Friday, September 15, 2006

Sept 14 Special Report: “What's in the Palestinian Textbooks?”

Good question. The answer – another opportunity to distort and mislead.

This has been a long-standing favourite of the ‘supporters of Israel’. It began in earnest in the 1990’s and has been re-hashed on almost a yearly basis ever since.

Now HR does yet another re-hash in conjunction with TKP: Teach Kids Peace. TKP says it “is a project of Honest Reporting dedicated to highlighting the culture of hatred that is being taught to children in certain parts of the world.”. Its website is divided into 3 sections – Palestinian Areas, Israel and the World, listing articles related to the topic. All the stories in the Palestinian and World sections are negative stories on Palestinians, Arabs or Islam. The few Israeli stories, are, surprise surprise, accounts of how Israel strives for peace.

Given their obvious resources it’s surprising they couldn’t manage to find this report, Child Recruitment in Israel (PDF), on the militarization of education, and recruitment of children into militias, in Israel. Not to mention the practice of Israels' security service, Shin Bet, using threats and coercion to try and recruit Palestinian child collaborators.

Some of the first efforts on this old canard were by the Centre for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) which popularised the notion of “incitement” in Palestinian textbooks.

Nathan Brown, who was employed to review the new Palestinian curriculum, gave a summary of CMIPs interesting methods,

-The strong anti-Israel and anti-Semitic material in the curriculum comes from books that the Palestinians did not author and are replacing;
-Books that were written by the Palestinian Authority in 1994, 2000, and 2001 are free of such material;
-The CMIP’s method is overly prosecutorial and deeply flawed;
-The CMIP’s reports are seriously misleading.
However, to be fair, CMIP eventually turned its’ critical eye to Israeli textbooks as well, the following being typical of their robust critique,
There is no indoctrination against the Arabs as a nation, nor a negative presentation of Islam. Rather, Islam, the Arab culture and the Arabs' contribution to human civilization are presented in a positive light.

Which is rather different from the experiences of others. Nathan Brown lived in Israel while reviewing the new Palestinian education system. In a 2002 speech recounting the textbook controversy, he gave this interesting experience with the Israeli schooling system and its' treatment of Arabs,
my son’s class was taught a song about a watchman guarding the city; the song lauded the guard for beating an Arab and quoted him approvingly, ‘Get out of here, ‘Abd Allah. You should die, God willing, but just not in Tel Aviv.'

A 1999 report quoted other research into Israeli textbooks and childrens books,
Cohen points out that the authors of these children’s books effectively instill hatred toward Arabs by means of stripping them of their human nature and classifying them in another category. In a sampling of 86 books, Cohen counted the following descriptions used to dehumanize Arabs: Murderer was used 21 times; snake, 6 times; dirty, 9 times; vicious animal, 17 times; bloodthirsty, 21 times; warmonger, 17 times; killer, 13 times; believer in myths, 9 times; and a camel’s hump, 2 times.

It also noted that from around the mid-1990's Israeli school textbooks started to remove the overtly negative Arab stereotypes that populated its' textbooks.

The controversy stimulated a Report to the US Congress (PDF) in 2004,
While there are many areas for improvement in the Palestinian textbooks, it can be said that these new textbooks do not incite against Israel or against peace.
........the textbooks promote an environment of open-mindedness, rational thinking, modernization, critical reflection and dialogue........

The IHT also ran a story highlighting some critical context for the debate,
The biggest constraint, in the words of a Palestinian parent, is that Israeli tanks and soldiers are shooting in the streets outside while teachers are trying to promote peace in the classroom.

And Ha’aretz noted research that moved beyond the CMIP framework and compared the Israeli and Palestinian textbooks with each other to see how they treated contentious issues,
Surprisingly, the two researchers found an almost absolute parallel between the books in three areas: Both sides ignore periods of relative calm and coexistence between the nations - for instance in 1921-1929 - or mention them as a misleading interval in a prolonged conflict, the two sides do not reveal any tendency to tell the pupil the story of the conflict from the enemy's point of view, both skip over details of the human suffering of the other side, and each side gives a reckoning of its victims alone.

All in all, the disinterested academic research confirms that the curriculum designed by the PA was quite reasonable, not without flaws, but comparable to Israels. Certainly not indoctrinating a "culture of hate" as HR alledges.

Having set up its' distortion, HR then invites its' gullible subscribers to act on this disinformation by signing a petition to "stand up for the rights and future of Palestinian children". Perhaps this would be more convincing if HR asked its' readers to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children not to be killed by the IDF so that they might have a future in the first place, or to even get to school .

All this is in service of one huge deception that ‘supporters of Israel’ wish to promote; that the conflict is perpetuated purely by Palestinian hatred, passed down from father to son and aided by the education system. In this propaganda fantasy, 40 years of Israeli occupation, land theft, home demolitions, discrimination, torture, imprisonment and brutal repression have absolutely no consequences. The issue is only Palestinian antipathy to Jews.

This is a monstrous fabrication, one that HonestReporting is keen to encourage. Its' latest effort to dehumanise and vilify Palestinians is conducted, with supreme cynicism and hypocrisy, under the guise of concern over the promotion of hatred.