Malak Mahmoud has never met an Israeli in her life and she hopes
she never will not even an Israeli child her age.
I dont wish to meet them because they occupied our land, says
Malak, a 6th-grader from Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. To me,
every Israeli person is a soldier because he will grow up to be a
Malak's generation is the first to be educated according to an
entirely Palestinian curriculum, developed gradually from 2000 to
2007 the year she started school. They tend to look up to Muslim
warriors like Saladin, who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders;
know little if anything about the Holocaust some havent even heard
of Hitler; and venerate those who die fighting Israelis.
They are not innocent people, because the whole nation is a
nation of soldiers, says 4th-grader Hala Mohammed.
Palestinians take pride in their textbooks, which they see as a
way to build national identity and instill a sense of dignity among
their young people, counteracting to some degree the humiliation of
checkpoints, barriers, permits, and prisons imposed by Israel.
The Israeli government, however, has long contended that elements
of the Palestinian curriculum, including maps that fail to demarcate
or label the state of Israel, amount to incitement against their
country contradicting both the spirit and the letter of the Oslo
A landmark study of Israeli and Palestinian textbooks released
this week exonerated Palestinians somewhat, saying neither their
textbooks nor Israeli ones promote dehumanizing views of the other
except in rare cases, although the Israeli government and at least
two of the researchers disputed this conclusion. Other findings of
the study, together with the Israeli and Palestinian reactions to
it, underscore the deep divide that still prevails between both
sides and is being perpetuated among the rising generations not
only through textbooks but also media, society, and government
Unlike their parents, who came of age before Israels separation
barrier and tightened security measures, todays young Israeli Jews
and Palestinians often have never met their peers and, like Malak,
may have no desire to.
We have to bring down this wall of hatred and enmity of
delegitimization, of stereotyped images, in order for us to regard
each other as human beings, says Mohammed Dajani, a former Fatah
fighter turned peace activist, who served on the advisory board of
the textbook study. The level of incitement is high on both sides.
We dont have leaders who are saying, Enough is enough.
'Little lambs in a sea of wolves'
The study, Victims of Our Own Narratives? was funded by a
$500,000 grant from the US State Department and overseen by Prof.
Bruce E. Wexler of Yale University. His team evaluated 74 Israeli
textbooks and 94 Palestinian books in six areas: the other, ones own
group, religion, peace, conflict, and values.
The results were tallied according to three groups of textbooks:
Those used in Israels state secular and religious schools; those
used in Israel's ultra-Orthodox schools, which are not subject to
approval by the Ministry of Education; and those used in Palestinian
schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
One of the areas that left the most to be desired was each groups
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
An area of particular controversy was maps. Some 95 percent of
ultra-Orthodox textbooks and 65 percent of Israeli state textbooks
did not include borders separating Israel from the Palestinian
territories, implying that all the land between the Mediterranean
Sea and the Jordan River belongs to Israel. …