Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)


  Palestinian Media Watch was established in 1996 to gain an understanding of Palestinian society through the monitoring of the Palestinian Arabic language media and schoolbooks. Palestinian Media Watch analyses Palestinian Authority culture and society from numerous perspectives, including studies on summer camps, poetry, schoolbooks, religious ideology, crossword puzzles, and more.

  Palestinian Media Watch has been playing the critical role of documenting the contradictions between the image the Palestinians present to the world in English and the messages to their own people in Arabic.

  Itamar Marcus is director of Palestinian Media Watch. Mr Marcus was also the Director of Research for the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace from 1998—2000, writing studies on Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian school textbooks. He was also a member of the Israeli delegation to the Trilateral Committee to Monitor Incitement, established under the Wye Accords.


    —  Palestinian Media Watch wishes to draw attention to the nature and content of Grade 12 Palestinian schoolbooks, introduced at the end of 2006 by the PA Ministry of Higher Education and written by the Center for Developing the Palestinian Curricula.

    —  The new books were introduced in response to widespread international criticism of the old textbooks, which were primarily Jordanian and Egyptian in origin. The Grade 12 books are just one year of the 12 that were introduced at the end of last year.

    —  The authors and supervisors of the new books are the same team of authors who have been writing during the years 2000 through to 2005, with slight additions. It is notable that the hateful ideology contained in these texts has been embraced and is being taught by veteran Fatah educators, not by representatives of Hamas.

    —  PMW have found that the Palestinian textbooks make no attempt to educate for peace and co-existance, and instead repeatedly reject Israel's right to exist. They also promote the present conflict as a religious battle for Islam, teach Israel's founding as imperialistic and portray a picture of the Middle East, verbally and visually, in which Israel does not exist.

    —  PA educators teach that fighting Israel is not merely a territorial conflict but also a religious battle for Islam. The schoolbooks present Israel as existing on Islamic land, and as such, assert that the conflict with Israel is not part of an Arab nationalistic goal but an uncompromising battle for God.

    —  Maps of the region also teach children to visualise a world without Israel, as Israel does not exist on any map and its area is marked as "Palestine". It is said to have water access to the Mediterranean and Red Sea and to measure more than 10,000 sq km—meaning that it would have to incorporate present-day Israel.

    —  PMW believes that one of the most meaningful gages of the ideology and aspiration of a people is the education of its youth. For this reason, the latest PA schoolbooks are a continuation of the tragic disappointment of earlier books. These texts glorify terror and teach youngsters to hate Israel. The most concerning element of this however is that instead of working to minimise hatred for Israel, the new PA curriculum is ingraining into the next generation`s consciousness and packaging the war against Israel as existential, mandatory and religious.

1.  Israel as a religious battle

  1.1  The PA schoolbooks teach that fighting Israel is not merely a territorial, nationalistic conflict, but a religious battle for Islam. The educators define the conflict with Israel as "Ribat"—a concept from Islamic tradition signifying Muslims defending the border areas of Islam. Moreover, the youth are taught that their specific fight against Israel—Ribat for "Palestine"—is "one of the greatest of the Ribat, and they [Palestinians] are worthy of a great reward from Allah".

  1.2  Palestinian use of violence against Israel is called "muqawama—resistance" (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Commentary, grade 12, p 105)—and is said to be legal according to international law. And after defining "Palestine" to encompass all of Israel, Israel's eventual destruction is assured: "Palestine will be liberated by its men, its women, its young ones and its elderly" (Arabic Language and the Science of Language, grade 12, p 44). Hezbollah terror against Israel is likewise justified, as one schoolbook rejects the UN ruling that Israel has withdrawn to the international border, and likewise defines Hezbollah's terror as "resistance" against "occupation."

  1.3  Beyond teaching that Islam glorifies their continuous Ribat, the books teach that international law determines that fighting "colonial rule, foreign rule and racist regimes ... is a legitimate struggle." These three categories to be fought—"colonial, foreign, and racist"—are all terms used in the schoolbooks to define Israel: (History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century, grade 12, p 6)

  1.4  Accordingly, any attempt to stop this fight—that is, to stop Palestinians from fighting Israel—is itself said to violate international law: "Any attempt to suppress the struggle against colonial and foreign rule and racist regimes is considered as contrary to the UN convention and the declaration of principles of international law." According to this, any country fighting Palestine terror would be violating international law.

