|Israel Resource Review
||14th September, 2000
Israel Not On Map in Palestinian Textbooks
Washington Post Sunday, September 3, 2000; Page A01
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 2 After years of sharp debate and bitter
recrimination, one of the most delicate and politically loaded documents in
the Arab-Israeli dispute was unveiled today amid great ceremony and
immediately delivered into the eager little hands of first- and
The pupils were Palestinians returning to school in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, and the documents in question were glossy new school textbooks on
civics and other subjects, the first written exclusively by and for
Palestinians. They replace aging Jordanian and Egyptian volumes that the
Palestinians have used for years.
The distribution of the slim, soft-covered books was a major event because in the Middle East, textbooks are not simply neutral educational tools but are read closely as indexes measuring each side's acceptance or rejection of peace. They are seen as a crucial instrument, along with TV, in forming Arab and Jewish images of one another.
Israeli critics have long said Palestinian textbooks are part of a general
Arab effort to deny Israel legitimacy. Some had hoped the new books would
speak explicitly about Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and peace partnership.
The Palestinians said they were determined to produce texts that were
educational, not political. Their approach was to minimize references to
Israel and Jews rather than to malign them ג and that alone may represent
an improvement of sorts.
However, inside the covers remain points of potential friction:
Maps in a sixth-grade civics textbook depict a long, dagger-like green shape separating the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but do not say that the shape is known to most of the world as Israel. Nor does the map include Tel Aviv, although it does pinpoint other Israeli cities with large past or current Arab populations.
A chapter on tolerance speaks generally of the importance of that rare Middle Eastern commodity, urging that it apply not only among religions but also sports teams and political parties. But there is no specific mention of tolerance for Israelis and no suggestion of Arab-Jewish reconciliation in the accompanying illustration ג a Muslim sheik greeting not a rabbi but a Christian priest.
When it is discussed, Israel is characterized as an "occupier" and treated
more like an old enemy than a new peace partner. "The Palestinian people were expelled from their land as a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine,"the civics text says, "and have been subjected to massacres and banishment from their land to neighboring countries."
Still, from the perspective of peace supporters, the Palestinian textbooks
are an improvement over the old Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks, nearly all of which were written before the Oslo declaration inaugurated Middle East peacemaking in 1993. Some contain virulent attacks on the "treacherous and disloyal" Jews and predict military victory for the Arabs over Israel.
That made them handy ammunition for some Israelis, who said that using the old texts in Palestinian-run schools proved that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority was a racist and warmongering regime whose peaceable intentions were dubious at best.
Stung, the Palestinians noted that old Israeli textbooks contain unflattering references to Arabs as backward, shifty and unclean. They dismissed their Israeli critics as right-wingers opposed to peacemaking, and insisted the Palestinians should be judged only by their own textbooks.
Now, say Palestinian officials, the new books ג the product of four years
of work by hundreds of experts ג represent an enormous step forward and a way station toward building an independent Palestinian state.
"We are going to teach the truth," Naim Abu Humus, the Palestinian deputy
minister of education, said today.
Soft-spoken and U.S.-educated, Abu Humus told an audience including Arafat,
diplomats and dozens of educators at the Education Ministry in the
Palestinian-ruled city of Ramallah that the new texts fulfill "one of the
dreams of the Palestinian people."
Later, in an interview, he insisted the books reflect sound educational
principles and nation-building goals, and do their best to steer clear of
"It's not necessary to relate everything to politics," he said. "In [the
Israeli] curriculum they don't have the word Palestine. Our curriculum is not anti-anybody."
Abu Humus said the books' focus on Palestine, not Israel, is intentional. The chapter on tolerance was illustrated by a Muslim and a Christian because those are the two main religions of Palestinians, he said. As for the omission of Israel on the maps, that was the decision of political
higher-ups, he said.
His brother, Omer Abu Humus, an education official who worked on the new
textbooks, said the Palestinians were wise to sidestep the issue of Israel's borders, which are the subject of current peace talks.
"If I ask you to show me the exact borders of Israel, you can't show me," he said. "Why indulge in political questions which remain to be negotiated?"
Still, it may be difficult to convince some Israelis, particularly right-wing skeptics of peace who stress that there can be none until Palestinian
officials and schools get used to the idea that Israel is here to stay.
"Not mentioning Israel on the map and only referring to cities with an Arab
past is consistent with the ongoing media campaign," said Itamar Marcus, the Israeli research director for the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, a New York-based group that monitors Arab media.
