Is the Palestinian educational system is engaging in child abuse? In a recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu raised this accusation. He indicated that Palestinian children are repeatedly witness to the glorification of terrorism and violence by their teachers and peers. These forms of glorification of terrorism are even found in students’ textbooks. He said that many children in Palestine are learning about hate every day, which is a form of child abuse.
Praising terror and violence is not the only child abuse they are subjected to. They are taught political misinformation as historical fact, which is a violation of basic educational norms. Veteran negotiator and diplomat, Daniel Taub, reasons that we have to teach our children about the past. Taub was the head of the Israeli side during the culture of peace negotiations during the Annapolis peace process. He was a member of the Anti-Incitement Committee a trilateral committee which was set up under the Wye River Memorandum, an attempt to address issues of incitement under the framework of Palestinian Israeli Peace negotiations incitement in the media, legal field, political field, and in areas of education.
Taub has pored over Palestinian textbooks and other areas of educational curriculum for several years and indicates that, for many years, there’s been a willingness of the Palestinian educators to forgo truthful education and instead focus on a political agenda. This distortion of history deceives the children. According to Taub, politics in Palestine today often don’t follow Palestinian teachings of the past. Palestinian textbooks have been rewritten to call the Tomb of Rachel the Mosque of a Muslim Prophet. This is a direct contradiction of the facts as clearly described in the 1920s by the Supreme Muslim Council and found in the Guide to the Temple Mount, which was published by that Council.
There’s a lack of commitment to give Palestinian children a proper education based upon the facts. This indicates that there’s a lack of leadership in Palestine to build a society that functions well. Taub implies the true test of a society is in the teaching of their children. He says that the curriculum, as it stands, is quite a cause for concern, due to the fact that they’re twisting the facts when teaching these impressionable children. Facts are the litmus test of a society and they’re also one of the hardest elements to change. The educational authorities in Palestine guard the ownership of these materials and then reject anyone that tries challenge their authority. They do this even when someone tries to stop the distortion of historical facts or prevent abuse.
Taub served the Israelis during the Culture of Peace negotiations when the Palestinians began to rewrite their history. His team examined the role of the education system and school books in continuing the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. They studied the textbooks to identify distortions of history made specifically for political reasons. The results are disturbing.
Another worrisome aspect of the textbooks that the Palestinians use is the fact that some key elements of the Palestinian identity are negative. They praise those that died in terror and acts of violence against Israeli citizens. This helps to spread these negative ideals to the youth at a young age, which can be seen in other states throughout as well. The youth grow up thinking a certain way thanks to the books that they study.
This sort of praise is not just found in textbooks. The Palestinian Authority gives stipends to citizens for committing crimes, which rewards terror and acts of violence. Schools are often named after militants and suicide bombers. During his negotiations, Taub urged his Palestinian counterparts to encourage a positive identity for Palestinians. He wanted to see a focus on Palestinians that have created a positive contribution in order to reject the negative impacts on their society.
Taub has also served as an ambassador for Israel to the United Kingdom. He went with the Palestinian ambassador to Northern Ireland, where they learned that both sides of the Irish conflict insist that the history of this conflict be taught to school children. Both sides understand that the children need to be taught the truth about the conflict so that these old political issues don’t keep dividing them. Because as it stands, the education they are getting is so negatively one-sided that it is difficult for them to learn anything else.
When they returned from Ireland, they started a program so that school textbooks could be reviewed by a committee of independent experts, but the program leadership in Palestine didn’t allow the initiative to enter the public domain. Taub indicated that this was a missed opportunity. Even on the international level, the community has expressed concern that the Palestinians are being taught a wrong version of history. However, these expressions of disdain have not yet yielded change; hopefully, with time they will.
There must be world pressure to change school book content so that incitement in hatred can be removed. There have been initiatives to combat this, but they haven’t had much success. Taub implies that the initiatives aren’t successful as a part of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and that the world community should l treat the issue not as an item on a list of negotiation issues but rather as a humanitarian issue to prevent the abuse and exploitation of Palestinian children.
Taub says the Palestinian Authority and leadership should want their children to have quality education. If they want their children to grow up in a positive and constructive environment, indoctrination, and incitement in their school system will not pave the way for lasting peace. Textbooks can be very powerful. Students study from a young age, and then once they reach a certain age, it becomes their own internalized ideal. This mode of negative education impacts the whole society as they grow up with it. This is why a change must be made to allow everyone to learn without a negative slant.