands." Although Miller included examples of skewed historical accounts, like Joel Greenberg, she gave no indication the information is bogus and intended to deny Jewish ties to Israel. Indeed, her only observation on describing a group of fourth graders chanting about freeingJerusalem from the Jews, was that Netanyahu should "peek into" the Palestinians’ "public schools and new textbooks" to disabuse himself of any "expectations that the Palestinians will become more flexible" about Jerusalem and statehood!
Although the Washington Post’s Lee Hockstader is familiar with the textbook question, when asked by CAMERA why he had failed to report on the story, he responded that Israeli information is sometimes unreliable.
The indolence of the media, especially influential outle
ts such as the New York Times, in failing to report this story can only delay the day when Palestinian schools eliminate the calls to violence and destruction of the Jewish state.