Friday, December 22, 2006

Palestine: the politics of textbooks and history

I will discuss the differences between Palestinian Occupied Territories and Israeli contemporary (1967-1998) education, principally focusing on the instruction of history. Concurrently it will concentrate on the function of text books in the culmination of creation and sustaining a national identity. Textbooks have revealed state-sponsored ideologies from national identity to ethnic history; they have assisted in disseminating these dogmatic ideologies among the general population. It is especially evident in countries that are embroiled in ongoing conflicts typically defined as “intractable conflicts.” [1] Such conflicts are protracted, violent, and central in the life of the national groups involved; each group perceives them as a zero-sum game.”[2] This is why a shared history is imperative to socially constructing a national identity through education. It communicates an impression of unity through commonality of experience and allows for assimilation of large immigrant populations. For a state like that of Israel which, is primarily made up of immigrants. Although they hail from the same continent: Europe. The difficultly lay in the obvious, how can they create a nation when most of its citizens still maintained the language, mannerism, and culture of their forefathers? Eventually through the institution of education, this goal was eventually achieved. However, there are many more elements concerned in establishing a nation than just using the same language.

Robert Dreeben[3], describes patterns of normative socialization in educational process as “achievement orientation, an attitude of independence, universalism, and specificity all engendered by the hidden curriculum of modern schools.” National education, broadly speaking, has one objective. To be a civics program that seeks to indoctrinate a sense of place, identity and history. The idea of a shared historical vision was especially important to a fledging state like contemporary Israel. Moreover, based on Israeli history, they are taught “how elite-and mass-based interest groups, within particular national setting, seek to embed specific types of social knowledge and worldviews in official school subjects as a way of reproducing an existing social order or strengthening the privileged status of specific social groups.”[4] That statement is particularly genuine for the Arabs living within Israel-proper. They experience first hand the status of being a disenfranchised minority group.


Contemporary Israel (ironically like the United States) represents a certain character in personal and collective behaviors. It possesses a distinctive posture in history which provides it with an impression of exceptionalism that many other nation-states do not share nor identify with. Israel also believes deeply it is chosen to fulfill a mission; it is independent, “a city on a hill.” Israel’s undertaking is to provide a homeland to the Jewish people of the world and to defend it from all those who may pose a menace to its continuation. This is the unbending responsibility of every Jewish-Israeli citizen, and is an intensely deep-seated element of their national narrative. This is not true to the Arab-Israeli citizens who have elected to reside within Israel-proper. “In many modern nation-states, national identity is not inclusive of all of the state’s citizens; rather, it is limited (in varying degrees) to the members of the dominant group”[5]This is especially true of the Palestinian minority which is educated in Israel-proper, more than those educated in the occupied territories. The extent that the Israeli government accomplishes this is amalgamated, “[…]by developing systems of control, based on varying degrees of force, depending on the state's claim (or lack thereof) to be "democratic.”[6] This “mission” is manifested further in textbooks of Israeli educated citizens. According to Professor Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University who studied “124 elementary, middle- and high school textbooks on grammar and Hebrew literature, history, geography and citizenship.”[7] Bar-Tal concluded that “Israeli textbooks present the view that Jews are involved in a justified, even humanitarian, war against an Arab enemy that refuses to accept and acknowledge the existence and rights of Jews in Israel.”[8]