"There's no attempt to create legitimacy or recognition that Israel exists," said Marcus, whose focus on Palestinian media has touched a nerve among Arabs. "They'll have to go through a major education campaign to reeducate people to see us as human beings. . . . The fact that there's not any vicious antisemitism is a basic minimum."
Marcus characterized as "very, very upsetting" the fact that the textbooks
omit Israel and Jews from the chapter on tolerance.
His critique reflected a theme in Jewish-Arab discord: the Israeli insistence that the Palestinians must preach peace to their people as a means of reconciliation, and the Palestinian rebuttal that justice the return of Palestinian land is the only real route to peace.
"What will change the situation will be to give the Palestinians their
rights," said Naim Abu Humus, the deputy education minister. "Without that,
no newspaper, no textbook, will change the situation."
The textbooks released today mark the beginning of a broad curriculum reform for Palestinian schools, whose growth rate is among the fastest in the world.
Until now, West Bank students have read textbooks from Jordan, and Gazans
have used books from Egypt.
Funded by Italy, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and Belgium, new
textbooks for all grades through high school are to be phased in over the
next four years. They will be used by 865,000 students in the more than 1,750 schools administered by the Palestinians and the United Nations in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Arab schools in East Jerusalem. However, the new books will not be distributed to U.N.-run schools for tens of thousands of Palestinians classified as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
The curriculum reform calls for a 10 percent increase in class time, and all Palestinian students will be required to study English for 10 years, starting in first grade. Until now, compulsory English had been taught for only four years, beginning in fifth grade. Compulsory classes in civics, technology and science will be added, and more courses are to be offered in German, French and environmental studies.
The writer is the bureau chief of the Washington Post in Israel
Return to Contents
'A' Is for Arafat, 'B' Is for Bethlehem. Skip Zion.
By Deborah Sontag, New York Times, Sept. 13,2000EBORAH SONTAG
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 7 Inside a modern, secular private
school here, the first-grade boys and girls stuffed their Pokemon
and Barbie backpacks into their cubbies and gathered on the blue
rug for story time.
Their 24-year-old teacher, Nesrin Alayan, kneeled, clasped her
hands and began, in a singsong voice, to tell "the tale of a joyful
home called Palestine."
The tale begins, she told the children, with a large, happy family
eating and laughing inside their house. One day, she said, "some
people" come to the door with rifles and pistols, open fire on the
house and seize it.
"We the Palestinian family are forced out into the cold," she
said. "And then we spend many, many years trying to get back into
our house. In order to do so, we start throwing stones. And then
people are killed. Do you boys and girls know the word intifada?
That's when the world starts paying attention to our tale."
With her story, which concludes on the "path of peace," Mrs.
Alayan was improvising a setup for the opening lesson in a new
first-grade reader, the very first official reader written by and
The lesson deals with the symbols of the new Palestinian identity
- the flag, the passport and it is part of a fledgling home-grown
curriculum that was introduced this week in first- and sixth-grade
classrooms throughout the Palestinian-ruled territories.
For decades Palestinians in the West Bank have used Jordanian
textbooks and those in Gaza have relied on Egyptian ones, making
for a disjointed and ultimately borrowed educational program. As
part of the process of building institutions for an emerging
Palestinian state, the Palestinian Authority, with money from
European countries, is trying to create from scratch a genuine
Palestinian curriculum, starting with two grades as a pilot effort.
But since the Palestinian nation has not yet emerged, the
curriculum is a delicate work in progress, fodder for criticism
from within and without.
With peace negotiations unresolved, it is hard to know how Mrs.
Alayan's tale will end. Her principal, Maha Shihadi, said it was
almost impossible to teach geography. The regional map, as far as
every Palestinian is concerned, cannot be drawn before borders are
determined as part of the peace talks.
How, Mrs. Shihadi asked, can the children illustrate Palestine?
She wondered if they should make cutouts, like snowflakes, to
portray the unconnected parcels of land that now constitute the
Palestinian-ruled territories. The textbook writers opted for what
they call "the historic map of Palestine," the map of 1948.
In other words, Israel is not pictured. Tel Aviv does not exist.
This greatly upsets those Israelis, mostly rightists, who monitor
Palestinian media and literature, documenting hostility toward
Israel and Jews. They say it betrays the whole spirit of the peace
effort for the Palestinians to generate a new educational
curriculum that, for starters, ignores Israel on maps.
Salah Yassin, the director general of curriculum development for
the Palestinian Authority, defends this omission as calculated and
"Complain to the Education Minister!" he joked. Yasir Arafat, the
Palestinian leader, holds that portfolio.
