In a surprising step, Norway decided to reduce its funding to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, claiming that the Palestinian Authority continues to print school curricula that they say incites violence after an Israeli smear campaign that lasted several years. The campaign claims that the Palestinian curriculum contains terms encouraging armed attacks or mentions false facts about the history of Zionism in Palestine, such as the events of the Nakba and massacres committed by the Zionist gangs.
It is not the first time that Israel has waged an inflammatory campaign directed against the Palestinian curriculum. Pressure from its campaign resulted in the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issuing a report highlighting the context of the Palestinian school curricula and demanding Palestinians remove anything which incites violence in their textbooks.
The EU has also begun investigating what it describes as incitement in Palestinian educational institutions, following requests by members of the European Parliament to examine what they considered inflammatory content in Palestinian textbooks. Their requests are based on the results of a study conducted by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), which is charged with monitoring curriculum contents worldwide.
The inciteful Israeli narrative against the Palestinian school curriculum is based on a set of political and historical fallacies, the most important of which is that Palestinian students learn in Maths how to calculate the numbers of martyrs in the Palestinian uprisings using pictures of their funerals.
Israel claims that Arabic lessons require students to come up with words starting with a certain letter and examples include the words shahid (martyr) and hujoom (attack) and that in Physics, they learn about the rule of gravity by using the example of how to throw stones at Israeli soldiers using a slingshot. They also claim that in Islamic studies, they learn that the Buraq Wall -part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and referred to as the Wailing Wall by Jews – is sacred to Muslims alone.
Israeli propaganda promotes the idea that Palestinian textbooks are packed with concepts of incitement to carry out armed attacks against Israelis, because those carrying out these attacks are mostly high school graduates, and they attend religious lectures in mosques and schools, which are institutions that contribute to directing Palestinian public opinion.
Israeli speakers claim that taking a look at what Palestinian educational institutions teach their students shows that they promote hating Israelis, which makes education a major factor in encouraging armed attacks by spreading concepts of anti-Semitism and the hatred of Jews. They also claim they promote the idea that achieving coexistence between the Palestinian and Israeli people requires getting rid of the roots of hatred present in Palestinian textbooks.
The levels of Israeli incitement reach the point of condemning the fact that Palestinian students are learning their national history or that some of their schools, city centres, women’s institutions and public squares are named after their leaders or martyrs.
They believe that the Palestinian curriculum views the conflict with Israel as not being based on its geographical size but rather based on the rejection of its existence because it is considered an occupation. The Green Line includes Tel Aviv, Haifa and Safad, while social studies books show the Palestinian borders to be between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, between Lebanon and Syria, and between the Gulf of Aqaba and Egypt.
Israeli propaganda tries to use this campaign against the Palestinian curriculum to link it to the phenomenon of Islamophobia, in order to raise the senses of Westerners and play on their emotions when they claim that these curriculums consider that self-sacrifice for the sake of Islam is a supreme divine value, because God welcomes these martyrs, gives them a sacred position, erases their sins, raises their levels in heaven and gives them 72 virgins. They even claim that the Islamic Studies and Arabic books mentioned the phrase “I would be happy if I sacrificed myself in order to eliminate the occupiers”.
The media machine is promoting that it has found in recent years harsh and dangerous content against Jews and Israel in Palestinian textbooks, and a number of academic institutions have directed these results to many international bodies, including the EU and UNESCO, claiming that these concepts hinder progress toward a two-state solution for the two peoples and increases rates of declining and decreasing trust between them.
Many research institutes have spent a large chunk of their material and human resources to investigate Palestinian textbooks and curricula, especially those that reinforce concepts of jihad, and increase motivation towards what they consider “violence” and systematically demonising Israel. This is even after the curriculum was updated three years ago following international criticism, and it included changing 200 textbooks across all grades.
Palestinians in schools affiliated with the PA, private schools, or the UNRWA, reject Israeli claims about their curriculum and state that they are inaccurate, as their curricula are free from promoting violence and incitement. The Palestinian Ministry of Education has publicly called on the United Nations to form international teams to examine their curricula on the condition that Israel agrees to have theirs examined as well, but the latter rejected this offer. This has made the talk of the alleged incitement in Palestinian the curricula a broken record that is on repeat and not worth standing by as the foundations of the Palestinian curriculum is linked to the Document for Independence of the Palestinian State and international resolutions.
Palestinians stress that their curricula do not advocate violence, killing and abuse of people and do not classify them based on their racial and ethnic backgrounds. They have global standards that they adhere to and adopt, and they seek to match the educational environment with the standards of global organisations such as the UNESCO and the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ICESCO). They also have a curriculum document, which is considered a constitution for their curricula as it is a reference for its religious, national and moral aspects.
It is interesting that Israel is waging an incitement campaign against Palestinian curricula while its own curricula are full of anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim content and distorts their image, as well as stressing the expansion plans for the self-proclaimed Jewish state. They also promote looking at others from a position of power accompanied by hostility, superiority and humiliation, and are based on text from religious books and the opinions of the major Jewish philosophers.
Those who examine the official Israeli textbooks see how Jewish Israelis see themselves and Gentiles (a Jewish religious term referring to non-Jews), especially Arabs. They see themselves as more advanced and superior and others as servants and backwards. They associate negative traits with Arabs and Muslims, such as stupidity, failure, dirtiness, brutality, robbery and their tendency for vandalism, and therefore they must be uprooted, according to their Israeli convictions.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.