Claims of Bias in Palestinian Textbooks: The Other Side of the Story

An article by Harold Evans today purports that Palestinian children are being taught the values of martyrdom and war in school. The author and the sources he quotes are deeply biased.
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"Palestinians Training Kids to Be Suicide Bombers": So goes a headline in today's U.S. News & World Report. Written by Harold Evans (whom one can only assume is the Harold Evans), the article purports that Palestinian children are being taught the values of martyrdom and war in school.

While it is certain that, as in the rest of the world, the education of Palestinian children is not without bias, that bias pales in comparison with that of Harold Evans himself, and the sources he quotes. Evans makes his case based on the research of two organizations: Palestinian Media Watch, and via his claims on Hillary Clinton's testimony, The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), which is now known as the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE).

At first these appear to be legitimate watchdog groups. But look a little closer: both organizations have been led at one point or another by Itamar Marcus, an American-Israeli counter-terrorism expert who just happens to reside in Efrata, an illegal Israeli settlement in the Palestinian West Bank. Marcus is the founder of Palestinian Media Watch; he served as research director for the CMIP from 1998-2000.

In his article, Evans refers specifically to Hillary Clinton's advocacy for CMIP, stating that she is "well aware of the PA's [Palestinian Authority's] insidious lies," referencing her advocacy work for the organization. Indeed, Clinton, along with Senator Charles E. Schumer, backed CMIP's study of Palestinian textbooks, stating their findings to include incitements of hatred toward Israel. In one instance, the Senators claimed they had found a textbook which read: "There is no alternative to destroying Israel."

If the CMIP's claims were indeed true, Evans might have a point. Fortunately, a number of other groups have studied the textbooks, and while they have indeed found books which include derogatory statements about Israel, the truth is that the majority of such books are older editions from other countries such as Jordan and Egypt.

Ruth Firer of the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Sami Adwan, a professor of education at Bethlehem University in Bethlehem compared Palestinian and Israeli textbooks in 2002, only two years after CMIP's study. Interestingly enough, they found that Israeli textbooks simply weren't much better than Palestinian ones; while recent textbooks released by the Palestinian Authority certainly viewed Israelis as settlers and occupiers, Israeli textbooks nearly outright ignored Palestine.

Another study by Professor Nathan Brown of Georgetown University found CMIP's claims to be highly exaggerated. In a report delivered at Israel's Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace, Brown stated that the research conducted by CMIP "[relied] on misleading and tendentious reports to support their claim of incitement."

Dr. Marcy Newman, a professor at An Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine, has written extensively on the issue. She expresses alarm at the close connection between Itamar Marcus and Senator Clinton, saying:

All of these reports have been refuted by numerous scholars who are fluent in Arabic and who study both education and the media. But the main problem with these reports is that they always invert the reality of about just what children learn in Palestine whether from television or textbooks; indeed Israeli textbooks, which do teach a militarized racist, anti-Arab perspective feeding into Israeli soldiers' behavior. Further, their educational texts are never questioned or studied by members of Congress nor berated in the U.S. media. Because most U.S. reporters and government officials fail to understand the situation in its full context they merely repeat the propaganda reports from places like Palestinian Media Watch.

The journalism of Harold Evans is no better. By doing no original research and relying on one-sided sources such as the CMIP and the testimony of Senator Clinton, such a respected journalist is now passing on the propaganda to thousands more, who undoubtedly will accept it with little question.

As Newman notes, it is not the propaganda of Palestinian textbooks that we should be worried about inciting hatred:

Whatever negative emotions that surface come from the daily experiences of children in places like Bethlehem that are constantly under siege with nightly invasions by the Israeli Occupation Forces during which loved ones are kidnapped and taken to Israeli prisons and murdered. It is enough that they are subjected to their homes being demolished and their land being confiscated by the Apartheid Wall and the ever-expanding illegal settlements. This is the missing context that explains far more than [these fabricated reports].

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