Report: Palestinian Textbooks Claim Entirety of Israel as Arab Land, Call Jews ‘Sinful and Liars’
Palestinian Authority textbooks encourage children to view the entirety of Israel as Arab territory, and teach them to seek the land’s liberation even at the cost of martyrdom, according to a new report by a Jerusalem-based research group.
Palestinian nationalist and Islamist ideologies that reject Israel’s basic legitimacy saturate lessons for children as young as six, with various science, math, and humanities exercises all reinforcing this overarching narrative, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) found.
The group studied grade 1–11 textbooks published for the 2017–18 academic year, and grade 12 textbooks that were inaugurated this August, following PA curriculum reforms first implemented in 2016. It released a preliminary review of the grades 5-11 curriculum in October.
Israel is routinely referred to as the “Zionist Occupation” within the curriculum, including in contexts before the 1967 Six-Day War, in which it came to control the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and eastern portions of Jerusalem.
Various areas within Israel are described as Palestinian, with a geography textbook for 12th graders stating that the “Negev Plateau is located in southern Palestine,” while a entrepreneurship textbook for the same grade claims that the Israeli city of Nazareth is located in the “Palestinian North.”
The textbooks appear to erase a distinction between Israelis and Jews, referring to them interchangeably and with hostility. A map in a grade 10 geography and history textbook of “Palestine after the 1948 War” separates the territory into “Arab lands” and “Lands seized by the Jews after the war.”
The negative undertones become more overt in a grade 12 Islamic studies textbook, which interprets a certain Quranic verse that does not mention Jews as meaning, “The Jews are sinful and liars. They turned their backs on the Prophet and caused pain to the Prophet.”
Another passage, this time from a grade 5 Islamic studies textbook, teaches children “about the attempt of the Jews to kill the Prophet,” and concludes, “The enemies of Islam never stop at any time and place to use all means and methods to fight Islam and the Muslims.”
A few pages later, the same textbook charges that “The Jews desecrate the tombs of some of the companions and righteous; they bulldoze them and remove them from Muslim graveyards, especially in Jerusalem and generally throughout Palestine.”
It also encourages children to draw parallels between the death of an early Muslim warrior who was crucified by enemies of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and that of Palestinian “martyrs.” After learning of the hero, children are instructed to “tell a story of a martyr from my hometown, who rose in defense of his religion and his homeland Palestine.”
Among these Palestinian martyrs are figures such as Dalal Mughrabi, a Fatah terrorist who participated in the massacre of 38 people, 13 of them children, on a bus near Tel Aviv in March 1978. Her photograph was featured in a grade 5 Arabic textbook and digitally modified to include a hijab — a head covering worn by some Muslim women — in the style of a Palestinian keffiyeh.
“Her struggle portrays challenge and heroism, making her memory immortal in our hearts and minds,” the passage on Mughrabi reads. “[She] irrigated the land of Palestine with her pure blood; to create a flourishing revolutionary history that will never calm down.”
While various textbooks praise such militant examples of “Palestinian resistance” — including, according to a grade 11 history textbook, the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic team members in Munich, Germany — others explain that violence is not the only path through which Israel may be confronted.
A grade 12 history textbook acknowledges the role of mass communications, noting, “Local and foreign journalists used the press as a clear means of condemning the Occupation.”
The curriculum also repeatedly extends support to central Palestinian demands such as the “right of return” of refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their five million descendants. A grade 9 social studies textbook, for instance, contends that “The solution to the problem of overcrowding in the Gaza Strip lies primarily in the return of the displaced population to their homes” in Israel.
At times, the lessons also depict the United States as a hegemonic and detrimental force, with one exercise in a grade 12 history textbook calling on students to “form a mock court to judge the crimes of the USA in Iraq.”
Marcus Sheff, head of IMPACT-se, said in a statement that the PA is “now teaching Palestinian children that there can be no compromise” with Israel.
“We will be sharing this report and dozens of examples with donor states to the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education,” he pledged.
Sheff applauded efforts to address concerns over the curriculum by some of the PA’s foreign donors — including the European Union, whose parliament approved amendments in April that aim to prevent aid to the PA from financing intolerant educational materials — but called for greater action.
“The time has surely come for them to demand the removal of the hate and inclusion of material of peace and tolerance in a curriculum, for which they are paying,” Sheff urged.