This is the last in a series of four studies within an extensive research project that started in 2015 and aimed at checking the attitude of the Palestinian Authority (PA) curriculum to the Jewish-Israeli “other” within the ongoing conflict and to the possibility of solving that conflict peacefully. The three previous studies covered 364 schoolbooks of all grades in various subjects that were published between 2013 and 2018. The present study touches this subject from a different perspective – that of the Palestinian teachers. It is based on 89 teachers’ guides published in 2016-2018.
While students’ textbooks reveal the components of a certain world-view and the values a society would wish to instill in the minds of its younger generations, teachers’ guides usually give us a hint as to how that is practically done. Indeed, the current study has made it possible to trace the lines of what we would call “the indoctrination process” as it has been designed by the Palestinian Authority and followed in all school, including those of UNRWA, which uses in the West Bank and Gaza the educational material provided by the PA.
The initial outline of that indoctrination was already established in the framework of the former studies, as the schoolbooks’ attitude to the rival “other” and to peace proved to be based on three fundamentals, namely, delegitimization, demonization, and war indoctrination instead of peace education. Thus, the present study was organized according to this outline and it follows the same method of presentation used in the three former ones, that is, giving the source material as is, with minimum analysis, so that it would speak for itself. The analysis is done in the Conclusion chapter, which will be presented here in brief.
Summing up the main findings according to the said three fundamentals would give the following picture:
- Delegitimization of Israel’s existence and of the Jews’ very presence in the country on the basis of the perceived Palestinians’ exclusive right to the country and the rejection of any rights Jews might have there. Palestine replaces Israel as the sovereign state in the region in text and on the map; Israel’s pre-1967 territory is presented as a Palestinian occupied one; the name “Israel” itself is often replaced by the “the Occupation” phrase. Israel’s Jewish citizens are considered colonialist settlers and their cities – including Tel Aviv – do not appear on the map or are given Arabic names. Their history in the country is denied, as well as their holy places there, and their traditional aspirations regarding their ancient homeland are dubbed “greedy ambitions [atma’].”
- Demonization of both Israel and the Jews. Both are depicted as aggressive, barbarous, full of hate and bent on extermination, thus forming an existential threat to the Palestinians. Derogatory terms, such as “Zionist gangs” and hateful language are used in their description and cases of de-humanization have also been found. Israel is described as the source of all evil and as solely responsible for the conflict while the Palestinians are presented as its ultimate victims. The Jews are also demonized outside the context of the conflict – as a corrupt nation from its very beginning and as enemies of Islam since its early days.
- Call for a violent liberation struggle instead of advocacy for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Peace and coexistence with Israel are not an option. The violent struggle is not restricted to the West Bank and Gaza, but rather encompasses the whole of Israel. It is given a religious color by stressing the need to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque, the very existence of which is said to be in danger. Islamic traditional ideals of jihad and martyrdom are exalted and given a special role in the liberation struggle. In fact, there is one language exercise that specifically encourages martyrdom. Terrorist activity is part and parcel of this struggle and a well-known female terrorist is elevated to a position of national heroine equivalent to Yasser Arafat and Aishah, the revered wife of Prophet Muhammad. The alleged Right of Return of the 1948 refugees’ descendants is made part and parcel of the violent struggle as well of liberation, as they are supposed to return to their former residential places in liberated Palestine, not to the State of Israel. Extermination of the surviving Jews in the aftermath of the liberation war is insinuated.
The teachers’ guides that follow these fundamentals use various mechanisms to inculcate them into the minds of young Palestinians. Points are made and repeated over and over again in various forms – statements, questions and assignments. A subject is fractured into numerous minute details to cover it amply. The teachers’ guides also encourage non-textual activities, such as dramatic and journalistic work. Derogatory terms and hateful language are used in the description of the Jewish Israeli “other” to a point very close to incitement-to-kill. A special effort is made to bring the conflict closer to the students, by the presentation of stories in which children are involved, such as confrontations with Israeli soldiers, or the arrest of children’s family members. Teachers are instructed to encourage their students to express their feelings vis-à-vis demonizing cases appearing in stories that are taught in class.
The overall picture is gloomy. Everything is tied to a fixed idea that the “other” is the source of their misfortune and, thus, that “other” should be eliminated. The part of the curriculum that refers to the conflict is built on war, not on peace and coexistence, and delegitimization and demonization are its main pillars. This way, the Palestinian educators are imposing on their students a bleak future of hatred and misery, with no hope other than becoming a martyr in an endless struggle that is bound to bring pain and distress for years to come.
From the teachers’ guides we understand how the students are manipulated to walk along a premeditated course of getting the one-sided information, internalizing it, creating the appropriate feelings around it and thus becoming a blind tool in the hands of the system. No self-criticism, no attempt to trace some other sources of information that would raise questions, lead to deeper understanding and – in fact – build a healthy thinking person that would contribute to the wellbeing of his or her own society. A whole generation is thus being lost.
The Palestinian Authority that has been existent for over 25 years by now is responsible for this situation. But its responsibility is shared to a great extent by non-Palestinian actors. Chief among these is UNRWA that uses in its schools in the West Bank and Gaza the PA educational material without the slightest effort to live up to the UN standards of peace education and to the expressed UN goal of solving the Middle East conflict peacefully. Thus, instead of caring for the safety and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian students under its sponsorship, it participates in the PA endeavor of turning them into gun fodder of the ongoing conflict. Instead of working towards the ending of the conflict, UNRWA’s educational system and the donor states that sustain it contribute to its perpetuation. The protracted misery and distress of the Palestinian youth will remain their fault for long.
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