Curbing Incitement in Arab Schools

Intifada songs, calls for bloody resistance over the land of Israel, and incitement against IDF soldiers - these are just some of the educational texts which are supposed to be taught to the approximately 110,000 Arab students in the eastern Jerusalem elementary school system. The Jerusalem municipality is fighting hard to prevent this content from reaching susceptible children and to this end the department for Arab education has been working to censor the textbooks from inciting content.

However, in a revolutionary new development, five Israeli schools will be opening in East Jerusalem and an Israeli curriculum will be taught in an additional number of Muslim schools.

The textbooks are issued by the education ministry of the PA, under whose auspices 90% of eastern Jerusalem Arab students study, even though paradoxically the content is being taught in schools funded by the state of Israel.

Among other things the "intifada poems" of Samir El-Kasem, including such outrageous statements as "The blood of our babies cries out from every stone" were deleted from the textbooks.

In another reference to the human need for water to survive, the textbooks stated that "Israel is stealing Palestinians' water and their land." Other textbooks praised those who support the families of dead terrorists.

Over the last few years the eastern Jerusalem Arabs have undergone a process of extremism and most of the students in the private schools (funded by the Education Ministry) and public schools funded by the municipality are studying the PA curriculum. The department for Arab education receives the textbooks yearly and reprints them after censoring anti-Israel content and after removing the PA emblem.

Maths Problems With Anti-israel Incitement

The incitement crops up in nearly every topic of instruction. Sometimes even math problems can be written as follows "A family had five children and then the occupation army killed one. How many are left?".

Since Israel is financing these schools, it takes responsibility for the content which is being taught and doesn't allow even those who teach the PA curriculum to teach such material. But the real problem, says Lara Mubaraci, head of the department for Arab education in the municipality, is with the non-denominational schools which receive uncensored textbooks. Some 20,000 of the students learn in these schools and since they are part of one cultural group, the materials reach even those who are not studying them.

Signs of Change

There are some promising signs of change in the atmosphere in eastern Jerusalem. Mubaraci reports that five new schools will be opening which will study only the Israeli curriculum. This means that 1,300 less children will study with the PA. Moreover if in the past only two schools taught the Israeli curriculum as well, in the coming year 16 schools will be adding the Israeli curriculum to their studies, meaning that 3,000 more students will be studying Israeli content.

The gradual movement towards the Israeli curriculum is a result of a 40 million shekel investment on the part of the education ministry and the ministry for Jerusalem affairs. Ministers Bennet and Elkin combined to provide technological infrastructure, computer labs and programs for special needs children and gifted students. These investments attract parents to transfer to the Israeli program as this will enable their children to enter university and obtain employment. The government also hopes that this investment will facilitate eastern Jerusalemites' integration in Israeli society and prevent them from supporting terrorist initiatives.