Some may reason that Israel’s state-controlled education continuously perpetuates the cultural conflict by ceaselessly generating a fresh crop of bellicose citizens every generation. Of course there are many Israelis and Arabs alike that recognize the serious difficulties in the state-controlled education system and have attempted to rectify it by calling for more Palestinian involvement. However, “less than 1 percent of the jobs in the Education Ministry, not counting teachers, are held by Palestinians.”[9] There is no Arab-language curriculum, and since there are no quotas or affirmative action, it is increasingly difficult to meet the needs of the growing Arab-Israeli population. In order to illustrate that point I found several common Israeli middle schools (6th, 7th, 8th grades) and reviewed their curriculum for social sciences/history. There is no mention of Middle Eastern, Oriental, or Palestinian -Israeli relations. From what I observed, the majority of the curriculum is narrowly focused. In the State-run schools …“Jewish studies are given a national cultural interpretation without adherence to religious observance or belief.”[10] That is an obfuscation of several obvious issues that surround Israeli public education. There is no mention of Arab cultural studies, language, or history. Even in the official position they offer next to nothing in specifics on history or civics. They offer descriptions of sports and entertainment, media, culture and art, all emphasizing the Zionist experience. The curriculum is rather inflexible and does not encourage a great deal of interdisciplinary activates. When a student chooses a “path” they are to adhere to that path, whither it be, technology, agricultural, military, Yeshiva studies, some comprehensive occupations. In any of these descriptions there is no mention of historical Arabic studies, or any kind of mandatory language programs. They finish there description saying “… the aim of enhancing pupils' understanding of their society, each year a special topic of national importance is studied in depth. Themes have included democratic values, the Hebrew language, immigration, Jerusalem, peace and industry.” [11] It opens up a lot of public debate on whose history are they learning and is it compatible with there regional neighbors?

The perception of the Jewish people and only follows a linear representation of there history as a Diaspora until the time they “return” to Israel. Despite the changes that have happened since 1948, schools are supposed to be integrated following the 1988 Special Education law and there are many progressive private schools now that advocate cultural understanding. For example, there is a great deal of private Christian schools gaining public attention in Israel and especially past the “Green-Line” in East Jerusalem. There popularity with Palestinians has become a concern of not only the Palestinian authority but the Israeli education ministry. Many Christian evangelical organizations have taken the plight of the Palestinians as an opportunity to entrench themselves into the fabric of Israeli society. They cleverly have partnered themselves with social causes in Israel, like Illegal house demolitions in East Jerusalem.

The Orthodox School in Haifa, and the Evangelical Lutheran School of Beit Sahour, have seen there admissions shoot up in the recent years since there establishment in East Jerusalem. The Lutheran school’s mission statement is called the “Christian approach:”

“As a Christian school the full staff (37 employees) is trying their utmost to keep religious standards high within the school. This is reflected in the way they are teaching their students social intercourses. They approach the students as if the school is a large family and they deal with any conflict in such a family way. Every day starts with morning devotion, where teachers and students gather in the church related to the school. Moslem students attend those services too. They don’t want to push their Moslem pupils to be Christians but they focus on how to be good disciples for God and for the community. Children are taught how to live with each other. Ethics is very important for the school. The staff considers it very important to confirm the faith in the students, regardless of their religion. They are convinced this is teaching them how to behave – in spite of their diversity – as brothers and sisters and how to accept the different images of God. In this regard, the school introduced a new concept; they began teaching the students in grade nine the three monotheistic religions. By doing this, the school tries to contribute, in a humble way, to bring peace in the land where hatred, violence and confrontation prevail.” [12]

These schools although they are Christen seem to have a great deal of respect for the Palestinian wishes for there children to remain incontrovertibly Muslim. The Orthodox School in Haifa, shows that democratic and religious private schools have a future in Israel. Just over half its students are Palestinian Muslims. “Some 95 percent of the students matriculate and over 70 percent of the graduates complete university degrees. The school enforces zero tolerance for violence, particularly for insults based on religion.”[13] What is so exceptional is that compared to “the average national success rate in the matriculation exams is 52.8 percent (the Education Ministry refused to provide detailed national figures). Although the two Christian schools are private schools, they ask about one-tenth of the tuition demanded by their Jewish counterpart, Reali, which charges annual fees of just over NIS 10,000.” [14] The fees for the Christian schools are near half of that (NIS 1,200) and they do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or citizenship. “Over 50 percent of the students at the Orthodox School are Muslim, while the rest are Christians, Druze and Bedouin from all over Israel.”[15] The norm however, is still that most Palestinian and Israeli children still attend inadequate public schools.

