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Israeli-Palestinian School Book Project
March 7, 2013 3:12 AM   Subscribe

Portrayal of the “Other” in Israeli and Palestinian School Books. Led by a team of scientists who are prominent experts in the field of textbook analysis, a new and definitive study disproves the widely-held belief – and concern to the worldwide public – that Israeli and Palestinian school books present dehumanizing characterizations of the other. These characterizations are very rare in both Israeli and Palestinian school books. Full report here (pdf).

Academic Study Weakens Israeli Claim That Palestinian School Texts Teach Hate
posted by three blind mice (28 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd not heard this belief in schoolbooks.
Kids TV shows, yes.
But not schoolbooks.
posted by Mezentian at 3:59 AM on March 7, 2013


I'd not heard this belief in schoolbooks.
Kids TV shows, yes.


The schoolbooks thing has just been taken as a given for as long as I can recall (I heard "In [insert Arab/Muslim country here], schools get Hitler's birthday as a holiday!" in the '90s). I think the TV show meme is only newer because there have been examples, but racist-school-system has been baked in to the debate for a while now.
posted by Etrigan at 4:18 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hebrew taught in Gaza schools, but barriers remain
posted by rosswald at 4:27 AM on March 7, 2013


Never heard this claim either. Refuting it seems like muddying the waters of the real issues.
posted by DU at 4:40 AM on March 7, 2013


Exactly which branch of "science" does the field of "textbook analysis" fall under?
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 5:05 AM on March 7, 2013


Sociology?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:07 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Exactly which branch of "science" does the field of "textbook analysis" fall under?

Interdisciplinary, I think, in this case. Here are some excerpts from the bios linked in the main post. They show the disciplinary and departmental affiliations of the principle authors.

Sami Adwan is Associate Professor of Education at Bethlehem University. He is a Fulbright Scholar and his research on Palestinian education, religious education, and school books has been published extensively in academic and professional journals. He co-authored The Status of Religious Education in Palestinian Schools (2001), Comparative Analysis of the Israeli and Palestinian Conflict in History and Civic Education (2004), Participation and Reconciliation, Precondition of Justice (2011), 1948 Palestinian Refugees Remembered (2011) and Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel and Palestine (2012).

Daniel Bar-Tal is Branco Weiss Professor of Research in Child Development and Education at the School of Education, Tel Aviv University. His research interest is in political and social psychology studying socio-psychological foundations of intractable conflicts and peace building, as well as development of political understanding among children and peace education. He has published 20 books and more than 200 articles and chapters in major social and political psychological journals, books and encyclopedias.

Bruce E. Wexler is an internationally renowned expert on the scientific study of the brain and human cultures. He is Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist in Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, the recipient of multiple awards, and a prolific author, including the 2006 book Brain and Culture (MIT Press). For many years, Prof. Wexler was a National Institute of Health career research scientist. Prof. Wexler is a recipient of the 2011 National Institute of Health’s Director’s Transformative Research Projects Award, among other honors.
posted by carter at 5:32 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Never heard this claim either. Refuting it seems like muddying the waters of the real issues.

As a relatively liberal, non-observant American Jew in his early 30s, I've been hearing this claim my whole adult life.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:38 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Never heard this claim either. Refuting it seems like muddying the waters of the real issues.

Which schools in Israel and/or Palestine did you attend?
posted by griphus at 5:43 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish and carter... this crow is tasty. :-)

My comment was from-the-hip and snarky. My apologies, and my thanks especially to carter for taking the time to provide a detailed refute without any of the scathing backlash I probably deserved. I'm going to RTFA now, and likely with a much different point of view than I would have earlier.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 5:47 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, in the spirit of ElDiabloCoNQueso, perhaps I should offer some words of actual substance and not snark:

This is a real problem, DU. I've been hearing stuff like this from other Jews (Israelis and Americans both) for as long as I can remember. It gets to them as kids and because, in Israel, holding and speaking to incredibly ignorant views about Palestinians -- the sort of views you would very, very rarely encounter publicly in America -- is considered socially acceptable, these views are never examined and taken as fact and taught to the next generation.