  1.5  After Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000 the UN recognised it as complete. The PA school books reject this, teaching that Israel has not completed its withdrawal and that the Hezbollah terror is "resistance," fighting "occupation".

    The Israeli forces withdrew from it [Lebanon] under pressure from the Lebanese national resistance in 2000, except for the area of the Shab'a Farms, which is still under Israeli occupation, and the Lebanese resistance for its liberation continues.

    (The History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century, grade 12, p 83)

2.  Palestine in a world with Israel

  2.1  Numerous verbal lessons in the new schoolbooks present Palestinian youth with a vision of a world without Israel. It is important to note that in this and many of the following examples, it is not a geographic area of "Palestine" that is being defined, which could conceivably include Israel, but a "state" (Arabic "Dawla" = state) called "Palestine"—in place of the state of Israel.

  2.2  The "state" of "Palestine" is said to have water access to the Red Sea—a situation possible only if Israel does not exist.

    Coastal states differ in terms of their access to water sources, such as ...: States located on sea coasts with accesses to two seas, for example: Palestine and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

    (Physical Geography and Human Geography, grade 12, p 105)

  Note:  Neither the Gaza Strip nor West Bank has access to the Red Sea. The Israeli city of Eilat has access, and on Palestinian maps Eilat appears as part of Palestine.

  2.3  The size of the State of "Palestine" is said to be more than 10,000 square kilometers, which is not possible as long as Israel exists. This teaches youth to picture a world without Israel.

    Classification of states according to [size of] territory ...: Small states: Range is between 10,000 to 100,000 square kilometres, for example: Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Holland.

    (Physical Geography and Human Geography, grade 12, p 107)

  Note:  If the full West Bank (5,860 square kilometres) and Gaza Strip (360 square kilometres) were combined they total 6,220 square kilometres. All the areas of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip together equal 26,990 square kilometres.

  2.4  Israel's Jewish history and connection to the land are hidden. The following section defines the Israeli cities of Jerusalem and Nazareth as "Palestinian cities", with "holy sites to Islam and Christianity". There is no mention of Jewish holy sites. Acknowledging Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem would draw attention to the Jewish people's history in the Land of Israel.

    Religious sites:

    The Arab Homeland includes important religious sites, visited by Muslim and Christian pilgrims from around the world, which encourages religious tourism there, as in Palestine, where there are holy sites to Islam and Christianity in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nazareth and in other Palestinian cities.

    (Physical Geography and Human Geography, grade 12, p 143)

3.  Rejection of Israel's right to exist

  3.1  While "Palestine" is described as existing in a world without Israel, Israel's founding is taught and vilified as "a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history. The Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, their lands and their houses, and established the State of Israel." [Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 104] Israel is described as foreign, colonialist, and imperialist. The youth are taught that Israel's creation was immoral and Israel unequivocally has no right to exist.

  3.2  The Palestinian educators define Jews as foreigners and colonialists in their own country of Israel. While Israel is today a vibrant democracy with 11 Arab Knesset members and one Druze, an Arab Minister and Supreme Court justice, the schoolbooks liken Israel to the white minority regimes of South Africa and Zimbabwe, calling it "racist." (Note: The books cite South Africa and Zimbabwe as if the white rule situations still exist.)

4.  Holocaust Denial

  4.1  The textbook History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century teaches the military and the political events of World War II in significant detail, including sections on Nazi racist ideology, yet neither persecution of Jews nor the Holocaust is mentioned. It is apparent that the PA educators made an active decision to exclude the Holocaust from history. The new book writes selectively about the issues of the Holocaust, citing Nazi racist ideology and restrictions the Nazis placed on "inferior" non-Aryan nations, yet it makes no reference to the Holocaust or to Jews. The schoolbook even teaches about the post-war trials of "senior Nazi leaders as war criminals" (p 46) but make no mention of the crimes for which the "war criminals" were on trial.

  4.2  Separate sections of the history book are devoted to the events leading to World War II, the battles of the war on the Baltic Front, the Western Front, the African Front, the Russian Front, the Far East Front, the El Alamein battle, the defeat of the Axis forces, and Japan's defeat and the dropping of the atomic bomb. But in the PA educators' version of world war history, there is no Holocaust.

