Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Palestinian Education

Filed under: Palestinians
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review
Volume 30, Numbers 3–4

The educational curriculum of any political entity is its ideological, political, and cultural “identity card.” Every generation wants to mold the next generation according to its values, and the educational curriculum is the means by which every society imprints within itself its conception of its past and its present, and its vision for the future.

The Palestinian Authority is no exception. On the contrary, precisely because of certain constraints on its political behavior that it took upon itself in the Oslo agreements,1 and the mode of speech it has to use toward the superpowers and Israel,2 it is the curriculum that cannot lie, is not bogus, and should be viewed as an accurate cultural reflection of the PA’s true, fundamental outlook.

There is an incongruence between the identity of the Palestinians who signed the Oslo agreements and the lands for which they took responsibility. It was the PLO that signed the accords, not the Palestinian delegation from the territories. That is, those who signed the Oslo accords were leaders for whom the boundaries of the PA were irrelevant. These leaders represented the refugee problem, the 1948 problem, not the problem of the “occupation” that began in 1967.

Anyone a bit familiar with the situation in Ramallah since the PA’s establishment knows that PLO leaders’ families hardly live in the city; the leaders live there by themselves, while the families are outside the city. That includes the head of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, who resides in his large villa in Ramallah by himself; his wife and children live in different locations in the Arab world.

What this signifies is that the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, which is the declared goal of the PA, does not speak to the hearts of the PLO leaders. Their origins are within Israel, and from their standpoint the national aspirations can only be fulfilled within Israel or what they call the “1948 borders,” not along the 1967 borders.

Today the question of whether, if the delegation from the territories had signed the agreements instead of the PLO, they would have renounced the right of return, is rather hypothetical. It is, in any case, the PLO that signed the agreements and is responsible for implementing them, and for the PLO, the 1967 borders are irrelevant to the “end of the conflict.”

Until the Oslo agreements, the whole narrative of the nakba, with the motif of “the key,” was not politically and culturally central to the Palestinians. “The key” and the marking of Nakba Day became part of Palestinian life with the PLO’s arrival in the wake of the accords. These themes became a major part of the educational curriculum, as if the refugees who took power in Ramallah sought to pass on to the nonrefugee Palestinians the struggle they had initiated.

It is also worth noting that at the entrance to Abbas’ empty villa in Ramallah, there is a sculpture of “the key.” When I wanted to take a picture of it, a security man walked up to me and stopped me.

Even though, in their discourse with the Europeans and with those Israelis with whom they are in contact, the PA officials conceal these sentiments, the PA’s educational curriculum—its identity card, the true reflection of its identity and aspirations—cannot dissemble it, and here we find the truth. When the Palestinian textbooks teach what Palestine is, it is something that encompasses all of Mandatory Palestine, from the river to the sea. There is no reference to Palestine on the 1967 borders.3

Last winter when I visited the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, I saw elementary school students leaving their classes bearing plastic rifles. It was clear that the school had deliberately purchased them; all the rifles were of the same model and all the students carried them. One need not hypothesize that in a school for the children of the refugees, they are taught that they carry the responsibility to liberate 1948 Palestine by force of arms; not the West Bank but Israel, where the villages they came from are located.

One might say that the PA is not responsible for the refugee-camp schools, which are under UNRWA’s purview, and because the schools in the PA are supported by the contributing countries, the PA cannot give their students plastic rifles. Yet the official narrative of the PA, and of the Fatah movement that rules the West Bank, entails transferring the struggle against Israel to the next generation.

According to its official narrative, the PA opposes terror and violence and espouses a nonviolent popular struggle. It is also stated, however, that such nonviolent resistance is a product of circumstantial constraints. If, at this stage, the PA cannot use weapons, it is not a principled rejection of the use of arms by a true opponent of terror.

On December 9, 2018, Abbas’ deputy in the Fatah leadership, Mahmoud al-Aloul, told Radio Palestine: “The intifada of stones was a stage among the stages of a campaign that will continue until victory and will be passed on to the coming generations.” He added that this intifada had “taught the peoples of the world the methods of struggle.” In other words, the Palestinian struggle is an inspiration to the world, and the Palestinians’ contribution to world culture is the spread of the struggle.

