Jerusalem Arabs concerned over schoolbooks

Parents, religious leaders, and PA officials band together protesting Israel's proposed changes to the PA curriculum of incitement.

Dalit Halevi ,

Arab students (illustrative)
Arab students (illustrative)
Flash 90

The parents' union in Jerusalem schools and the Organization for Popular and Nationalistic Activities began a campaign earlier this week to "purify children's schoolbags from the Israeli curriculum."

At a press conference in Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikhmara Sabari, head of the "High Islamic Council of Palestine," warned of the intention to force schools to accept the Israeli curriculum.

According to a report in Falestin, Sabari noted that "the attack on the educational sector in Jerusalem began in 1967, and in recent years expresses itself in the attempt to change the Palestinian curriculum and more recently in working to force adoption of the Israeli curriculum."

Adnan al-Husayni, the Palestinian Authority (PA) official in charge of Jerusalem-related issues, said the Israeli "attack" aims to change every aspect of life, not just education.

Samir Jabbaril, the PA official in charge of PA schools in Jerusalem, said the "threat" of the Israeli curriculum being forced on the schools is "tangible" in the newer schools currently being built by the Jerusalem municipality.

Ziad al-Shimali, representing the parents, said the "cancer" of the Israeli curriculum in Jerusalem "may in the future lead to the integration of our students in Israel Police activities, or in their integration into organizations which have normalized relations with the 'occupation.'"

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 in Israel's Education Ministry receives the textbooks yearly and reprints them after censoring anti-Israel content and after removing the PA emblem.

However, in August, a study found that incitement and the encouragement of violence remain widespread in PA textbooks.

In November, the PA protested attempts by UNRWA to reform its school curriculum, which is based on radical expressions against Israel, and to replace it with a more moderate approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict. They also declared that protecting the educational curricula in Jerusalem would remain a top priority for the PA.