What should Israel do about a report claiming that Israelis and Palestinians delegitimise each other in their schools? Delegitimise the report, is the response from the Israeli side. Sounding more amenable, Salam Fayyad, the Palestinians’ prime minister, asked for help to improve the curriculum.
“Malicious slander,” cried people in the office of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, when a study funded by the American government that compared Israeli and Palestinian textbooks found that both sowed negative stereotypes of each other. After failing to suppress the report, Israeli officials tried to delay its publication. A meeting requested by the researchers and the ministry’s lawyer never materialised. A deputy prime minister and former head of the armed forces expressed irritation that Israelis were being judged by the same yardstick as Palestinians. “We teach peace, they teach war,” said his spokesman.
The report says that Israeli and Palestinian teachers both portray their neighbours as enemies, though Israel does so considerably less. After ploughing through nearly 30,000 pages of text, the researchers found that 49% of texts dealing with Palestinians in Israeli state-issued schoolbooks are negative; in government-funded Orthodox Jewish academies the figure rises to 73%. One such textbook depicts Arabs as “bloodthirsty” and “a nest of murderers”.
In Palestinian textbooks 84% of the references to Israelis are negative. In both Palestinians and Israeli state schools the books promote “martyrdom-sacrifice through death”. Each side glorifies itself, while denigrating the other.
Moreover, the textbooks tend to deny each other’s existence. Of 800 maps of their contested land studied by the researchers, 87% of the Israeli ones mark none of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan river as Palestinian, whereas 96% of Palestinian maps make no mention of Israel. “Israeli school maps feed into the Palestinian narrative that Israel wants to grab more and more land, and Palestinian school maps feed an Israeli narrative that Palestinians want to throw them into the sea,” says Bruce Wexler, the Yale professor who oversaw the project. Israeli critics of the report have panned the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, an association of local rabbis, imams and priests, who commissioned Mr Wexler, a Jewish American.
Source: The Economist