Public schools in Israel-proper are organized based along ethnicity-nationality (Jewish, Arab, Druze) and religion. Like most typical schooling they have a four tier system, including: kindergarten, elementary grades (1-6), middle (7-9), and high school (10-12). “School attendance is mandatory from age 6 to 16 and free to age 18. Formal education starts in primary school (grades 1-6) and continues with intermediate school (grades 7-9) and secondary school (grades 10-12).” [16] There are several different kinds of schools under Education Minsterary jurisdiction. The State (Mamlachi) schools, this is where the majority of students attend. State religious and independent religious schools (mamlachti dati and chinuch atazmai) which focus on Jewish studies, Talmud Torah, and the state schools have some secular subject. The religious schools—for the most part—do not have any secular subjects. Last, there are private schools (democratic schools), based on different educational philosophies and sometimes foreign curriculums. There are also Arab schools which focus on Arabic, and Arab religion, history and culture.[17]

The Education Minstery has an official curriculum for each sector (much like our districts) and since the system is still quite segregated, along ethnic lines there is some subject overlap. Much of the curriculums reflect the political and educational considerations embedded in official government policies. There is not a great deal of variation between school sectors and there is an expectation of standardization within each sector.

Both Arab and Israeli schools focus on language studies, but Israeli public elementary schools generally teach only Hebrew and English to students, and scant attention is paid to Arab culture and language. Although classical Arabic is required by law in Jewish-Israeli middle schools, it is rarely enforced. In contrast Arab schools in Israeli-proper are required to teach English, Hebrew, and Arabic. They teach much of the national and cultural elements of all three languages. According to Aaron Benavot and Nura Resh, the official curriculum, prescribed by the state is “the crux of the educational enterprise.” [18] That suggests that

“Organized groups—for example, state officials, political parties, teachers’ associations, university academics, employers, religious groups, and parents—have sought, in different times and places, to insert their political, social and economic agendas in the official curriculum, thereby generating a considerable degree of class and status group conflicts.”[19]

In conjunction with these controls the preferences of textbooks, especially if they are of poor quality, are above all damaging to an equitable learning environment. Ever since Israel established a state run curriculum, approved by the Israeli Ministry of Education, they have deliberated what place teaching of history has in Jewish Students lives. “History education is tool in the hands of the government, the state and its authorities in the junction between past and future.” [20]Although this may not seem particularly significant, in any education system the teaching of history is perceived not just information but a tool for analyzing the human experience, also teaching values as a means for manipulating the collective memory of the nation.

According to the elites, Israeli schools fulfill an “explicit political role, thus the history study program fulfills a significant role in normalizing the students.” [21] Kitzel, goes on to say, “the critical reconstruction of the history of the Zionist education will enlighten the general rules of education by pointing out the general function of the normalizing education in concrete historical manner.” [22] Reconstructing the control over the memory and consciousness with supervision over construction of the Israeli identity in the framework of knowledge images and modern political practice should have a special place here. What seeks to be expressed is the necessity for reconciling the differentiation between the endeavors to shape the collective memories, learning as a judgmental activity and creating the emotional stands on certain narratives that seem to be essential to Israeli education. He also recognizes the need for creating a history education plan that is disconnected from the political forces that now steer its course.

Israel education plans have also wrestled with the problem of Euro-centrism in its teaching of history. “A similar criticism was raised regarding the preference of European history over American, Asian or African history. The primary civilizations occurred not in Europe but in Asia and Africa and they were societies with culture.” [23] The justification for this focus was that students should learn about the society that was responsible for the roots of Zionism, that European connection was also very important because of there emphasis on Jewish accomplishments within European society. “[…]the primary contributions of Asia and Africa are less modern than the European contributions but no less important to a history teacher. For example, ancient China introduced in Confucianism and Taoism the foundations for a civilization which existence was longer than any other civilization.” [24] All modern political accomplishments were descendent from Europe and that many of Israel’s citizens still felt a connection too, due to the fact that the majority of Jews in power were of Ashkenazi-white European decent.