In the days of Fatah terror, Mahmoud al-Aloul was a senior figure in the western sector of the domain of Abu Jihad, a dangerous terrorist who was assassinated by Israel. Although the current stage is one of an intifada of stones, the “coming generations” will move on to the next stages as the UNRWA students draw their inspiration from plastic rifles.

Thus, from the PA’s standpoint, the present is a “stage.” Whereas, in the political discourse, this “stage” is a form of the struggle that does not involve terrorism, in the textbooks the “stage” is the liberation of all of Palestine through violence, as evidenced by these pictures from Palestinian textbooks.5

What does the Palestinian student learn from these textbooks? That the border is the sea, and that the sword is what will bring him there. In the refugee camps the students go about with plastic rifles, and in the textbooks they brandish swords. The woman’s “liberation” in the above pictures is not her liberation in the cultural sense but her joining of the struggle.

Much has been written about the hate-education of the Palestinian curriculum, and we will not reiterate those points here. Worth noting, however, is an article about the IMPACT-se organization in which a Palestinian educator, Professor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, criticizes the PA’s destructive curriculum with its education to hatred and violence.6

This curriculum is indeed the PA’s true ideology and plan of action. It hides behind the false narrative that the PA presents to Europe, to circles in Israel that regard the PA as a partner, and to the UN institutions.

It is no accident that in the Palestinian textbooks, the border with Israel is not shown. All is Palestine, exactly as the symbols of the PLO organizations depict Mandatory Palestine in its entirety from the river to the sea.

The Palestinian dream as cultivated by the PA, then, is not to achieve peace with Israel based on the 1967 borders, as the PA claims to European and Israeli ears, but rather the PLO dream—to return to the homes within Israel that were abandoned in 1948. The 1967 lines, mentioned frequently as part of the PA’s diplomatic narrative in dialogue with the Israelis, do not exist at all in the textbooks, which are the true national narrative without subterfuges.

The lack of any real recognition of Israel, not only as a Jewish state but as a state at all, is deeply instilled in the Palestinians’ domestic political narrative. For example, the new prime minister, Muhammad Shatiyeh, in his maiden interview to Palestinian TV immediately after being sworn in, presented his credo to the Arab viewers and was unable to say the words “state of Israel.” Instead he called it “the colonial entity that the occupation foisted on us.” He was not referring to the settlements in the territories, but spoke of Israel—whose name he could not enunciate—as a colonial regime like Britain and France whose fate is to be eradicated like all the colonies before it.

He also spoke of a reform in the education system that he would like to lead. And what is so important for the Palestinian student in the curriculum that his prime minister will design? That he should learn to distinguish between products of Palestine and products of Israel and should not buy any of the latter; that is: education for BDS.7

When seeking to harm Israel, one can end up harming the Palestinians themselves. Although it was already known that the PA does not pay the treatment costs of PA citizens in Israeli hospitals, this was attributed to its inability to pay these costs as stipulated in agreements with Israel. The new prime minister, however, said that there is a different reason: the PA does not want its citizens to be treated in Israeli hospitals because it wants to disengage from Israel as much as possible. Hence it prefers for them to be hospitalized in Jordan or in Egypt, and the new government has already begun talks on the subject with these two Arab countries.

The point here is not only that the PA endangers the lives of its citizens in order not to recognize Israel, but also that Israel—whose name the PA has a hard time pronouncing—is seen as an enemy state. Because the PLO narrative does not entail a state on the 1967 borders but rather in all of Palestine, and particularly in the parts of Israel where the old villages are located, the PA wants to develop into an enemy state for Israel, not a state that wants peace with it. The purpose of the 1967 borders is not to reach the end of the conflict but to prepare for its next stage—just as Aloul said, just as the UNRWA schools teach the rifle-bearing students, and just as conveyed by the messages that the students in the PA schools receive.