Mr. Yassin said Israel, like Palestine, remained undefined. "That
is what these peace talks are about, no?," he said. "When the
crisis is solved, we will clearly mark: `This is Palestine. This is
Israel.' But for now we educators are not going to get involved in
politics. The texts are, by necessity, works in progress, and they
will be modified."
The Palestinian educators think it is significant that Palestinian
students will crack open textbooks saturated with local images and
references for the first time.
Math books ask students to calculate the distance between
Bethlehem and Nablus in the West Bank, not Amman and Petra in
Jordan. Arabic texts feature poems and essays by Palestinians and
reading comprehension passages about the Palestinian olive oil and
stone industries. Mr. Yassin also cited "Mary and Jesus" as
examples of Palestinian personalities in the new books.
In the sixth-grade books, Palestinian history is presented not in
linear narrative form but sketchily.
The creation of Israel is explained tersely as "the Israeli
occupation of 1948," which with the assistance of Britain
"destroyed most of the Palestinian villages and cities and kicked
the Palestinian inhabitants from their lands."
In a section on the Palestine Liberation Organization, its
"liberation army" is mentioned, as well as the return to the West
Bank and Gaza of its "fighters" after the Oslo interim peace
agreement was signed in 1993. Terrorism is not mentioned, and Oslo
is not explained.
A chapter on "Palestinian problems" includes a grab bag of issues,
including high unemployment, a brain drain, the Israeli settlement
expansion policy and the "Judaization" of Jerusalem.
Text blocks tend to be short, followed by suggested activities
like inviting a Palestine Liberation Organization official to class
or fill- in-the-blank exercises:
Palestine in the 20th century was under (blank) occupation and
The correct answers are British and Israeli, omitting what some
Palestinians consider to have been periods of Ottoman and Jordanian
For much of Israel's history its textbooks were far from neutral
themselves, sticking closely to a heroic Zionist narrative and
avoiding any Palestinian perspective. Starting last year, shortly
after Israel's 51st birthday, a revised curriculum began using the
term Palestinian freely and referring to a Palestinian people and a
In a bid to introduce greater historical detail to the story of
Israel's founding, new textbooks said that in 1948 some
Palestinians were expelled from their villages and that some fled
because they feared Israeli soldiers. But the new books are used
only in the mainstream secular school system, which serves about 60
percent of schoolchildren. And since some secular Israeli educators
consider them offensive, they are not used throughout the system.
Mr. Yassin emphasizes that the first- and sixth-grade books must
be seen as part of what will eventually be a complete first-
through 12th- grade curriculum.
They cannot be judged in isolation, he said. Over the next four
years, the Palestinian government intends to phase in the remaining
grades and introduce broader educational reforms: more creative
teaching, less rote learning, compulsory English starting from the
first grade, third- language electives including Hebrew, technology
But with so many inside and outside the Palestinian world
anxiously wondering what shape the new state will take, the books
have been pounced on this week, and not just by Israeli rightists.
Palestinians, too, have been scouring them for signs of how the
government is managing the delicate question of forging a national
identity from so many strands: the West Bank and Gaza, Muslims and
Christians, religious and secular. And academics are scrutinizing
them to evaluate the educational standards they set.
In an article in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, a local
professor condemned the new first-grade reader for underestimating
Palestinian children. Every Palestinian child knows and understands
the camel, a part of the landscape here, "the cargo ship of the
desert," he said. Why, he asked, did the textbook writers feel
compelled to concoct a story about a camel and a lion that
describes the camel as "the king of the jungle?"
At the private school here, which is called Al Mustaqbal, or the
Future School, a seasoned science teacher expressed disappointment
with the new sixth-grade science book. After conducting a lively
anatomy class on joints, the teacher, Dalal Kasabri, said she had
greatly departed from the text because it was overly simplistic,
unimaginative and in some cases inaccurate.
"Obviously there are different levels in the West Bank and Gaza,
in public schools and private ones like this one," she said. "But
we should be setting high standards for our children and our
The illustration for a civics book lesson on tolerance shows a
sheik and a priest shaking hands.
To the disappointment of Israeli critics, who were hoping that the
new Palestinian textbooks would preach tolerance for Jews, too, the
books look inward only, where Palestinian educators say a lot of
work must be done. As part of an interfaith effort, they also
produced textbooks on Christianity, which will be used by Christian
children during the period when their Muslim classmates study Islam.
Back in Mrs. Alayan's class, the children were examining one
little girl's shiny new Palestinian passport. The young teacher,
her face shining, asked the children how they could use their new
documents, their new badges of Palestinian identity.
"Teacher, teacher!" one boy called out, leaping with his
outstretched arm into the air. "To go to America!"
