Tobias PeterssonThe writer is a spokesperson and political researcher for the Swedish pro-Israel NGO Perspective on Israel (Perspektiv på Israel)
Textbooks which have Israel erased from the map and glorify terrorism - up until recently I thought that this was limited to schools in undemocratic Middle Eastern countries that consider Israel an enemy state. Now, however, these textbooks have appeared in Swedish class rooms and they are part of an international Palestinian campaign.
My organization, Perspective on Israel (PPI), has obtained exclusive educational materials that constitute a part of this campaign: textbooks in Arabic and that have been distributed among school children in the city of Malmö, Sweden.
The Swedish pro-Palestinian NGO Palestinian Centre for Justice (PRC) recently began to educate children in one or more schools in Malmö. In November and December of last year the PRC initially posted on their Facebook site photos of their teaching sessions but later removed these after I wrote about their tuition on the website of the Israeli Embassy in Sweden, and after a journalist started to ask questions about this too.
What kind of organization is PRC? In 2006 the PRC arranged the 4th Palestinians in Europe Conference in Malmö. Among the speakers in this conference was the terrorist leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, whom the PRC calls ”Prime Minister”. This year, the NGO will host this annual conference in Malmö again. The PRC has connections to the Swedish government. In June of last year, the PRC had a meeting with Margot Wallström, the heavily criticized foreign minister of Sweden. According to the PRC website, the vice chairman of the NGO discussed foreign policy with Ms Wallström in the course of this meeting.
The PRC recently posted on their Facebook page an image for an anti-Israel demonstration, which featured a Jewish Star of David made from barbed wire. This is a way of disseminating hatred not only against Israel but also hatred against Jews, and it is a demonization of ancient Jewish symbols. It is completely unacceptable that the Swedish foreign minister meets with such an NGO, and what the organization is teaching children is despicable.
The most controversial part of the textbook states that the children of Palestine began an intifada.
During the PRC’s teaching sessions in Swedish classrooms the anti-Israel propaganda textbook ”To Palestine I belong” was handed out to children in at least one Swedish school in Malmö.
What then, does the textbook teach Arab and, in particular, Palestinian children in Sweden? Firstly, the textbook ”To Palestine I belong”, which is written entirely in Arabic, includes a map of what is claimed to be Palestine. However, this map includes not only PA territories but also Israeli territories and mentions Israeli cities like Haifa, Be’er Sheva and Yafo - not, however, Tel Aviv. In other words Israel has been removed from the map and replaced by a Palestinian state. Portions of the textbook recount the Muslim history of the land of Israel. Jewish connections to the land prior to the Balfour Declaration are not mentioned, however. Israel is only referred to as ”the Zionist enemy" or ”the occupation”.
After the British terminated the Palestine mandate, the textbook states, ”the occupation” took advantage of the political situation in the Arab world and began its ”dangerous plan” to destroy the Palestinian cause through continuous ”war crimes against the land, the people and the holy shrines.” The textbook also informs the Swedish pupils that ”the occupation” (Israel) has Judaization projects under way in Jerusalem that will erase the landmarks of the al Aqsa mosque. Israel is also accused of confiscating lands and not permitting people to work.
The most controversial part of the textbook states that the children of Palestine began an intifada. The children confronted the ”Zionist machines and soldiers with their bare chests”, it claims. This language echoes the words of Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, who has stated in Palestinian media that it is a successful strategy for the people of Gaza to confront the occupation with bare chests. The textbook appears to be influenced by the Hamas ideology.
It then informs the children that the Palestinian resistance is still innovating and developing its tools and equipments, combining these to create an ”heroic saga” in Gaza.The Arabic word for ”tools” in this context also means ammunition, and heroic saga can be translated as ”an heroic epic battle”.
There is also a cartoon of a boy who is about to throw something at a tank. The text above the cartoon reads: ”Fares Odeh, brave child from Gaza, confronting the big tank with his small rock”. In addition, it mentions that he was killed in 2000 and became a martyr.
This is a brief introduction to what is an international campaign to keep the Palestinian identity according to the textbook ”To Palestine I belong”. What Perspective on Israel has uncovered is a Palestinian campaign of indoctrination of Arab children in Europe to feel hostility towards Israel. It is propaganda, the purpose of which apparently is to make Palestinian children, and Arab children in general, identify with the Palestinian struggle, the Palestinian terrorism. The textbook also exists as an easy to print PDF file. This means that it comes in a format that can easily be copied, printed and distributed to an unlimited number of readers. By now, it may well be spread in many European countries.
I wrote an open letter about the PRC's teaching to the city councillor Anders Rubin, who is the Social Democratic politician in charge of the schools in Malmö, but he responded that these kind of activities do not come under his jurisdiction. I also informed many other politicians in Malmö, but I only had a response from one party: the Sweden Democrats. Why are the remaining political parties silent?
The primary school director in Malmö, Anders Malmquist has confirmed that the photos of teaching sessions posted by PRC were shot in classrooms in Apelgårdsskolan, a municipal school in Malmö. So called ”Saturday School” activities have been arranged there and PRC’s teaching sessions and textbooks have been part of these activities.
Schools are meant to be places where children can obtain objective knowledge about the world, including Israel; not where they are taught to hate. Swedish politicians must ensure that children in Swedish classrooms are not indoctrinated to hate the world's only Jewish state.
I hope the politicians will act, as this Op-Ed will be shared by more and more people to create awareness, nationally and internationally, with respect to how Swedish children in Swedish classrooms are being taught to hate. Swedish politicians must show that they will not permit a message promoting support for terrorism to be taught in Swedish schools.
If this type of textbook continues to be used in Swedish schools the consequences will be devastating.
Tobias Petersson is Chairman of PPI