German school textbooks show ‘strong anti-Israel bias’, report claims

Report reveals a disturbing trend of blaming Jewish state for the conflict with the Palestinians


Textbooks in German schools display a strong political bias against Israel, according to a new report.

It reveals a disturbing trend of blaming Israel for the conflict with the Palestinians.
And it says teachers in German schools tend to shy away from discussing Israel in class because of fears of sparking unmanageable debates.

The report, conducted by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and the Mideast Freedom Forum, focused on 16 history and politics textbooks used in secondary schools in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews, is now demanding that both educational publishers and the press take steps to address this skewed perception of the Jewish state.

“I’m rather surprised that it’s not finally possible to design the textbooks in such a way that a biased portrayal of Israel is avoided,” he said.

“I also see the media as having a responsibility here, because the image of the textbook authors is also shaped by the media portrayal of Israel, which then finds its way into textbooks and into the classroom.”

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation described textbooks as “inadequate, often one-sided and tendentious” in their depiction of Israel.
It said there is a “different weighting of the victims on the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

“A mostly paraphrased David versus Goliath narrative is dominant. Terrorist attacks and other acts of violence are sometimes played down or ignored.

“Most of the textbooks portray Israel as a war-mongering crisis state and the sole aggressor in the conflict.

“Uprisings and violent attacks on Jewish civilians are given a kind of legitimacy because of the dominant image of Israel.

“The focus of knowledge transfer at school is on the Six Day War, which is also often presented in a distorted way.”

The report says the Second Intifada is “largely ignored in educational material” and there is an “uncritical representation of Hamas” while the failure of the peace process is often blamed on Israel.

Israeli settlement building, construction of the security wall and Israeli rejection of the Palestinian right of return are presented as obstacles to peace.

But Palestinian terror against the Israeli civilian population is not, says the report.

The foundation also urged that teaching materials should “clarify the connection between antisemitism, the Shoah and the emergence of the Zionist movement so that the founding of the state can be understood as legitimate.

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation is an antifascist and anti-racist NGO named after a black Angolan worker beaten to death in eastern Germany in 1990 by white youths wielding baseball bats. Foundation spokesperson Lorenz Blumenthaler told the JC that looking at textbooks in Germany seemed a key way of addressing the issue of preventing rising antisemitism in the country.

“When I saw the textbooks I must say I wasn’t too surprised.

“I was also closely involved in the process and it kind of reminded of my own school days in Bavaria where the Middle Eastern conflict and then on the other hand 9/11 were kind of all lumped together and you could also read about how Palestinians fight oppression.

“So the representation of Israel in all this was very brief, and very misguided.

“But I think what was the most striking and shocking was also in the academic texts, which were not neutral.

“Showing one perspective here and another there is the gold standard nowadays.

"But this idea of multi-perspectivity was completely neglected.

“Instead, something that was already heavily biased was presented as unbiased facts.”
Anti-Israeli bias in textbooks is nothing new in Germany: similar results were recorded in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2015.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive