PMW op-ed: Planting the seeds of the next war
One of the most meaningful gauges of the integrity of the peace process and its likelihood of success is the degree to which the parties educate toward peace. It is by this yardstick that the Palestinian Authority's education apparatus, formal and informal, has been such a dismal disappointment. Instead of seizing the opportunity to educate future generations to live with Israel in peace, the PA has done everything in its power to fill young minds with hatred.
Making matters worse, the PA has been spreading two clever lies about its schoolbooks that have succeeded in deflecting international pressure for change.
PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath answered Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom's complaint about the schoolbooks by saying that the PA has "spent five years" rewriting the books, implying they are now acceptable. Then, he added, Israel itself used these same old Jordanian books for educating the local Arab population "for 30 years," which means it can have no valid complaint to the PA.
The truth about the PA schoolbooks is that they contain Antisemitic content, delegitimize Israel's existence and incite hatred and violence. For example, the new 6th-grade Reading the Quran openly presents Antisemitic messages as children read about Allah's warning to the Jews that because of their evil Allah will kill them: "...Oh you who are Jews ...long for death if you are truthful... for the death from which you flee, that will surely overtake you..."
In other sections they learn of Jews being expelled from their homes by Allah, and in another Jews are said to be like donkeys: "Those [Jews] who were charged with the Torah, but did not observe it, are like a donkey carrying books...." This religious-based Antisemitism is particularly dangerous because children are taught that hating Jews is God's will. Islam also contains positive attitudes toward Jews yet PA educators chose to incorporate only hateful teachings.
The new PA schoolbooks Shaath is so positive about compare Israel to colonial Britain: "Colonialism: Palestine faced the British occupation after the First World War in 1917, and the Israeli occupation in 1948." Moreover, the book refers to Israel exclusively as Palestine. For example: "Among the famous rocks of southern Palestine are the rocks of Be'er Sheva and the Negev" and "Palestine's Water Sources - ... The most important is the Sea of Galilee." But the Negev, Be'er Sheva and the Sea of Galilee are in Israel and do not border the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria. So why are PA children taught these areas are Palestine?
Educating against Israel's existence is further cemented through tens of maps in the schoolbooks in which Palestine encompass all of Israel. Israel does not exist on any map, within any borders at all.
The PA defends its schoolbook maps by arguing that since there are no final borders the map is not portraying modern Palestine but Mandatory Palestine. That is an insult to our intelligence. Are we expected to believe that when Palestinian children see the map called Palestine in all their schoolbooks they imagine Britain a half-a-century ago? And that when Be'er Sheva is called Palestine, the children are picturing biblical history?
ANOTHER new book teaches what must be done for "occupied Palestine" and the "stolen homeland." "Islam encourages this [love of homeland] and established the defense of it as an obligatory commandment for every Muslim if even a centimeter of his land is stolen. I, a Palestinian Muslim, love my country, Palestine..."
The complete and total message Palestinian children are taught is that Jews, according to Allah, are like donkeys; Israel is a colonial occupier that stole their land; the cities, lakes and deserts of Israel are occupied Palestine; and that the children have an obligation to liberate it if even a "centimeter is stolen."
Shaath's other lie that Israel used these same old books is particularly resourceful, as the best lies include a grain of truth. Israel did indeed use Jordanian books to educate the local Arab population. However, it reprinted the books without the hate content. In fact, Jordan registered a complaint with the UN charging that Israel's changing the schoolbooks was a violation of international law, but the UN checked what Israel had done and approved it.
The PA put back into the old Jordanian material all the hate content that Israel had removed. Moreover, three years ago some foreign governments offered to pay to reprint the versions that didn't contain hateful material, but the PA turned them down.
Finally, all the books cited here were written during the most optimistic periods of the peace process, before the violence began in September 2000. They are not a reflection of the war, but they were a contributing factor to it.
By dismissing the criticism and retaining this hateful material the PA is planting the seeds of the next war in their young people. And the defenders of this PA hate-education, including some Israelis, are nurturing those seeds of war.
The writer is director of Palestinian Media Watch, www.palwatch.org, and was Israel's representative to the Israeli-Palestinian-American Anti-Incitement Committee.