So saying "I've never heard of this problem and thus it must not exist and thus it is counterproductive to whatever concept of the solution I have" is the same sort of bold, ignorant and unexamined statement about another culture that these people are trying to head off at the pass.
posted by griphus at 5:57 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Never heard this claim either. Refuting it seems like muddying the waters of the real issues.

Like others above, I've heard this claim repeatedly for as long as I can recall, both as an accusation one side levies against the other and as a general lament about how effed up the whole situation is. It is extremely useful, in my opinion, to show that the claim is false.
posted by yoink at 6:08 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


...and likely with a much different point of view than I would have earlier.

Not wanting to frame the FPP in any way, there is also some official controversy over this report which maybe I should not have left out.

Israelis unhappy with study of their textbooks and Palestinians’

"The study was initiated by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, an interfaith association of Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders that seeks to promote reconciliation. But the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which is represented on the council and had previously endorsed the textbook study, dissociated itself from its findings in a statement last week, citing what it called serious methodological flaws."

Education Ministry and Strategic Affairs Ministry Responses to the Press Conference on the Issue of Israeli and Palestinian Textbooks

"An evaluation, by professionals from the Education Ministry and from outside it, of materials collected by the "Scientific Advisory Panel" initiated by the "Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land" clearly shows that it is biased, unprofessional and profoundly unobjective."
posted by three blind mice at 6:14 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been hearing this claim my whole adult life.

Same.

And it is absolutely a "real issue" DU. The message promoted heavily by extremists and right-wingers on both sides is "They hate us. They're evil. They're bloodthirsty, inhumane savages who are training children to hate. Peace is not possible with people like that. Negotiation is useless and a waste of time." Textbooks are not the only example presented, but they're a big one.

Your lack of personal experience with this meme does not mean it doesn't exist or shouldn't be addressed. As a common belief held by both sides, it needs to be examined carefully.
posted by zarq at 6:19 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


This Wikipedia page about the textbook controversy reports on this latest study and responses to it but it also details many of the earlier claims about the textbooks' supposed sins.
posted by yoink at 6:21 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not wanting to frame the FPP in any way, there is also some official controversy over this report which maybe I should not have left out.

The official controversy seems to amount to "No, the Palestinians really do teach their children that we're animals and deserve to be driven into the sea! Everybody knows this!"

*sigh*
posted by Etrigan at 6:37 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Wikipedia page I linked to above notes that the official complaints started before the results of the study were released. Sigh, indeed.
posted by yoink at 7:06 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a relatively liberal, non-observant American Jew in his early 30s, I've been hearing this claim my whole adult life.

I'm a liberal, relatively non-observant American Jew who's almost 50, and I've been hearing this claim since the late 70's, if not earlier. Very nice to see it refuted.
posted by mosk at 7:36 AM on March 7, 2013


Here's a response by Dr. Arnon Groiss, one of the scientists on the panel who dissented.

For example, highly demonizing pieces were not included, under the pretext that they were not explicit enough. Thus, a piece saying "Your enemies killed your children, split open your women's bellies..." was rejected because it did not mention Jews or Israelis and was actually written in the early 20th century. Its appearance in a Palestinian textbook of today with its obviously serious consequences did not change that decision. Similarly, a piece talking of "invading snakes" was also discarded since no Jews or Israelis were mentioned there, as if someone else was intended, who is not involved in the conflict.
posted by Behemoth at 8:08 AM on March 7, 2013


Important to distinguish between attitudes in general and the issue, text books for the young.UN Textbooks in Palestinian Schools Strongly Anti-Israel, Anti-U.S. Israel censors Palestinian textbooks in East JerusalemPalestinian Textbooks Teach Anti-Israel Hate
posted by Postroad at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2013


Additional coverage:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In the Israeli-Palestinian public relations wars, it's conventional wisdom that the textbooks used in schools in the West Bank and Gaza breed hatred for Israel.

"They have textbooks that say, 'If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?" Newt Gingrich said when he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. "These textbooks don't give Palestinian children an education, they give them an indoctrination," then-Sen. Hillary Clinton said in 2007, based on criticism from an Israeli media watchdog.