There seems to be a consensus among many researchers that great deals of the early textbooks used in the teaching of history were relatively Euro-centric in many researchers’ viewpoints. “The Europe-centrism is one of the outstanding features in the Israeli history study program thus it infiltrated also the textbooks.” [25] As I mentioned before there was an emphasis of the European perspective by making it the focal precept of the core history curriculum and it was augmented by textbooks. This acted more as a personal achievement of those first generation writers weaving the narrative of Zionism’s beginnings in Europe. “In the battle to create and preserve the Israeli-Jewish collective memory, the textbooks served as an important “battle field”. The final product reflected generally the cultural and ideological consensus among the elite and wide parts of the Israeli society.” [26] However, with the influx of immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe some of the writings changed slightly, especially the history of the Pogroms and the accounts of the treatment of Jews by the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union. Despite the criticism that many textbook writers have encountered at adopting this approach many have argued that this makes sense. “The study program we have today is still embedded in the mark of the European approach, at the centre there is still Europe. The reasons are obvious: the actual part Europe played in the process of historic development, habit and origin and study course of many of those now representing the historic science in Israel and are teaching history in school.” [27] Second Generation writers became embroiled in manipulation of post World War II histories, it reflected the “hatred and alienation between the different groups. Gundara and Jones, “added that the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism shows “how successful the education service has been in teaching about Europe’s past.” [28]

Here is where the idea of an “intractable conflict” comes into play. That maintaining Israeli cultural dominance was the first priority. The use of schools to indoctrinate those born into the conflict has been most successful. “The use of schools to nurture a certain national ethos may lead to the alienation of minority groups whose narratives are not represented in the school system, because there has always been a contradiction between the “official history” taught in schools and the “unofficial histories” that influence children and are derived from the community, the media, and the cultural heritage.” [29] Majid Al-Haj claims that is an “overburdened” society, it must deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it has its share of internal discord and the widespread complexity of being wedged in an “intractable” conflict. [30] “This situation has strongly affected the education system in Israel. […]The Israeli education system is designed to secure the cultural hegemony of the Jewish majority, to instill national-Zionist values among Jewish students, and to safeguard the Arab minority’s loyalty to the state out of a sense of national inferiority.” [31]

In a way it seems to me that by fostering a system based off of controls to maintaining ethnic superiority, you have created a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure. In every other nation where there has been an ethnic conflict where a minority has been discriminated by the majority systematically and institutionally, it eventually is marked with failure. As I mentioned earlier, the system of education is segregated by ethnic lines. Arabs do not learn, nor attend the same institutions as Jewish-Israelis.

Although the main theme of the curriculum for Jewish schools focuses on national content, the curriculum in Arab schools has been sanitized of any national content. Throughout Israel’s existence, the message internalized by Jewish students is that Israel is a state of, by, and for Jews; there has been no attempt to foster a civic culture in which the Arab citizens are a separate but equal component. At the same time, Arab students are called on to accept this situation and identify with the state, although its nature remains vague. Unlike Jewish students, they are not called on to play an active role in it. In this sense, the deeply divided society has produced a deeply divided curriculum.” [32]

Not only do the textbooks in Jewish-Israeli schools bolster this world view but they emphasis the societal beliefs of …“emphasizing “security” and Jewish heroism, positive self image, and victimization appeared frequently.” [33] Although Arabs were rarely delegitimized, most of the books presented a negative stereotype of them.” [34] There is and still little autonomy in State-run Arab schools when it comes to textbook selection.

To be fair however in the new generation of textbooks, since 1992 many have come out that challenge the old Zionist narratives. In the early nineties, a group of academics stood to change the content of textbooks used in middle and elementary school levels. “The academics who spearheaded the change perceived this content as too closed, based on national myths, and derived from a conservative Zionist historiography, thereby presenting only one narrative and closing the door to any critical perspective on the past.” [35] They contended that Israeli history was part of the greater world history and parallels and multiculturalism should be emphasized over post-modern Zionist perspective that many textbooks still contained. Unfortunately, according to Al-Haj, “mainstream Jewish- Zionist perspective and are not among the “post-Zionist” or “new historians” who constitute a minority in Israeli academia.” [36] This was not completely successful, mainly because of the changes in policy from administration to administration in the Ministry of Education. Many of the “progressive” books were eventually taken off the approved list and banned for use in public schools. For example, “A World of Changes was edited by Danny Jacoby (1999) and published by the Pedagogic Administration of the Ministry of Education and Culture. It was used only for one year, however, before it was removed from the list of approved texts by the minister of education at the recommendation of the Knesset Education Committee.” [37] Eventually the Knesset Committee, released a statement claiming that the “ban was motivated by the argument that the book is not faithful to the classic Zionist narrative overlooks central events in the Zionist history, and consequently does not adequately reinforce the national-Zionist ethos for students.” [38] This was not the only victim of the Knesset Committee. Seven other books were banned from Middle and Elementary History education for the reason stated above. Nevertheless, there has been improvement in the quality of textbooks distributed since the Knesset Commission. The creation of progressive private schools, and continual support from the academic community for changes have not been totally fruitless. Since 1999, “the new history textbooks published as part of the new Education Ministry curriculum attempt to demonstrate a change by treating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a more open, complex perspective than did the curricula followed in Israel during the first 50 years of independence.” [39]

