Posted by: Lister | March 27, 2007

Palestinian Schoolbooks

Senator Clinton Joins with Palestinian Media Watch in criticism of “New Palestinian Schoolbooks [which] Present a World Without Israel, Turn Territorial Dispute Into Religious Conflict and Reflect an Anti-Western Bias”.

Uri Avnery, writing Without Borders, is not impressed.

Truth is, there is nothing new here. Every few years, when all the other arguments for refusing to speak with the Palestinian leadership wear thin, the ultimate argument pops up again: Palestinian schoolbooks call for the destruction of Israel!

[…] WELL, WHAT about our side? What do our schoolbooks look like?

Does the Green Line appear in them? Do they recognize the right of the Palestinians to establish a state on the other side of our 1967 borders? Do they teach love for the Palestinian people (or even the existence of the Palestinian people), or respect for the Arabs in general, or a knowledge of Islam?

The answer to all these questions: Absolutely not!

Recently, Minister of Education Yuli Tamir came out with a bombastic announcement saying that she intends to mark the Green Line in the schoolbooks, from which it was removed almost 40 years ago. The Right reacted angrily, and nothing more was heard about it.

From Haaretz PM Olmert backs Tamir proposal to add Green Line to textbooks (Dec 2006)

The Likud faction introduced a no-confidence motion to the Knesset Tuesday over Tamir’s proposal, charging the minister with introducing politically-motivated changes to the national curriculum in line with what they called her extreme leftist ideology. They added that the proposal ignores Israeli law, including the Jerusalem Law and Golan Heights Law.

[…] Meanwhile, an organization of right-wing rabbis on Tuesday issued a Halakhic decree forbidding students from using schoolbooks featuring maps of Israel which include the pre-1967 Green Line border, Israel Radio reported.

[…] Chairman of the National Union-National Religious Party Zevulun Orlev criticized Tamir’s decision, saying she was imposing her “Peace Now” ideology on the ministry.

Tamir said Israel could not demand of its Arab neighbors to mark the June 4, 1967 borders, while the Israeli education system erased them from its textbooks and from children’s awareness.

[…] Professor Yoram Bar-Gal, head of Geography and Environmental Studies at Haifa University, said Tamir’s directive to bring the Green Line back to the maps would be hard to follow. He said that most of the textbooks are issued by private publishers who would not be keen on changing the plates at their expense.

Two years ago Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a lecturer in language and education at Hebrew University, published research on six study books that had been published after the Oslo agreement. Some of these books were officially endorsed by the Education Ministry. Many teachers adopted other books even without the ministry’s approval.

Her main findings included the disappearance of the Green Line and Arab cities in Israel from the maps in these books, and their presentation of sites and settlements in “Judea and Samaria,” rather than in the “West Bank,” as an integral part of Israel.

The point about the printers may explain the delay.

Back to Uri Avnery. He suggests that what children see on TV and around them will have a much bigger impact than what they see on a map. Then he gives this story:

A map is a weapon. From my childhood in Germany between the two World Wars I remember a map that was hanging on the wall of my classroom. On it, Germany had two borders. One (green, if I remember correctly) was the existing border, that was imposed by the treaty of Versailles after the (first) World War. The other, marked in glowing red, was the border from before the war. In thousands of classrooms all over Germany (then governed by Social-Democrats) the pupils saw every day before their eyes the terrible injustice done to Germany, when pieces were “torn” from her on every side. Thus was bred the generation which filled the ranks of the Nazi war machine in World War II.

[…] NO, I do not make light of maps. Especially not of maps in schools.

I repeat what I said then: the aim must be that the child in Ramallah sees before his eyes, on the wall of his classroom, a map on which the State of Israel is marked. And that the child in Rishon-le-Zion sees before his eyes, on the wall of his classroom, a map on which the State of Palestine is marked. Not by compulsion, but by agreement.

That is, of course, impossible as long as Israel has no borders. How can one mark on the map a state which, from its first day, has refused, consciously and adamantly, to define its borders? Can we really demand that the Palestinian ministry of education publish a map on which all the territory of Palestine lies inside Israel? […]

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