The writer is the bureau chief of the New York Times in Israel
Return to Contents
Analysis of a new textbook of the Palestinian Authority:
Daphne Burdman, M.D
"NATIONAL EDUCATION FOR SIXTH GRADE"
Published by the "Ministry of Education for the State of Palestine".
presented September 2000.
Pages 8 - 9.
A GEOGRAHIC MAP SHOWS WHAT IS CURRENTLY INTERNATIONALLY DESIGNATED AS
ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY AREAS, BUT ISRAEL IS MISSING FROM THE
TITLE OF THE MAP
[Ed. From the content of these pages it is clear that this entire
area is referred to only as Palestine]
[The student is instructed to] "Look at the map and answer the following
1. What are the natural resources of Palestine?
2. ...Mention the borders of Palestine from all four sides.
3. "Which are the continents which Palestine connects?"
4. Mention the seas that are "on the land of Palestine".
The Location of Palestine.
Palestine has an important place in the heart of the Arabic motherland because
1. She is the connection between three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
2. She is the connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea,
and that is why she is extremely important from a strategic, political and
military point of view. ............"
"In the division of Palestine, there are four parts:
1. The coastline. The cities that are on its coast are Acco,
Haifa, Jaffa and Gaza.
2. The mountain areas which include the Galilee, Nablus,
Jerusalem, Hebron, and the cities which include Nazareth,
Jenin, Tulkharam, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Hebron
3. The Jordan Valley which extends from Lake of Tiberius to the Dead Sea.
4. The Negev comprises half of the territory of Palestine
[geographically]. This is semi desert & its important city is Beer
THE WATER RESOURCES OF PALESTINE
II. Other water sources include
A. Rivers, including the River Jordan and springs,and rivers
Al-Muqata, Al-Odja and Al-Faria.
B. Lakes - the most important is the Lake of Tiberius
165 square km. In area and consisting of sweet water, and the
Dead Sea, 1050 square km. with salt water. It is also rich in minerals.
3. Underground water, which is in the form of springs and wells.
[Ed. This is a literal translation.
One presumes that the reference is to the aquifers although the
sentence construction is ambiguous.]
1. Draw a map of historical Palestine
2. Indicate the main cities on the coastline.
3. Indicate the main cities in the Jordan Valley.
THE POPULATION OF PALESTINE IN FEBRUARY 1999.
1. The West Bank 1,972,000
2. Gaza 1,113,000
3. Palestinians Within Palestine 1,094,000
4. Palestinians Outside Palestine 4,419,000
5. TOTAL 8,598,000
[Ed. Note: There is an absence of statistics for the Jewish population
residing in the area currently known as the state of Israel].
"Let's understand that...
Palestine is a part of the great Arabic motherland and the Palestinian
people are a part of the Arabic nation. Arabic unity is the goal that the
Palestinian people work for", quoted from the Laws of the Palestinian National Authority. Chapter 1, Paragraph 1.
Page 13. Characteristics of Palestinian Society...
"All of Palestinian History is a struggle manifested by courage and
bravery. The Palestinian people fought the British authority and Israeli
occupation and they have revolted several times. They had thousands of
martyrs and wounded..........'
[Ed. Regarding Arabic National Issues}...
4. The flag of the Palestinian National Movement is the Arabic
flag and the national anthem is the Arabic anthem.
Arabic unity is the desire of the Palestinian people.
5. In Palestinian society brotherhood and tolerance exists between the
Moslems and the Christians...
"The Palestinian people were expelled from their land because of the
Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the Palestinian people were subjected
to massacres and made to emigrate to neighboring states.
Page 15. 3 photographs show...
A. Arab revolt of 1936
B. Subtitle reads "This is the map of Israeli settlements in the
West Bank and Gaza"
C. Azzadin-al-Kassam (Mujahid)**
The following questions then appear
1. Mention the name of the Imperial power which colonized Palestine
from 1918 to 1948.
2. Mention the means which the Palestinian people used to fight
the British imperialists.
3. Give the name of the Arabic leader who died as a martyr in Yaabad
in 1935 in his fight against British imperialism..."
**NOTE: AZZADIN AL-KASSAM IS THE MARTYR AND HERO OF THE VIOLENT MOSLEM
1. "Imperialism" ...[talks of British imperialism]..."and
the Israeli occupation in 1948 with the help of Great Britain"
...Israeli occupation has destroyed most of the Palestinian
cities and villages, expelled the Palestinian residents and
forced them to leave their lands and villages.