5.  Terminology of disdain and demonisation

  5.1  The terminology the educators have chosen for the schoolbooks demonises Israel and reinforces the rejection of Israel as a neighbour with a right to exist.

  5.2  The following terms are used to refer to Israel, its founders and its ideology:

    "The Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled the inhabitants ..."

    (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 104)

    "The occupation of its country by the Zionist Enemy ..."

    (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 122)

    "... attempts carried out by the enemies of this people."

    (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 17)

  5.3  The following terms are used to refer to Israel's creation:

    "Faced with this Zionist Imperialist plan, Palestine's residents decided ..."

    (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 103)

    "The Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled ..."

    (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 104)

  5.4  The following terms are used to refer to the Palestinian condition:

    "Banished the Palestinian nation into exile"

    (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 109)

    "Massacred, and stole its land, its homes and its holy sites."

    (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p 109)

6.  Jihad, and Shahada—Martyrdom for Allah

  6.1  The new PA schoolbooks teach and idealise Jihad—war for Islam—and Shahada—death for Allah—as basic Islamic principles to which to aspire. Jihad and Shahada are at times taught as general Islamic ideals, and at times focused against Israel. This promotion is not limited to the formal Islamic education books, but is found in many different schoolbooks. Often the original Islamic sources from the Quran or Hadith are used as the tool of promotion.

  6.2  Grammar is taught by analysing a Quran verse whose message is that believers who fight are said to be superior to those believers who do not fight.

    Grammar Exercises:

    "Believers who sit at home, other than those who are disabled, are not equal with those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives."

    (Note: Passage from Quran, Sura of Al-Nissa, verse 95)

    (Arabic Language and the Science of Language, grade 12, p 97)

  6.3  The PA textbooks teach that everyone participates in Jihad, especially when it becomes necessary, as with the war to fight Israel and liberate "Palestine". The textbooks also provide examples of disabled people, women and elderly who participated in Jihad, presenting it as their right.

  6.4  People with physical and mental disabilities:

    The rights of people with special needs in Islam:

    The right of participating in society: The care of Islam for the people with special needs is not restricted to ensuring their needs, but takes interest in making them feel their importance and their role in building the society. It does not prevent them from participating in all domains, including:

    —  Permitting them to participate in Jihad: Allah's Messenger permitted Amr ibn Al-Jamuh to participate in the raid of Uhud, despite the fact that he was lame. Allah, may he be praised and glorified, exempted him from Jihad, but when the Messenger saw that he insisted on going and strove to participate with the Muslims in Jihad, and heard him say: "I want to march with my limp in Paradise"—he permitted him to do so.

    (Islamic Education, grade 12, pp 153-154)

  6.5  Shahada, or death for Allah, is an Islamic concept. The PA educators present Shahada as an ideal to which all Muslims should aspire. A Shahid—often translated as "Martyr"—is someone who has achieved Shahada. The textbooks cite the Quran and the Hadith, traditions and sayings attributed to Muhammad, to glorify the aspiration to seek a violent Shahada death. The textbooks also mention that Shahids are not considered dead, but live on in Paradise, and their death is seen as a joyous wedding.

  6.6  Shahids are not dead but live on with Allah

    Expressions of the Hardships [of Muslims]

    Allah said: [Quran] "Do not say that those killed in the name of God are dead. No, as they are alive, but you cannot conceive that: We will test you with dangers and hunger and losses of property and of souls and of crops." ... The verse clarifies that these Shahids are alive with their god, they are lively and are delighted with happiness and the benevolence that Allah gave them, even if we do not sense these lives, and we do not know their truthfulness, and therefore [the Quran] forbade us to refer to them as "dead".

    (Islamic Education, grade 12, p 9)

  6.7  The Shahid's death as a wedding: The Islamic tradition that the Shahid is rewarded with 72 Dark-Eyed Maidens in Paradise leads to the Palestinian textbooks' describing Shahada—death for Allah—as a "wedding".

