No. 545 August 2006
Prospects for peace in the Middle East have been dealt an enormous blow by the election triumph of Hamas in January 2006. Palestinian education, television shows, websites, and even families are all being mobilized in an intensified environment of agitated hatred toward Israel and Israelis.
Even prior to the Hamas election victory, anti-Israel rhetoric was already embedded in Palestinian school textbooks and other educational materials, and ideas such as romanticizing martyrdom and “reconquering” the land were taught in the classroom. Bitter hostility towards Israel’s very existence is currently woven into the entire Palestinian educational system.
UNRWA educational institutions are controlled by individuals committed to Hamas ideology and they are educating terrorists. Numerous terrorist operatives and Hamas political leaders have been educated in UNRWA schools.
The idea of martyrdom has become so ingrained in Palestinian culture that it is a major theme in religious practice, television broadcasting, posters, pre-suicide eulogies, summer camps, children’s trading cards, movies, music, and games.
Palestinian newspapers report that the number of children who express a willingness to become martyrs exceeds 70 percent. Palestinian psychiatrist Dr. Shafiq Massalha, after finding that over half the Palestinian population aged 6 to 11 dream of becoming suicide bombers, concludes that the next generation of Palestinians will be a very murderous population full of anger and hatred.
The raison d’etre of Hamas – the Islamic Resistance Movement, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the complete annihilation of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in its place. Prospects for peace in the Middle East have been dealt an enormous blow by the election triumph of Hamas in January 2006. Palestinian education, television shows, websites, and even families are all being mobilized in an intensified environment of agitated hatred toward Israel and Israelis.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a founder of Hamas and the current PA foreign minister, understands the key role of education: “We will turn every facet of life into resistance. Education will deal with the culture of resistance. We will not tell them [the children] that Palestine is a state that runs from Rafah to Khan Yunis [the limits of the Gaza Strip]. We will tell them it runs from Rafah in the south to Ras al-Nakura [the Israel-Lebanon border] in the north, and that Palestine’s western border is the [Mediterranean] sea and the eastern border the [Jordan] river [thus encompassing all of Israel].”1
Article 12 of the Hamas Charter reads: “Nationalism, from the point of view of the Islamic Resistance Movement, is part of the religious creed.”2 Such wording blurs the distinction between Palestinian nationalism and fundamentalist Islam. Consequently, in the aftermath of the Hamas election victory, there is great concern that “Islamizing” and indoctrination will become even stronger in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian Education Before the Hamas Victory: A Platform of Hate
A June 2005 report published prior to the Hamas election victory by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) reveals that anti-Israel rhetoric was already embedded in Palestinian school textbooks and other educational materials. The report notes how ideas such as romanticizing martyrdom and “reconquering” the land were taught in the classroom. According to Dr. Yochanan Manor, the chairman of CMIP, the biggest problems with the textbooks are the fact that there is no mention of the historical link between the Jewish people and their holy land, that efforts toward peace and understanding are notably absent, and that one hundred years after first being published, the anti-Semitic Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is presented in the textbooks as historically accurate.3
Until 1999, the PA used Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks laden with blatant anti-Semitism in its schools. In September 2000, however, after much international pressure, the PA Ministry of Education issued fourteen new textbooks for grades 1 and 6.4 Since then, two more grades have adopted new textbooks every year, written by the Center for Developing the Palestinian Curricula. Though these textbooks are not as blatantly anti-Semitic as their Jordanian and Egyptian predecessors, a careful look reveals subtle (and not so subtle) elements that call for “reconquering” Israel and incite children to martyr themselves for Allah. As Dr. Manor points out, these new PA textbooks, ostensibly secular and nationalistic, are Islamist as well, and martyrdom is given pride-of-place in the curriculum.
Both the June 2005 CMIP report and a study by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) show that the PA textbooks attempt to delegitimize Israel from a religious point-of-view