Tablet:
Even before the outbreak of violence in the Second Intifada, Israeli governments and American Jewish organizations have pointed to Palestinian textbooks as Exhibit A of the Palestinians’ lack of seriousness about pursuing peace. How can we trust them, the argument goes, if they are inciting violence even among elementary-schoolers with books that fail to include Israel on a map and that glorify suicide bombers?

But a new study, financed by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. State Department and commissioned by the multifaith Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, claims that both sides are to blame for presenting the other as the enemy. While Israeli schools did get slightly better marks for even-handedness and the Israeli school system was praised for its increasing ability to be self-reflective and self-critical, the study undercuts Israel’s often-repeated accusation that “Palestinians teach their children to hate.”

Christian Science Monitor:
One of the areas that left the most to be desired was each group’s characterization of the other in positive terms. Israeli state textbooks gave a favorable impression of the other 11 percent of the time, ultra-Orthodox 7 percent of the time, and Palestinians only 1 percent of the time.

Ultra-Orthodox books include passages describing “a convoy of bloodthirsty Arabs” and comparing Israel and the neighboring Arab states to a “little lamb in a sea of 70 wolves,” while an Arabic language textbook used by the Palestinian Authority talks about “terror pour[ing] down from Mount Carmel on the Arabs living on the slopes.”

posted by zarq at 8:20 AM on March 7, 2013


Etrigan: " The official controversy seems to amount to "No, the Palestinians really do teach their children that we're animals and deserve to be driven into the sea! Everybody knows this!""

Not all of it.

The non-recognition of Israel or the Palestinian territories on their respective maps is a really big deal to both sides and has been for a long time. A majority of the textbooks examined from each side had maps of the region which didn't recognize the other. They don't even recognize established borders.
The researchers also examined maps in the schoolbooks, and found that in 58 percent of the post-1967 maps in Palestinian schoolbooks, the polity “Palestine” is shown, with its area incorporating everything between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including present-day Israel. There is no mention of Israel.

Conversely, 76 percent of the post-1967 maps in Israeli schoolbooks show Israel as the area between the river and the sea, with no mention of the Palestinian Authority, or notation of the so-called Green Line that separates Israel from the West Bank and Gaza territories it conquered in the 1967 Six Day War.

“This type of education can create a lasting obstacle to peace,” said Wexler. “If you grow up seeing maps that seem to imply that the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is your homeland… and you are asked to give up some of that land to make two states, you would feel you are losing something that you never had to begin with.”

posted by zarq at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Merav Michaeli: "Israel the strong continues to fight with the Palestinians for the title of victim."

this speech might be relevant!
(i found it remarkable ;)
posted by kliuless at 12:21 PM on March 7, 2013


The official controversy seems to amount to "No, the Palestinians really do teach their children that we're animals and deserve to be driven into the sea! Everybody knows this!"

Not all of it.

The non-recognition of Israel or the Palestinian territories on their respective maps is a really big deal to both sides and has been for a long time.


Sorry, what does that have to do with the "official controversy" articles that threeblindmice linked to and to which I was referring, which was pretty clearly Israeli officials upset that the study didn't find enough bad actions on the part of Palestinian textbook writers?

From the first:
But Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry, who heads a team monitoring Palestinian statements that Israel deems inflammatory, said that the study was based on a “distorted” premise.

“To compare how each side presents the other is absurd, because we teach peace, and they teach hatred of Israel and perpetuating the conflict,” he said. “It’s a difference of night and day.”
And the second:
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 Education Ministry chose not to cooperate with those elements who are interested in maliciously slandering the Israeli educational system and the State of Israel.

The products of this "study" show that the decision not to cooperate with these elements was correct.
Yeah, that's right -- the Education Ministry determined before the study that the study was "without any foundation whatsoever." Regardless of which side you happen to be on (I'm pretty strongly pro-Israel, for the record), that is a patently "Nuh UH! I CAN'T HEAR YOU LALALALALA!" stance.
posted by Etrigan at 1:07 PM on March 7, 2013


Etrigan: " Sorry, what does that have to do with the "official controversy" articles that threeblindmice linked to and to which I was referring, which was pretty clearly Israeli officials upset that the study didn't find enough bad actions on the part of Palestinian textbook writers?"

*sigh*

We are approaching this from different directions.

I'm adding additional information to the thread, detailing a problem with the textbooks whose existence has previously been ignored as a problem on both sides, which was (incidentally) part of the study linked in the FPP, and which is being picked up and highlighted by American and Jewish media. I included a reference to why the lack of accurate maps are relevant to the current conflict in my comment.

I have little interest in getting into a pissing match with you over this. I'm not trying to condemn or praise the Education Ministry. I'm saying that this is a continuing problem, and not all controversy stems from the official statements being made by Israeli or Palestinian representatives on the subject.
posted by zarq at 1:43 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been reading the report and I think its authors have gone to surprising, perhaps excessive lengths to provide an impression of balance between Israeli and Palestinian textbooks. The most obvious instance of this so far is on page 22 of the report, which quotes the only (!) positive portrayal of Jews they found in the Palestinian textbooks they studied:
An example of positive description of the act of the other from Palestinian books
The following divine books: 1 - "The messages of Abraham (peace be upon him) and Moses call for belief in God Almighty, worshipping Him, and following noble morals". 2 - The Torah: Was revealed to Moses (peace be upon him) to guide the children of Israel. 3 - The Zabour: Was revealed to David (peace be upon him) with sermons and guidance for the children of Israel. 4 - The Gospel: Was revealed to Jesus (peace be upon him) to guide the children of Israel, and to reaffirm what Moses (peace be upon him) had brought”. Islamic Education part 1 grade 3 p. 17
This isn't a positive portrayal of present-day Jews, let alone Israelis; this is a theological statement about Biblical characters. I think it should be obvious that there can be a very great disconnect between the way Moslems depict pre-Islamic Jews (or Christians depict pre-Christian Jews) and the way that they treat actual living ones. In contrast to this, the positive depictions of Palestinian Arabs (examples are given on page 21) refer to people from the modern era; not historical figures but individual examples of courage and kindness:
One example from an Israeli State school book when discussing the pogrom in Hebron in 1929: “If not for the brave stand of a British police officer and moderate Arabs who physically defended their Jewish neighbors, the slaughter would have been more awful” (State secular schools, National World 2 - Building a State in the Middle East [עולם לאומי ב' - בונים מדינה במזרח התיכון], Grade 10, Part 2, p.30, LP345).


The same thing occurs with other categories: on page 30 and 31 the authors give seven examples of Israeli "self-criticism", such as a paragraph talking about the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila camps, and its effect on Israeli politics. The sole example given (again, !) for Palestinian textbooks is this:
When Omar saw an elderly Jew begging because of his poverty and need, he (may God be pleased with him) told him: 'We were unjust to you, we took the jizya (poll tax) from you as a young man, and then we abandoned you in your old age.' Omar ordered that he and those like him be spent for out of Islamic charity money
This is not genuine self-criticism: it doesn't refer to modern Palestinians (or Palestinians at all, actually), and it has nothing to do with their relationship with Israel. If anything, its positive portrayal of a racist tax levied on non-Moslems is problematic in itself.

Thre's a whole lot more, but this comment is already much too long. I appreciate that in reviews of this sort it's hard to compare like-with-like, but the authors have failed to adhere to their own criteria: a homily about (the Caliph?) Omar is not an example of Palestinian self-criticism; and a positive view Moses based in Islamic theology has nothing to do with Palestinian relationships with Jews today.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:10 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Taking (and sympathizing with) your point, there is the common thread that both sets of references appear in the textbooks considered. An education in a society that is more plainly theologically organized should perhaps be expected to rely more heavily upon religious texts and be more interested in biblical events, because at the societal baseline, they are presumed to be relevant to today's daily life to a greater extent than under the prevailing Israeli model (certain strains of strict Jewish orthodoxy or fundamentalism excepted).
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:56 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


(expected in the sense of predicted, not desired or justified)
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:58 PM on March 11, 2013


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