West Bank, Gaza Strip: The Occupied Territories

Educational policies regarding the schooling of Palestinians are of a highly divisive nature. “Legally, since 1948 schooling has taken place within a cumulative mixture of Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Egyptian legal provisions regarding children, their welfare and right to education.” [40] According to Oslo Peace Process, the declaration gave Palestinians (PLO at the time) the responsibility for their education system in the occupied territories in 1993 and on. The difficulty since the territories were occupied by Israel that both Gaza and West Bank were divided in policy and laws resulting from there former countries. “These have deepened geographic and social inequalities of educational opportunities following the Israeli occupation of these territories in 1967. In fact, no compulsory education law was enacted in these areas, nor were there proper policy provisions to safeguard a free and equitable access to educational services.” [41]

In the late nineties, the population levels in both West Bank and Gaza were not particularly overwhelming however, the amount of children between the ages of 0-14 were 47 percent* of the population which put an enormous strain on the already inadequate education system. “According to official Palestinian statistics, over 812,000 pupils were enrolled in grades 1 through 12 in all public and non-public schools combined during the school year 1998- 9*.” [42] This made for inconsistencies in all manners of teachers and subjects. However since then many Palestinian have advocated reform not only in curriculum but distribution and also taking into consideration geo-political changes since 1967.

In order to address these issues and the new set of powers given to them by the Oslo Declarations, they convened “the Second International Conference for Palestinian Studies, devoted to Palestinian education and held in Ramallah and Gaza during December of 1996.” [43] Many different Palestinian academics presented papers for different plans for systematic reform in the occupied territories. The first comprehensive plan was approved. “The First Palestinian Curriculum for General Education: A Comprehensive Plan, edited by Ibrahim Abu Lughod. The recommendation to set up The Palestinian Curriculum Development Center (PCDC) was initially made in August 1990, as part of a UNESCO-organized Symposium on the Palestinian Curriculum for Fundamental Education.” [44] Some important part of the plan emphasized Arabic as the national language, and English as the secondary language. Unlike Israel, (which did not require conversational Arabic) the plan also included studies in Hebrew and French as a functional language in the region. “The second part of the Plan contains evaluation studies of the current curricula in English, Arabic, social studies and citizenship, history, geography, mathematics, science and physical education.” [45] This is especially important for the creation of a national identity in the occupied territories, in Gaza Egyptian civics were being taught and in West Bank, Jordanian. Creating a wholly “Palestinian” civics program was a cornerstone of the intent of the program. “Devising a new and unified Palestinian social science and civic education curriculum is thus perceived as `one of the most important means, if not the most important, to ensure the integration’ of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as `the complementarily between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should be a major Palestinian aim’.” [46]

