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Special Report: Israel and the Middle East Education (excerpts)

…During the last 10 months, children have accounted for a horrifying proportion of the dead. More than 30% of the Palestinians killed during the uprising have been below the age of 18, and more than 22% of Israelis.
The toll, and fears about the long-term effects of violence on children, have enlivened twin debates about the failings of educational systems to encourage younger generations to embrace peace. At regular intervals, Israel has accused Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority of inciting hatred of Jews and Israelis in the official media and in school textbooks…
The charges that the Palestinians have failed to school their children for peace are resurfacing ahead of the release next month of new textbooks for schools in areas under Arafat’s control in the West Bank and Gaza.
The first textbooks written by Palestinians for children in the West Bank and Gaza were distributed to pupils last September, just a few weeks before the uprising against Israel’s military occupation. They are exclusively for grades one and six (ie, for pupils aged six and 11). Teachers in the West Bank will continue to use Jordanian textbooks, and Egyptian books in the Gaza Strip, until the curriculum writers complete their project, year by year. This year’s offering are for grades two and seven.
The first books immediately came under attack from rightwing Israeli and American Jewish organisations. Hillary Clinton, in her campaign to be New York senator, branded the books “racist” and called on Arafat to “stop teaching hatred” to children.
Pressure was exerted on the European Union and other donor countries to the Palestinian Authority to withdraw funding for Palestinian schools; in December last year, the Italian government and the World Bank withdrew funding for textbook projects…
However, the author of the study, Itamar Marcus, is adamant: “There is a very basic problem. Palestinians were taught for years not to recognise Israel’s existence, and all of the anger and the violence is a result of that. As long as children grow up seeing Jaffa as theirs, they are guaranteed to have a certain percentage of the population growing up to be terrorists, dreaming of their homeland, and not wanting to accept Israel as a neighbour.”

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