Textbook Study Debunks Myth of Palestinian Incitement

From the Monitor, exposing a oft-unquestioned assumption that Palestinian students are educated with hatred toward Jews:

Three years in the making at a cost of $500,000, the U.S. State Department–funded report explores textbooks issued by the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and religious bodies. The research, overseen by Sami Adwan from Bethlehem University and Daniel Bar-Tal from Tel Aviv University and designed by Yale psychiatry professor Bruce Wexler, examined 94 Palestinian and 74 Israeli schoolbooks published between 2009 and 2011.

The study was carried out under the auspices of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, a Jerusalem-based body representing Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders. A team of Palestinians and Israelis trained by Adwan and Bar-Tal conducted the research, which involved going through books used in West Bank and Gaza Strip schools run by the PA, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and religious bodies. On the Israeli side, the research examined books used in secular and religious schools run by the state and others catering to the needs of ultra-Orthodox students.

First, the objection:

Despite the report’s evenhandedness, it was boycotted by Israel’s Ministry of Education, which slammed it as “biased, unprofessional, and significantly lacking in objectivity.” The ministry issued a statement that said, in part, “The clear impression formed is that it is a ‘study’ with findings that were predetermined even before it was carried out professionally, and it certainly does not reliably reflect reality.” 

Speaking at the Jerusalem press conference where the study was released, Professor Wexler described the ministry’s statement as “false at every level,” adding, “The Israeli government would rather hold on to a propaganda claim [it] know[s] to be false than to get change in Palestinian books.”

Negative portrayals of the other do exist, but exist on both sides:

The report rebutted claims that Palestinian schoolbooks used highly negative depictions, noting that these were extremely rare. For example, the researchers flatly denied allegations that Palestinian books contained “calls to go murder Jews” or “praise of those who murder Jews.” In fact, the study only found six examples in the textbooks “that were rated as portraying the other in extreme negative ways other than as the enemy, and none of these six were general dehumanizing characterizations of personal traits of Jews or Israelis.” Twenty extremely negative depictions were found in the Israeli state books and 7 in the ultra-Orthodox books.

Here is their conclusion about the problem:

The research concluded that both sides’ books were “guilty” of using a selective narrative that undermined the story of the other, which the researchers said is not unusual in conflict areas.

There lies the rub. Neither side will acknowledge the legitimacy of the other frame of reference, which is generally proper, as they are contradictory. Achieving peace will ask both sides to lessen their grip on the ‘rightness’ of their cause, but will certainly ask them both to give up demonizing the other.
If this report is to be trusted, Palestinian schools have largely done so; Israeli propaganda has not.
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3 replies on “Textbook Study Debunks Myth of Palestinian Incitement”

The link you provided, unfortunately, does not establish where the report is faulty. What it does is say the study was improper in the first place, in equating the Israeli and Palestinian textbooks.

This link, also from ADL, does a better job:

Here is where there is a sensible objection. It says: But by bundling the two issues, the study diminishes, almost to the point of overlooking, the centrality of this issue to Israel. Just as territory and a Palestinian state are core issues for the Palestinians, how Palestinians speak and teach about Israel in the media and in schools is a core issue for Israel.

This is a good point. But even this response does not demonstrate where the report is ‘lopsided’, let alone inaccurate. Three examples are provided; the first is nonsensical, the second justifies a blanket generalization. The third has some merit: The unwillingness to accept that when Palestinians texts reject or ignore Israel’s existence that that is not dehumanization.

But even here, there is a difference between not accepting Israel as a political entity and the dehumanization of Jews or Israelis as people. But yes, if the Palestinian Authority has accepted peace with Israel, rejecting that existence in textbooks is inconsistent. Of course, it falls to both sides to bring the agreements of Oslo to completion, until which time that ‘peace’ is only an agreed upon ideal.


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