Israel’s Education Ministry has rejected the findings of a State Department-funded study that determined Palestinian textbooks do not incite hatred against Israel and that both sides use textbooks to distort the national narrative.
In a press release the Education Ministry said, “An evaluation, by professionals from the Education Ministry and from outside it, [shows…]that it is biased, unprofessional and profoundly unobjective.”
The Education Ministry further stated: “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.
“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 study took several years and was carried out and overseen by a team of American, Israeli, Palestinian Arab and international education experts. It was commissioned by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, a consortium of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders in Israel, and received nearly $600,000 in funding from the U.S. State Department.
The study examined 94 books from Palestinian school systems in Gaza and the West Bank, and 74 books from the Israeli secular and religious school systems.
The results counter Israel’s longstanding claim that Palestinian Arab educational tools incite children towards hatred of the Jewish state. During his Israeli election campaign Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid even made mention of the issue, saying it was one that would need to be addressed.
Noting that at least three members of the study’s Scientific Advisory Panel refused to support the study, citing methodological and procedural flaws, and that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has disassociated itself from the findings, the Education Ministry 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.”
According to the study, there were just 20 instances of “extreme negative characterizations” of Palestinians in Israeli secular books and seven in Israeli ultra-Orthodox. One example reads: “Since its establishment, the State of Israel sought to make peace with its neighbors, the Arab countries, through Israeli-Arab negotiations. Its efforts, however, have failed in the first thirty years of Israel’s existence, because of the refusal of Arab countries and nations to recognize the right of existence of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state.”
The study found just six instances of these “extreme negative characterizations” in Palestinian textbooks. One example: “The conference reaffirmed again that the Zionist occupation and its usurpation of Palestine and its people’s rights comprise the core of the conflict in the Middle East.”
However the study concludes in part that “Books from Israeli State schools included more positive portrayals of the other, more self-criticism, and more information about the other than books from either Israeli Ultra-Orthodox or Palestinian schools.”
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.”