In many classrooms, still what and how history and geography are to be taught is up to the individual instructor. Textbooks are generally from either Egypt in Gaza or Jordan in the West Bank. According to New York Times reporter Deborah Sontag, “For decades Palestinians in the West Bank have used Jordanian textbooks and those in Gaza have relied on Egyptian ones, making for a disjointed and ultimately borrowed educational program. As part of the process of building institutions for an emerging Palestinian state, the Palestinian Authority, with money from European countries, is trying to create from scratch a genuine Palestinian curriculum, starting with two grades as a pilot effort.” [47] Even now, almost seven years later, peace negotiations still unresolved and the Palestinians still no closer to a nation, school curriculums are foddered for criticisms from within and without. Many that teach in modern secular schools within the occupied territories are still not able to designate borders for teaching geography. “How, Mrs. Shihadi asked, a Principle at a private school in Ramallah, can the children illustrate Palestine? She wondered if they should make cutouts, like snowflakes, to portray the unconnected parcels of land that now constitute the Palestinian-ruled territories. The textbook writers opted for what they call "the historic map of Palestine," the map of 1948.” [48] Many Israelis that are conservative, are upset by this because they believe it is indoctrinating hostility towards Israel and Jews. “They say it betrays the whole spirit of the peace effort for the Palestinians to generate a new educational curriculum that, for starters, ignores Israel on maps.” [49] Palestinians claim this is unavoidable and that it is impossible to teach the history and geography of two pieces of land separated by decades of history and culture.

However, Palestinian history textbooks show themselves to be similar to Israeli textbooks to the fact that they are ethnocentric and vague. For example “The creation of Israel is explained tersely as "the Israeli occupation of 1948," this with the assistance of Britain “destroyed most of the Palestinian villages and cities and kicked the Palestinian inhabitants from their lands.” [50] Nevertheless, much like Israel’s reform movement, many Palestinian teachers and schools are calling for more precise and historically accurate textbooks that do not rely on victimization and over emphasis on Israeli atrocities. “In a bid to introduce greater historical detail to the story of Israel's founding, new textbooks said that in 1948 some Palestinians were expelled from their villages and that some fled because they feared Israeli soldiers. But the new books are used only in the mainstream secular school system, which serves about 60 percent of schoolchildren. And since some secular Israeli educators consider them offensive, they are not used throughout the system.” [51] Palestinian educators acknowledge that there is much work to be done in universalizing the quality of education in Gaza and West Bank. Despite the political dismemberment of Palestine and the evictions of its majority, the Palestinians seem to have continued to make progress educationally and ultimately to make important contributions to themselves as people and to the Arab world in general.

“The word “Palestine” was removed (from all state-mandated textbooks in the West Bank), maps were deleted, and anything Israeli censors deemed nationalist was excised.” [52] Again when choosing textbooks after 1994, there was still much controversy on how history and geography would be taught. During Israeli administration of the occupied territories (after 1967), textbooks were severely censored by the Israeli occupation authorities until 1994 when some degree of control was handed over to the Palestinian Authority. As I mentioned earlier the Al-Jarbawi and Abu Lughod’s study, on history, social sciences and a verity of textbooks, was very influential on current education policy. “[they] conducted workshops with teachers to obtain their assessment of texts in use, and analyzed questionnaires that had been sent out to random sample of history and social science teachers.” [53] In these new textbook that they began to introduce in 2000, would eventually phase out old texts used before. A major contrast between the Palestinian and Israeli education goals is Palestinians tried to incorporate five essential principles. This point is where the Israeli idea of education is divergent. The Israeli system tries to above all emphasis a “narrative” and “selective truths,” where the Palestinian system seems far more progressive.

“[…] curriculum should be predicated no on giving students facts as if they were eternal truths that must be memorized, but on encouraging them to become critical thinkers

“Second, students should be encouraged to make independent judgments and intelligent choices, with careful attention to be paid to individual differences within the classroom. Third, the new curriculum should generate a concept of citizenship that emphasizes individual rights and responsibilities and that establishes a linkage between private interests and the public good so as to encourage responsible and intelligent political participation” Forth, democratic values such as justice, personal responsibility, tolerance, empathy, pluralism, cooperation and respect for the opinions of others will be emphasized. Fifth, students should be taught how to read primary texts, debate, link ideas, read maps, interpret statistics, and use the internet as well as how to verify facts, sources, and data critically and scientifically.” [54]

The new textbooks rely much more on a student-centered approach than just memorizing facts (which is something we here in the United States could learn from). It takes a somewhat opposing position from official Israeli attitude, and they depend heavily on textbooks to reinforce and reiterate information. For the most part, revisionists on both sides except the basic Palestinian narrative, but many radical Zionist reject this interpretation as “anti-Israeli.” They continued to lobby very hard against the use of the new textbooks and education goals, eventually they were successful in rallying there greatest ally—the United States—against the new Palestinian educational reforms.

