Row over Palestinian school book study

By JC Reporter, February 14, 2013

Last week, a US-funded study cleared Palestinian textbooks of inciting children against Israel. But now, a member of the study’s advisory panel has drawn up a list of 37 items from Palestinian textbooks that present Israel in a bad light — but which were omitted from the study.

They include a text talking about the obligation to liberate Jerusalem from Jewish hands and an illustrated scene of a school show in which an Israeli soldier is seen pointing his gun at an elderly Arab couple.

The scholar who compiled the list, Arab media expert Arnon Gross, refused to endorse the report, along with two other members of the advisory panel. He believes that the omitted items were important because they “may have enhanced the understanding of the general attitude of the PA school books to the Jewish/Israeli ‘other’ and to the issue of peace with this ‘other’.”

Another advisory panel member, Elihu Richter, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University, said that he has a “major concern, a fundamental concern”. The third dissenter Bar Ilan University professor Daniel Sperber felt that the release of the study was “premature”.

But Daniel Bar-Tal, one of the three authors of the final study, said that he and the other authors stand by its findings. Dr Gross’s complaint, he argued, is “ridiculous” and “irrelevant”. He claimed that many of the items that Dr Gross listed were outside the remit of the study as its criteria excluded holy texts and various other categories of material. He admitted that there was a chance that some items were overlooked, but said that their inclusion would not have impacted on the overall findings of the study. The omitted items were “not at the core of the study”, in his opinion.

As the internal row about the study has heated up, so has criticism from the outside, which began moments after its findings went public, with angry statements from the Israeli government. Itamar Marcus, head of the Palestinian Media Watch monitoring group, wrote an article claiming that the study “intentionally masks the hate and promotion of violence that are central to the PA educational system”.

Last updated: 9:45pm, February 14 2013