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November 18, 2019 5:02 pm

Palestinian Matriculation Exams Ensure ‘Full Proficiency in Hate,’ Watchdog Warns

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Palestinian students raise their hands in a school run by UNRWA. Photo: UN / Shareef Sarhan.

High school matriculation exams serve to reinforce “hateful content” taught in Palestinian schools, underscoring “the need for an urgent and determined intervention in the Palestinian curriculum,” a Jerusalem-based watchdog has warned.

In a report released this month, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) found that six of the 26 tawjihi exams for 2019, which are taken by twelfth-grade Palestinian students and are necessary for enrollment in Palestinian and some Arab universities, included “problematic material” that reflects themes taught in Palestinian Authority textbooks and on official preparatory websites.

IMPACT-se pointed to multiple tawjihi questions that conveyed concerning messages, such as a query on the geography exam that asked students what countries share the Jordan River basin. Acceptable answers included Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt and Iraq, with Israel tellingly omitted.

In another instance, the Arabic-language exam featured the poem “A Refugee’s Will,” which described a subject coming with a “weapon in your hand” to a “dear violated homeland.”

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An official study website aimed to clarify the poem’s meaning with the explanation that “liberation of the homeland can be done only through resistance with arms,” and “what was taken by force can be recovered only by force,” IMPACT-se stated.

The problematic content was not only evident in some tawjihi questions, but also in the textbook materials that students studied and memorized in order to prepare. A question on the Arab Spring in the history exam corresponded with a textbook chapter that presented the anti-government protests as a Western-Zionist plot to undermine Arab unity, IMPACT-se reported.

In a separate question on the history exam, students were asked to define national identity. The corresponding answer, found in the history textbook, taught “values such as sacrifice (including one’s life), ‘whatever the price’ and placing the Oslo process in the framework of ‘battle with the Zionist Occupation,'” according to IMPACT-se.

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff told The Algemeiner on Monday that the tawjihi exams “ram home the lessons that [Palestinian students] have learned over the last 12 years so that ultimately they are graduating with a full proficiency in hate.”

“They have been through 12 years of radical education, starting literally in grade one, when they are asked to learn the letter ‘h’ [hā] through using the words hujum, which means attack, and shahid, which means martyr, at age six, and ending up at Grade 12 with really advanced lessons in extremism.”

The exams “complete” the education system’s radicalization process by referring back to an extremist curriculum, Sheff argued, allowing students to move on to “the workplace or advanced education … with a fully formed view of who the enemy is, and what is the proper answer to Palestinian nationalism — one state from the river to the sea.”

The Palestinian Authority has faced continued criticism over its educational curriculum, with a 2018 report by IMPACT-se noting that grade 1-12 textbooks routinely describe Israel as the “Zionist Occupation,” refer to United Nations-recognized Israeli territory as Palestinian, and in some cases praise acts of Palestinian violence against civilians. A September review by the watchdog group of new educational materials used in the 2019–20 academic year found “a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects.”

In an unprecedented move in August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticized the Palestinian Authority over “the existence of hate speech in … school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism.”

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