Israel’s Education Ministry has rejected the findings of a study funded by the U.S. State Department that determined that Palestinian textbooks rarely demonize Israel or incite hatred against the Jewish people and that both sides use the texts to present children and students with a one-sided view of their conflict.
"Dehumanizing and demonizing characterizations of the other are rare in both Israeli and Palestinian books," according to the study, titled ”Victims of Our Own Narratives?,” funded by the U.S. State Department and carried out by Palestinian, Israeli and American academics.
"Both Israeli and Palestinian books present exclusive unilateral national narratives," wrote the authors, from Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and Yale universities.
"Historical events are selectively presented to reinforce each national narrative," said the study, which analyzed more than 3,000 textbooks approved in 2011 by the sides' education ministries.
The Israel Education Ministry released a statement saying, “An evaluation, by professionals from the Education Ministry and from outside it, [shows...] that it is biased, unprofessional and profoundly unobjective.”
“The clear impression is that this is a ‘study’ the conclusions of which were known in advance, before any professional work was done, and certainly does not accurately reflect the reality,” it stated.
“The attempt to create a parallel between the Israeli and Palestinian educational systems is without any foundation whatsoever and has no basis in reality,” the statement added.
The Education Ministry, highlighting Israel’s longstanding claim that Arab textbooks and educational materials intentionally and systematically incite hatred the Jewish people and Jewish state, provided several reasons for its rejection of the study:
“1. The overall approach and tone of the study reflect an attempt to create an artificial and inaccurate picture of balance between Palestinian and Israeli books.
2. The study omits important examples of incitement and delegitimization found in official PA textbooks.
3. Its methodology is flawed in that it misses or obscures critical differences between Israeli and Palestinian texts.
4. The study provides a highly-distorted depiction of the PA’s systematic efforts to educate and indoctrinate Palestinian children to hate, violence and non-acceptance of Israel’s existence. This is a result of the fact that the study focuses only on a very specific and limited component of those efforts.”
The Education Ministry further stated that “Official PA and PLO educational platforms, including formal and informal educational frameworks, summer camps, children’s magazines, television programs, and cultural events systematically promote the following messages:
1. The dispute with Israel is not over territory, but over the legitimacy of Israel’s very existence (let alone Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.)
2. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the Jewish State and reclaim the historic Land of Palestine.
3. Jews/Zionists/Israelis possess demonic characteristics (demonization and dehumanization.)
4. All forms of struggle- including terrorism- are legitimate in pursuit of the ultimate goal. Terrorists are national heroes and role models. At times diplomatic or political struggle may be more expedient than terror.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released statement criticizing the report as “distorted and counterproductive,” saying that by presenting the issue as an equivalent problem for both sides, “the core issue of Palestinian rejection of Israel has been blurred.”
“However well-meaning the sponsors and researchers of the textbook study may have been, the paucity of historical, social and geopolitical context distort the findings and render this study counterproductive,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. “The report presents a dangerous premise of false equivalency – that both sides have problems in not accepting the other and, in order to enhance the chances for peace, both sides have to do more to change their textbooks.”
“This issue was meant to deal with the basic problem that is at the core of the conflict -- Palestinian teaching of rejection of Israel and its legitimacy,” asserted Foxman. “By treating it as an equivalent problem for both sides, the issue has been blurred beyond distinction. It undermines the understanding of how critical this issue is -- to get the Palestinians away from their historic hatred of Israel. This still has not happened, and this study, in treating the problem as the same for both, makes it more difficult to achieve that goal.”
“Educating Israeli youth about the Palestinian narrative is important,” he said. “But it is not the root issue for Israel. For Israelis the very fact that Arabs and Palestinians have pursued the destruction of Israel was and remains at the core of the problem. The sponsors, funders and researchers of this study should have taken this into account when they formulated their approach.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland avoided taking a position on the report.
“We don’t get ourselves in the middle,” Nuland said, adding that the United States sponsors scores of such studies around the world, but doesn’t necessarily adopt a position regarding the outcome.
“We haven’t done an independent analysis of this report ourselves. It was funded at the request of some of our Israeli partners. If it’s not useful to them, then they don’t need to use it,” Nuland said.