2. Israel has embraced a new policy in occupying the Palestinian lands,
which is settling the land and including developing agricultural,industrial and residential components
[Ed. NOTE: the Arabic words used for "settling the land by Israelis" has
a highly pejorative implication in Arabic].
3. Under the Israeli conquest, [the Israelis] were neglecting the health,
education and social services of the Palestinian people.
4. Israel took control of underground water supplies in Palestine.
5. The lack of independence of the Palestinian economy...being
influenced by the Israeli economy...
6. Judaizing Jerusalem and obliterating the Palestinian identity of its
2. Explain the policy which Israel carried out against the Palestinian
people after its conquest of Palestine.
FILL IN THE MISSING WORDS [IN THE FOLLOWING SENTENCE]
3. part C. The leader Azzadin al-Kassam died as a martyr while fighting
against the occupation...[student is instructed to fill in the answer in the dotted line spaces provided]whereas the leader Khalil il Wazir (Abu Jihad)died as a martyr while fighting against the occupation [fill in the answers here].... [Ed. required answer to the first part is "by the British". Required answer to the second part is: "the Israelis".]
Write a short report regarding the negative effects resulting from the
"settling of the land" by the Israelis.
Page 29 THE STATE
[from the Declaration of Independence (of the state of Palestine) on
15 November 1988 at the meeting in Algeria]
The National Council declares in the name of God and in the name of the
Arab Palestinian people the establishment of the State of Palestine on our
Palestinian land, and its capital Holy Jerusalem. The State of Palestine is
an Arabic state and is part of the Arabic nation and is a part of its
tradition and culture.
[Questions relating to this are ]
1. When was the Palestinian state declared?
2. Name the capital of the Palestinian state.
The declaration of the creation of the state of Palestine and its capital,
Holy Jerusalem occurred in Algeria in 1988.
Page 32 [Ed.] Includes a significant portion of the Declaration of
Independence of 1988....not further translated in this report at this time.
Page 64 entitled "Me and The Others"
[talks of] Invention, Tolerance, Racism, Imitation*, Justice and Values
[Asks the student to]..... Explain the dangers of racism in the society.
[ *which may be either positive or negative imitation.]
On Page 70... A picture illustrates a Moslem Imam and Christian
Cleric shaking hands.
[Ed. Nowhere is any reference made regarding tolerance towards the Jews]
Question 1. "What is the position of the Islamic religion about the people
of other revealed religions?
[Ed. NOTE. Connotation of "other revealed religions" is of Judaism and
[Quotes a line from the Koran regarding the People of the Book]
........ "Don't argue with the People of the Book unless it is for
[Ed. NOTE: Although specifically mentioning Moslems and Christians, there
is no mention of the Jews, in this textbook despite the fact that Islamic
culture traditionally recognizes the three religions, Moslems, Christians
and Jews as People of the Book. The item quoted from page 72 may be an
oblique reference to Jews and possibly an entree to discussions in the
classroom regarding the Jews and the policy of the Palestinians]
Shows Picture A.[subtitled] "Release of a [ Palestinian] prisoner"
[Asks] Question 4: "What are the feelings of the person, after his
release, and also when his motherland is liberated from the imperialists?".
[continues] Question 5. "Mention a few of the movements and revolts
that took place in Palestine and the Arabic motherland for freedom"
Shows two columns with name of country and event .[and asks student to
pair up country with appropriate event]. [Subtitle explains.]..."The
Movement of Struggle for Freedom and Independence"
Name of Country and...Event
Morocco Revolt of Saad Zaghlul in 1919 against the British
Iraq Revolt of Azzadin al-Kassam against the British
Palestine Revolt of Abd al-Karim al- Khitabi against the Spanish
Algeria Revolt of Rashid al-Kilani against the British
Egypt Revolt of Abd al-Kader al-Jazayiri against the French
[Ed. NOTE: The required answer is to pair "Palestine" with "Azzadin
al-Kassam". This is yet another glorified reference to Azzadin-al-Kassam who is the marytred hero of the "Hamas" Movement]
The 1993 Declaration of Principles of the Oslo process required both the
Israeli government and the PLO to introduce a peace education program for
both the Israeli and Palestinian populations. Seven years later, the peace
curriculum is in its seventh year of operation in the Israel Ministry of
Now that the PLO's Palestinian Authority has finally introduced its own
curriculum into its school system, there is no indication of peace
education or reconciliation with the Israelis.
It is as if seven years of a peace process never happened.
The writer is a research psychiatrist who recently retired from active work at the Truman Center for Peace, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
Return to Contents
the Israel Resource
The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by
the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in
Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine
You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.