Palestinian Schoolbooks:
An Overview

The Argument in Brief

Our research has led us to 5 distinct and sad messages:

  • Palestinian children are forced to learn from inflammatory material, much of it containing hidden and/or violent directives. This is an abuse of their basic student rights, as laid down by UNESCO.

  • It is evident that the texts are designed not to include the name of Israel. When this rule is breached, Israel is only referred to in a negative context. Any connection between Jews and the Holyland is denied emphatically.

  • The result is that the Palestinian children are encouraged to hate their neighbors. This culture not only fans the flames of violence; it significantly reduces the chances for peace among the next generation.

  • These books are funded by foreign governments and respected international agencies; in particular Belgium, Italy and UNESCO.

  • The institutions of the United Nations, in particular UNESCO and UNRWA, are clearly providing services, which only deepen the fostering hatred directed at Israel.

There seems to be a general consensus among observers that international funding and the influence that theoretically accompanies it has led to an overall improvement in the education of Palestinian Arab children over the past few years. The baser and more obvious forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity have been expunged but the schoolbooks are still very far from perfect, as is the overall quality of the educational message.

Points to Consider

Our message is that the international community in general, and the European entities mentioned here, along with UNESCO, must make a 180 degree turn. They must require that the Palestinian Arab authorities immediately cease the negative education they have created and need to demand that their aid money be used for positive, peace-directed purposes.

The current substandard material took a considerable time and effort to produce, so we can presume that it is here to stay for at least the current generation.

Blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Christian materials from previous books are being replaced over time. However even assuming such material has entirely erased (which is plainly untrue) the current material is substandard and worse, and contains themes which repeat themselves in all the books we have examined. Details here.

The key to peace is a change of attitudes - and that starts with education. Several reports exist which show serious deficiencies in the Palestinian Arab education system - a system significantly funded by the international community.

Much has already been written about official sanction of, and incitement to, terror in Palestinian Arab society, starting with the PA and the religious leadership of Palestinian Arab society. But for the purpose of this website, our focus is on the educational core - the teaching materials.

The problem is a serious one, directly affecting people's lives and causing people's deaths. The international community has a role to play. From experience, we know that the role of outsiders can be either positive or negative. Understanding how to get to a desirable result and avoid a tragic one requires that a discerning observer examine the results of international funding and support of Palestinian Arab education.

International bodies and public money are deeply engaged in this process today. To illustrate; UNRWA operates schools and teacher education institutions; European countries and UNESCO have been involved in rewriting textbooks; the European Commission regularly lists education (amongst other items) as among the most important applications of its aid funds to the Palestinian Authority. Here we try to evaluate what all of this support has produced.

Looking at the issue of schoolbooks alone, funding by the international community is at best benign. But on closer examination it is actually detrimental to any hope of future peace. More.

In particular, while the replacement of schoolbooks, funded partially by Europeans, avoids the gross and more odious anti-Semitism of the past, the new generation schoolbooks which have come along to replace them are extremely problematic. They support the Palestinian Authority's mantra of a "Judenrein" Middle East and explicitly deny the historical connection -- indeed any legitimate connection -- of the Jews with the Holy Land. They deny the right of Israel to exist. Astonishingly, they even ignore and deny the existence of the State of Israel as an existing political entity.

UNRWA, wittingly or unwittingly, trains teachers to perpetuate the war against Israeli civilians. Their message denies and negates any rights or any historical connection of the Jews in the Holyland. The outcome of this process is exemplified by a scrapbook project glorifying terrorist "martyrs" found in a UNRWA school.

The EU funds teachers' salaries - so it makes sense to look at what the teachers are doing, and not only at what the schoolbooks are saying. The teaching materials themselves are an important dimension of the problem, but the role of teachers is no less important. What is the narrative that accompanies their teaching?

The PA itself, in internal correspondence documents captured by Israeli forces, complains that operatives of Hamas have grabbed control of the education system and are directly influencing the children with what we would regard as their poisonous outlook. The results are appalling. See the evidence in this report. (Requires Abobe Reader.)

Then there is the tragic problem of the idealization of terror among impressionable Palestinian youngsters. Palestinian children are taught to idealize terror. Some will inevitably become martyrs as a result just as surely as a society which idolizes and idealizes footballers will produce more players. The success of this appalling effort depends on Israel first being delegitimized - and this, we argue, is a central task of the Palestinian Arab education system today.