PMW op-ed: Pedagogy of Hate
If you want to know what's really at the heart of the Palestinian conflict with Israel, don't ask the politicians or the diplomats. Go to the new experts: Palestinian children. Unlike the rest of the world, they've been paying close attention to what their leaders and educators have been teaching them and they are ready to practice what they have been taught.
For instance, children interviewed on PA TV last week state clearly and without reservation that Israel has no right to exist, and that their goals for which they're willing to sacrifice their lives is Israel's destruction and the expulsion of all Israelis.
"They [the Jews] came to take Palestine, that is Tel-Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Acco, Ramle. All these cities belong to Palestine," one youth explains in the broadcast, echoing years of standard Palestinian Authority (PA) indoctrination. And because he is convinced that Israel has no right to exist: "We hope, hope, hope and I emphasize these things, that the Arab countries and the foreign countries, all the countries of the world, will support the Palestinians and will expel the Israelis."
"We must expel all Israelis from Palestine. Because Israel - there is nothing called 'Israel' in the world. The Israelis [came] from Holland, America, Iran."
The children are seen promising they will keep fighting, generation after generation, "until they liberate Palestine."
Furthermore, they don't fear death in the struggle because it is Shahada - Death for Allah. "Even if all the Palestinian children, Palestinian youth, Palestinian women, and Palestinian men die, we will not surrender!"
None of this is surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to what goes on in the PA educational system and its educational TV. Israel is erased from PA maps, schoolbooks and historians deny Israel's history and right to exist, and educators at all levels teach that Israel is a foreign colonial implant.
Despite PA claims to the contrary, its textbooks continue to delegitimize Israel and dismiss it as a foreign occupier: "Palestine faced the British occupation after the First World War in 1917, and the Israeli occupation in 1948." [National Education, Sixth Grade, p. 16]. Children are taught that all of Israel is part of "Palestine." For example: "Among the famous rocks of southern Palestine are the rocks of Be'er Sheva and the Negev." About "Palestine's" water sources children are taught: "The most important is the Sea of Galilee..." [Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part A, p. 64; National Education, Sixth Grade, pp. 9-10].
Such messages of delegitimization have been affirmed by Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei. He is on record as rejecting the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. "President Bush said that Israel is a Jewish state, which is a cause for our concern. This should not have been said." [Al-Nahar-Lebanese and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 15, 2003].
PA affiliated historians frequently appear on educational TV to reinforce this message. Just last week historian and educational TV host Dr. Isam Sisalem reiterated what he has said on numerous broadcasts, that Jews " . . . have no history or connection to this land" and are nothing but a "cancer" planted by Britain to control the Middle East.
In the same educational broadcast last week, another historian resurrected The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous antisemitic forgery citing it as one of the foundations of the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
"...The Zionist movement began at the Basel Congress to plan the exploitation of the powers struggle, and the struggle of Europe over the Middle East..." said Dr. Riad Al-Astal, a history lecturer at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.
Consequently when we view children on PA TV who say they want to destroy Israel, to liberate "Tel-Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Acco, and Ramle," and to expel the Jews, we are seeing children who are accurately regurgitating the sentiments inculcated and reinforced throughout PA society.
Indeed, years of anti-Israel indoctrination have been alarmingly effective in teaching PA youth that the Jews have no link to Israel, that Israel has no right to exist and that the overriding goal of the next generation -- even at the cost of their lives -- should be to eliminate Israel.
The essence of the conflict is Israel's very right to exist -- not the question of borders, territories or refugees. Peace negotiations that do not address the PA's educational system and its indoctrination will be short-term paper agreements doomed to failure.
Palestinian children have already figured this out. Perhaps the rest of us need to stay after school.
Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). Barbara Crook, a writer and university lecturer based in Ottawa, Canada, is PMW's North American representative.