Palestinian textbooks reject Israel’s right to exist and teach kids that assault on civilians were permissible, a recent study found, prompting an EU investigation into the curriculum of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Since Washington announced its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, known as “Deal of the Century”, some two weeks ago, a dozen Israeli soldiers have been wounded in a car-ramming attack while the Israeli security forces injured three Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank amid sporadic violent clashes.
Apart from these instances, the situation on the ground has been quiet with calls urging the Palestinians to take to the streets en masse falling on deaf ears. This has reportedly frustrated the hopes of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip, who was expecting an instant flare-up in the West Bank and the enclave against the long-promoted “peace plan”.
Israel has long been blaming the Palestinian leadership for the incitement that prompts individuals to carry out terror attacks against Israel and the Jewish people. A recent study shows that the Palestinian schooling system bears some responsibility for the existing problem.
Hating From Early Age
IMPACT-se, a Jerusalem-based research institute that monitors education and who has analysed 2019-2020 school textbooks, has found out that all books in social studies, history, Arabic and national education for grades two to twelve contained problematic content.
The study prompted an EU probe into the Palestinian curriculum, which relies heavily on European donations. It detailed numerous instances of incitement. Eighth grade students, for example, were asked about the “usefulness of throwing stones”, while an 11th grade history book described the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Black September militants in Munich as “a strike at Zionist interests abroad”.
Salwa, a 30-year-old teacher at a prep school in Gaza, whose full name cannot be disclosed for security reasons, knows firsthand the issues such an approach to education can entail.
“As a teacher I witness this hatred towards Israel and the Jewish people on a daily basis. I was also brought up hating the other side. Eventually this policy bears fruit”.
In 2014, a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League found that 93 percent of Palestinians held anti-Semitic beliefs.
Another poll conducted in 2018, showed that 35 percent of Palestinians supported an armed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an increase of five percent from the previous year.
“When your schooling system is affected by Islamist ideology propagated by Hamas, and when you teach that murder is permissible, you end up raising criminals”, she explained.
Education as a Political Tool
Defining its main principles, Hamas’ website states that “resisting the occupation with all means and methods [including armed struggle] is a legitimate right [of Palestinians fighting against] the Zionist project that is racist, aggressive, colonial, and expansionist…”
Over the years, as an attempt to differentiate itself from what they call a more moderate school system of the Palestinian Authority that controls the West Bank, Hamas introduced a number of changes to the curriculum in Gaza.
Apart from presenting Israel as the ultimate enemy, gender-segregating education institutions from age 9 and increasing modesty patrols in schools and campuses, the Islamic group has also introduced a military training elective, offered in high-school that focuses on resistance to the Jewish state.
“Israel is No Choirboy”
But Hamas, designated a terror organisation by Israel, is far from being “the only culprit responsible for the hatred that perpetuates Palestinian society”, said the Gaza-based teacher pointing a finger at the Jewish state too, saying “it keeps the conflict alive”.
Firstly, “it is the Israeli education system that demonises the Palestinians”, said Salwa, referring to accusations made by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas who claimed that 95 percent of Israeli text books were saturated with hateful messages, allegations that Israel denied.
“And, secondly, it is the actions of the Israel Defence Forces that spread havoc and destruction around them”, Salwa added.
The most traumatic event that shaped Palestinians’ views on the conflict, the teacher said, occurred in 2014 when Israel launched its operation Protective Edge. In an attempt to put an end to the indiscriminate rocket fire that threatened Israel’s southern communities, the country’s military killed more than 2,000 people, mostly civilians.
The Israel Defence Forces have also dealt a blow to the Gaza Strip’s already staggering infrastructure heavily damaging or completely destroying 18,000 residential units, leaving more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless.
As part of the aftermath of that round of hostilities, many Palestinians demanded revenge. A poll conducted shortly after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was achieved showed that 80 percent of Palestinians supported lone-wolf attacks against Israeli targets, whereas 60 percent backed the continuation of indiscriminate rocket fire towards the country’s southern communities.
But for Salwa that war was a turning point.
“That was the time when I and many young people around me realised that war was not a solution…If we continue to teach hatred, this conflict will never end. It will continue to damage the psyche and the development of our kids leaving them with scars that will be hard to heal. That’s why we need to put hatred aside and teach kids the right values but on the condition that Israel would do that too. Both sides need to reform their schooling systems”.