    Oh my Homeland, I won't cry during this wedding, as our Arabness does not want us to cry over the Shahids; Al-Mutawakkil Tah, Palestine

    (Arabic Language and the Science of Language, grade 12, p 13)

7.  The promotion of a "clash of civilisations"

  7.1  The depiction of the West as enemy is cemented as the new PA schoolbooks divide the modern world into two camps: the West and the Islamic-Arab world. The current relationship is described as a "Clash of Civilisations" (Contemporary Problems, grade 12, p 92). The West is taught to be primarily responsible for this tension, for numerous reasons, including colonialism, and the wars it has initiated which it has justified in the name of "human rights."

  7.2  The war in Iraq is taught to be an "occupation", and terror attacks against British and US soldiers are "brave resistance."

    The U.S. and Britain [forces] ... stormed Iraqi cities with the participation of military forces from different countries and Baghdad fell. The Iraqis did not surrender to this occupation but succeeded in organising themselves and a brave resistance to liberate Iraq began.

    (History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century, grade 12, p 147)

  7.3  Britain is portrayed negatively as having primary responsibility for helping the creation of Israel. No mention is made that Britain was fulfilling an international decision of the League of Nations in 1922 giving Britain the Mandate of Palestine for the specific purpose of creation of a state for Jews in the Jewish homeland: "recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home". (The Palestine Mandate: the Council of the League of Nations). In as much, as the books deny Israel's right to exist, citing Britain as responsible places them in a negative light.

  7.4  The causes of the current clash between the West and Islam are said to be:

    (i)  European colonialism.

    (ii)  Human rights abuses by the West.

    (iii)  The "tensions ... following the events of 11 September ...;" the European prohibitions of Islamic Hijab headdresses in schools, the Danish cartoons of Mohammed.

    (iv)  The West is "not serious about having a dialogue" with the Muslim Arab world.

8.  Minimising the peace agreements between Israel and its neighbours

  8.1  There seems to be an attempt to minimise education about the peace processes between Israel and its neighbors. In the book History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century there is great detail about the wars, the British Mandate period and Israel's establishment—but only minor reference to a peace process, while the Oslo Accords are not even mentioned. In the book Contemporary Problems, there is nothing in the extensive sections on Israel and the Palestinians about the peace process.

  8.2  Another book focuses on the Arab world's opposition to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt:

    The president of Egypt, Muhammad Anwar Al-Sadat, visited Israel. The Camp David accord was signed in 1979. According to it, Israel withdrew from Sinai. As a result, The Arab countries terminated their relations with Egypt and the centre of the Arab League was moved from Cairo to Tunis.

    (History of the Arabs and the world in the 20th century, grade 12, p 88)

  8.3  The Israel-Palestinian Olso Accords are given very little mention. The books describe the signing of the Oslo Accords: "Due to the political circumstances in the Arab region following the Second Gulf War, a declaration of principles (the Oslo Accords) was reached in 1993 ..." Although it is not certain what the educators are hinting at, Yasser Arafat and the PLO were at their weakest following the Gulf War, after Arafat's support of Saddam Hussein's attack on Kuwait, which had lost the PLO its financial base of support.

    Due to the political circumstances in the Arab region following the Second Gulf War, a declaration of principles (the Oslo Accords) was reached in 1993 for solving the problem of Palestine between the PLO and Israel, and it [America] plays the lead role in the attempt to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Its latest political suggestion is the Roadmap plan.

    (Contemporary Problems, grade 12, pp 22-23)

  8.4  Beyond this, the Oslo Accords are not mentioned, nor is the peace process.

9.  Conclusions

  9.1  One of the most meaningful gauges of the ideology and aspirations of a people is the education of its youth. For this reason, the new Palestinian Authority schoolbooks introduced in the end of 2006 by the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Higher Education apparatus are a continuation of the tragic disappointment of the earlier books. Instead of seizing the opportunity to educate future generations to live in peace with Israel, the new PA schoolbooks teach their children to hate Israel and vilify Israel's existence while they glorify terror. Instead of working to minimise the current hate, the new PA curriculum is ingraining it into the next generation's consciousness, and packaging the conflict with as existential, mandatory and religious. The hate indoctrination, combined with the definition of terror against Israel as "most glorious heroism," could be interpreted by some youths as recruitment manuals for terrorism.

  9.2  The new PA schoolbooks are guaranteeing that the next generation will grow up seeing Israel as an illegitimate state, an enemy to be hated, fought, and destroyed, rather than as a neighbor to negotiate with, and to ultimately live beside in peace.

March 2007

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