In 1994 this was one of the main concerns of the new deputy minister for education, Na’im Abul Hommos. “The educational system that we inherited was in a sorry state," he explained: "overcrowded classes, lack of teachers and antiquated textbooks dating from pre-1967, teaching Gaza children, for instance, about the greatness of the Egyptian kingdom and its 20 million inhabitance.” [55] The crisis of Palestinian education had moved beyond the borders of Israel and the Occupied Territories and had begun to garner interest internationally. The reason for this started with a report by The Centre for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), entitled The New Palestinian Authority School Textbooks for Grades One and Six. The study basically said that the book did not encourage multiculturalism with Israel rather it was strictly historical propaganda that served to instill hate and fundamentalism in the children of Palestine. After some years of debate and compromise:

“In 1998 work began on the first textbooks for grades one and six, funded by a donation from Italy administered by the World Bank. The new books reached the schools last September; and all primary and secondary schools are due to receive them at a rate of two grades a year. In the meantime the old Jordanian and Egyptian books are still being used.”[56]

The CMIP which is linked to a group called “Jews for Truth Now” an Israel Lobby group based in the United States, claimed that the new books were still too biased towards Israel. They spoke through the CMIP and the Palestinian Authority pointed out that many of there concerns were addressed in the new additions of the textbooks. Many “biased” and anti-Israeli statements were removed and the revised additions were accepting of the Israeli state. Nevertheless, the CMIP continued to claim that the books did not create a legitimate representation of Israel’s existence. Morena raises some interesting questions,

“The question is whether peace would mean that the Palestinians would have to give up their own approach to history and adopt one that presents the Zionist undertaking as legitimate. Should anyone who talks about the expulsion of the Palestinians - as many Israeli historians do - be suspected of "calling for genocide"? Can we really reproach the textbooks for glorifying Izz al-Din al-Qassam, one of the heroes of the Palestinian struggle in the 1930s, on the grounds that his name has been used by the military wing of Hamas?” [57]

On many occasions it was evident, that is what it seems Israel ultimately seems to want. According to Morena, the CMIP’s patience on the issue eventually had results because the World Bank ended its funding of Palestinian education. “The World Bank officially told the Palestinian ministry of education that the money destined for books for 7, 8, 12 and 14 year-olds, as well as for teacher training for these same years, would be allocated to other activities.”[58] In the defense of the Isreal position, there was a great deal of omission of a more subtle type. For example, The textbook National Education (for the 5-6th) “one of its illustrations showed a Palestinian Christian and Muslim shaking hands. The CMIP deplored the absence of a Jew or Israeli in the illustration, arguing that Islam had historically offered protection to both Jews and Christians.” [59] They contended that it is important to portray a country where many people live, and the textbook just didn’t do that properly.

This has been the state of education since 1998, as the conflict with the region intensified and the many political changes that have taken place since the turn of the century. There has been very little comprehensive research regarding textbook improvements since then. It’s hard to imagine that Hamas’s interests are to provide a secular, quality education to the children in Gaza and West Bank. In Israel the problems remain as well, little has been done. Education reform has been placed on the “backburner” for the time being it seems. It is my prediction that private schools with foreign curriculums are going to become more popular among the Palestinians, mainly because neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority seems to be able to properly provide this simple institution.

[1] Daniel Bar-Tal, “The Rocky Road toward Peace: Beliefs on Conflict in Israeli Textbooks, “Journal of Peace Research (Nov., 1998): 728.

[2] Daniel Bar-Tal, Alona Raviv, Tali Freund, “An Anatomy of Political Beliefs: A study of their centrality, confidence, contents, and epistemic authority.”Journal of Applied Social Psychology(May.,1994): 850

[3] Rebecca Barr and Robert Dreeben. How Schools Work (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1983) 89.

[4] Ibid., 94.

[5] Ismael Abu-Saad, “State-Controlled Education and Identity Formation among the Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel” American Behavioral Scientist (April, 2006):1087.

[6] Ibid., 1088-89.

[7] Maureen Meehan, “Israeli Textbooks and Children’s Literature Promote Racism and Hatred toward Palestinians and Arabs” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (September 1999):19-20

[8] Ibid., 20.

[9] Ibid., 20.

[10] “Education and Culture," Jewish Agency for Israel, 26 April 2005 [journal on-line]; available from; Internet; accessed 01 December 2006. 1-2

[11] Ibid., 1

[12]“Family and Community Matching” The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, [site on-line]; from; Internet; accessed 01 December 2006. 1-2

[13] Ratner, David “Haifa’s Christian Schools Lead the League” The Haaretz, Oct. 2000, 2005 [Article on-line]; available from ID=2&subContrassID=20&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y; Internet; accessed 01 December 2006. 1-2

[14] Ibid., 1-2.

[15] Ibid., 1-2.

[16] Education, Jewish Agency, 1-2.

[17] Education, Jewish Agency,1-2. *Also this information on school status is available on the Israel Ministry of Education website.

[18] Araon Benavot and Nura Resh “The Social Construction of Local School Curriculum: Patterns of Diversity and Uniformity in Israeli Junior High Schools,” Comparative Education Review (November., 2001): 509

[19] Ibid., 510-511.

[20] Ariel Kizel “Europe-Centrism in Israel’s General History Textbooks: 1948-2004” University of Tel-Aviv Press (May., 2004): 4

[21] Ibid., 6.

[22] Ibid., 10.

[23] E. Pode “The Quite Conflict: The Reflection of Israel-Arab Relations in Israeli Textbooks 1948-2000,” Zmanim (Autumn., 2000): 22

[24] Kizel, Europe-Centrism, 12.

[25] Ibid., 12.

[26] Pode, Quite Conflict, 24.

[27] Z. Ziv “Teaching History in Schools, Goals and Ways,” (Tel-Aviv: Urim; 1957): 35

[28] J. Gundara and C Jones “Ethnic Diversity and Public Policy: The Role of Education,” Ethnic Diversity and Public Policy: A Comparative Enquire, ( London: Macmillan;1998):322

[29] Robert Phillips “: Government Policies, the State and the Teaching of History,” Issues in History Teaching,(UK: Routledge; 1998): 12

[30] Majid Al-Haj “National Ethos, Multicultural Education, and the New History Textbooks in Isreal,”Curriculum Inquiry, (Spring.,2005): 48

[31] Ibid., 49-50.

[32] Ibid., 52.

[33] Pode, Quite Conflict, 28-29.

[34] Bar-Tal, Peace and Textbooks,740.

[35] Al-Haj, National Ethos, 57.

[36] Ibid., 57-58.

[37] Ibid., 66.

[38] Ibid., 66-67.

[39] Ibid., 67.

[40] Andre Elias Mazawi “The Contested Terrains of Education in Arab States: An Appraisal of Major Research Trends,” Comparative Education Review, (August., 1999): 335

[41] Ibid., 335-336.

[42] *Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics: 1999

[43] Mazawi, Education in Arab State, 340.

[44] Ibid., 340-341.

[45] Ibid., 341.

[46] Ibrahim Abu Lughod “Educating a Community in Exile: The Palestinian Experience,” Journal of Palestine Studies,(Spring., 1973):101

[47] Debra Sontag “A is for Arafat, B is for Bethlehem,” New York Times, (September., 2000):A10

[48] Ibid., 10.

[49] Ibid., 10.

[50] Ibid., 11.

[51] Ibid., 11.

[52] Fouad Moughrabi “The Politics of Palestinian Textbooks,” Journal of Palestine Studies, (Autumn., 2001): 3

[53] Ibid., 4.

[54] Ibid., 7.

[55] Elisa Morena “Israel or Palestine: Who Teaches What History? A Textbook Case,” Le Monde Diplomatique July. 2001, [Article on-line]; available from; internet; accessed 02 December 2006. 1-2

[56] Ibid., 1-2.

[57] Ibid., 1-2.

[58] Ibid., 1-2.

[59] Ibid., 1-2.

1 comment:

Brainpolice said...

You scholar you! :)