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Mideast conflict seen as 'struggle for Allah' in Palestinian textbooks

OTTAWA - A Palestinian media watchdog says the Palestinian Authority's new Grade 12 textbook depicts the Middle East conflict as a "religious battle rather than a territorial dispute" and hinders the prospects of future peace by misleading students.
The Ottawa-based co-author of the report, which is being unveiled by the Palestinian Media Watch and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton in Washington today, says the authors of the new curriculum are from the secular Fatah party, which makes their subtle anti-Israel content even more disconcerting.
"You'd expect history and geography books to present the facts," said Barbara Crook, the associate director of the Palestinian Media Watch, adding the new curriculum glosses over honest discussion of the disputed territories and refugee claims.
"This is not being presented as a territorial dispute, but as a struggle for Allah," she said. "Young people are taught that all of Palestine is sacred land and that it's their duty to defend it."
The Palestinian Authority began revising its Grade 1 to 12 educational curriculum in 2000 after widespread international criticism that their textbooks - provided by Syria and Jordan - were both anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli, she said. The old curriculum advocated violence and suicide attacks on the "Zionist enemy."
While the new curriculum is more subtle and less anti-Semitic, it suggests that the fight against Israel is "an epic battle for Islam" as opposed to a negotiation process over disputed land, Crook said.
Cook said the textbook also condemns the West, has an anti-American slant, and rejects Israel's right to exist. She said none of the maps published in the new Palestinian curriculum recognize the existence of Israel, and typically feature Palestine encompassing all of Israel.
Cook said Clinton is strong proponent of education being a key to the peace process.