Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rubbish from the IHT on Palestinian Textbooks

If you have a Ph. D. after your name, manifest a fashionable anti-Sharon and anti-Bush stance, and mention a few obscure reports from a few obscure think tanks, there is a good chance you will be able to print absolute non-sense in The International Herald Tribune.

Take a look Roger Avenstrup's December 18 column in the International Herald Tribune “Palestinian textbooks: Where is all that 'incitement '?”

It has been eagerly cited in anti-Zionists blogs and websites. And will be read by many more. Few who read the Avesntrup's opinion piece will bother to check out the sources he cites.

According to Avenstrup each and every analysis of Palestinian textbooks by research institutes have given them a clean bill of health In reality, the studies of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information have been quite critical. The 2004 report, for instance, says of the Palestinian textbooks “... it is not difficult to come to the understanding that the main political theme imparted to the students is that Israel should not exist and that is essentially the Palestinian goal. Assuming that this is not the political message that the Palestinian Authority adheres to, there is a need to make real revisions and amendments in the Palestinian text books.”

Avenstrup is, of course, free to disagree with the conclusions on the IPCRI. Instead he blatantly misrepresents their studies.

The beginning paragraphs of Avestrup's ITH piece .

Palestinian textbooks contain incitement to hatred of Israel, right? Both President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton have said so. Zionist groups constantly lobby European foreign ministries to stop support for Palestinian textbooks on that basis, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon affirmed it at a recent Likud party meeting.

Detailed analyses of the textbooks have been done by research institutes. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem commissioned studies from the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), and in Europe the Georg Eckert Institute facilitated research. Research papers have also been published in international fora such as the Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture, and presented at the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

At the political level, a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Palestinian education and the Political Committee of the European Parliament have both held hearings on the matter. No country's textbooks have been subjected to as much close scrutiny as the Palestinian.

The findings? It turns out that the original allegations were based on Egyptian or Jordanian textbooks and incorrect translations. Time and again, independently of each other, researchers find no incitement to hatred in the Palestinian textbooks.
Now compare Avestrup with the 2004 IPCRI report which states
International and Israeli reports on Palestinian text books claim that the Palestinian educational system is one of the primary evidences of a lack of Palestinian political will to make real peace with Israel. The failure of the Palestinian text books to address issues such as recognizing the existence of Israel explicitly automatically raises these questions found in the various reports. It should be mentioned, that in our view, some of the reports and some of the motivation for writing the reports were part of the anti-Palestinian propaganda campaign waged by various right-wing Israeli and pro-Israeli groups, nevertheless, the substantive critiques with quotations and hard evidence cannot and should not be ignored by the Palestinian Authority as a mere anti-Palestinian propaganda campaign.
“Substantive critiques with quotations and hard evidence” that doesn't sound to me like something to be dismissed as mere "allegations," but then I don't have a Ph. D. and am not an international educational consultant.

Here’s the 2004 report on how Palestinian textbooks treat the concept of Jihad.
By not placing Jihad in the broader context and leaving it as it is currently
dealt with in the Palestinian text books, one cannot but come to the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority is encouraging Jihad in the narrow sense of the Holy War against Israel and against Jews as well as against Christians.
So according to Avenstrup “encouraging Jihad–Holy War against Israel and Jews and well as against Christians” is not incitement to violence. In fact, he recommends that the Palestinian textbooks be adopted in Afghanistan.

This is what the 2004 Report said about the Palestinian textbooks treatment of martyrdom
The same can be said for the concept of martyrdom. It is not completely clear and evident from some Palestinian text books that there is rejection of support for suicide bombers. In fact, some of the texts could lead the reader to have real admiration for those who become suicide bombers and kill Israelis.
Avestrup writes
The IPCRI 2003 report states that the overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful and does not incite to hatred or violence against Israel and the Jews,
True, but out of context and incomplete. The 2003 report also stated
the textbooks fail to extend these principles and concepts to include Jews and to the State of Israel. In addition, and although the curriculum provides the opportunity for students to recognize and respect beliefs and practices of “others,” the concept of the “other,” in most cases, is limited to Christians.

Generally speaking, coverage and presentation of history and historical facts is characterized as being selective. In addition one notices some elements and dimensions of imbalance and bias in the presentation of some ancient, recent and
modern historical events that transpired in the region.
The IPCRI report on 4th and 9th Grade Textbooks states
There are no direct instances that reflect a denial of Jewish connection to the Holy Land and the holy places in it However, the terms and passages used to describe some historical events are sometimes offensive in nature and could be construed as reflecting hatred of and discrimination against Jews and Judaism. Moreover, when Judaism (and Christianity are mentioned), the references reflect the holy and religious nature of the ancient Jewish traditions and not of their modern-day representation as the religion of Israel as well as Christianity as the religion of some Israeli and some Palestinian citizens
Gershon Baskin, co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, said in an interview on CNN
I know that educators in Palestinian and people in the education department writing the textbooks wanted to write Israel, wanted to write different text under the maps, but they were told by the highest level politicians in Palestinian that that was not acceptable.
The recommendations of the IPCRI
The Palestinian text books have confused messages and it is not difficult to come to the understanding that the main political theme imparted to the students is that Israel should not exist and that is essentially the Palestinian goal. Assuming that this is not the political message that the Palestinian Authority adheres to, there is a need to make real revisions and amendments in the Palestinian text books. If this assumption is correct, then the recommendations in this paper provide some solid suggestions of what could be done immediately by the Palestinian Ministry of Education to rectify the confusion and to strengthen the position of the Ministry and of the entire Palestinian Authority in the eyes of the international community.
Here are some of the recommendations of the ICPRI
We recommend that the Palestinian Authority appoint a national advisory committee on Palestinian text books empowered to review the text books taking into account the critiques that have been raised over the past years. We further recommend that this committee meet with local and international experts, including Israelis and those who have written the reports on Palestinian text books. We recommend that this committee complete its work within 60 days and that its recommendations be presented to the public.

the Palestinian Authority could strengthen that recognition statement by adding “recognizing Israel as the State of the Jewish People”, this could be an important step towards rebuilding a peace process that could lead towards real reconciliation and would then find its expression within Palestinian text books as well.

• The Palestinian Authority has the ability to make difficult decisions regarding the need to readdress the primary issues of concern within the text books.

• The adoption of the suggested revisions in this report in the Palestinian Authority text books could make a significant contribution towards peace making by increasing the legitimacy for peace making amongst the Palestinian public.
While I share the general orientation of the IPCRI, it should be pointed out that they state quite clearly that they are operating on the assumption that the Palestinian leadership is commited to a two-state solution.

If you visit the website of one of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. you will find a pop-up with this message "The HRI/Oslo Coalition FOROB project concluded in 2000, therefore these pages are no longer updated on a regular basis."

IPCRI 2003 Report
IPCRI Report on 4th an9th Grade Textbooks
IPCRI 2004 Report
IPCRI 2004 Report on Israeli Textbooks

Critics of the Palestinian textbooks include
Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace
EU Funding
Critics of the critics
Norman Brown

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