When we understand this reality, we can also better understand the significance of the current crisis concerning the stipends for the families of terrorists.8

Seemingly, the issue is bewildering. If the PA opposes terror, why does it reward acts of terror? The answer, of course, is that the opposition to violence is only for the needs of the hour, of a certain stage. The spirit of the violent struggle, however, must be preserved for the coming generations, for a time when the circumstances will be more propitious and it will be possible to mobilize the Arab world to defeat Israel.

The only purpose, then, of the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders is to prepare for the continued struggle to liberate all of the 1948 lands. That, at least, is the message that the Palestinian student gets from his textbooks, and the Palestinian population from their leaders’ narrative. The border is not on the 1967 lines, but along the sea. The Palestinian state on the 1967 borders is an enemy state of Israel, and if it cannot serve as a basis for the ongoing liberation it is better that it not exist at all—and therein lies the second message regarding the crisis of the terror stipends.

The outlook was openly articulated to Radio Palestine by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki at the end of President Obama’s tenure.9 An antisettlement resolution was on the agenda of the Security Council, with the United States expected to set a precedent by forgoing its automatic veto.

Maliki said that while at present the PA speaks of the 1967 borders, the next stage already awaits it—namely, ascertaining the extent to which Israel has fulfilled its obligations under the UN Partition Resolution of 1947. What this means is that if Israel has not met its obligations, then the part of the resolution that concerns Israel will be nullified, Israel will no longer be able to be a UN member, and Palestine will replace it, with the domain of its legitimacy extending to all of “Palestine” within the Mandate borders.

This is all of a piece with the campaign that Abbas himself launched against the Balfour Declaration.10 Maliki’s words reveal that this campaign was no more than the opening shot of an effort to oust Israel from the United Nations. In both cases, the aim is to remove Israel from the family of nations and to implement the ideology reflected in the textbooks.

When the PA refuses to accept tax revenues from Israel because the salaries of terrorists have been deducted from them, thereby putting its own existence in jeopardy, the PA seems to be saying that continuing the struggle against Israel is more important than keeping itself afloat.

Here we see in the clearest possible way the incongruence between the PLO, which represents the 1948 refugees, and the responsibility it was ostensibly given for the 1967 territories. Those territories do not interest the PLO, and it is prepared to sacrifice them in order to sustain the dream of liberating the 1948 lands, which are its true locus of interest.

That, in turn, enables us to understand the depth of the Palestinians’ frustration over the Trump plan. In their eyes, it pulls the rug out from under the international legitimacy that, as Maliki put it, allows them to work to get Israel expelled from the United Nations on the grounds that it has not satisfied the conditions of the Partition Plan.

The Palestinian state’s acceptance as a UN member, in line with the principles of international legitimacy, is not seen as something that ends the conflict on the 1967 lines. It is supposed, instead, to make it possible to remove Israel from the United Nations and to declare Palestine the successor of the British Mandate, just as conveyed in the messages of the Palestinian textbooks.

That, it should be noted, is another of the basic reasons that the PLO cannot accept the Trump plan. Why has the PLO stubbornly pursued “international legitimacy,” by which it refers to the UN resolutions on the Palestinian problem? Because those resolutions put the refugee issue—not the Palestinian state—at the center of that problem. The Trump plan, as the PLO sees it, is intended to annul the “international legitimacy” that gave the 1948 issue its centrality, replacing it with a new version of legitimacy for which the 1967 borders are the heart of the matter—sans the refugee problem.

* * *


  1. The obligation to denounce terror, for example.
  2. Bassam Tawil notes that the PA is lying to Europe:
  4. Aloul on the coming generations’ struggle against Qatar (, from minute 5:00.
  5. The woman in the picture on the left is Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978 led a terror attack in Israel known as the Coastal Road Massacre.
  7. See minute 20:00, Education for BDS:
  8. On this issue, from a standpoint critical of the Palestinians themselves, see Bassam Tawil:
  9. Maliki on the 1947 partition plan, October 5, 2018 (, minute 11:00.