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Afternoons with IPCRI The Educational Effects of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

July 17, 2013 Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv

The latest installment of “Afternoons with IPCRI” focused on the educational effects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Professor Eyal Naveh head of Tel Aviv University's History Department and a Palestinian expert in education spoke about the significant role that education plays in the conflict. The Palestinian expert spoke first, discussing how conflict has become a part of the Israeli and the Palestinian identity, and how both groups have developed a narrative that is selectively biased towards their own perspective. The education system is important in forming the value system of children, he noted, and when textbooks only present one narrative, it lacks consideration for the other group. Both Palestinians and Israelis have a “black and white” picture of history, presenting one people as “right,” and therefore justified in their actions, and the other people as “wrong.” Even more troubling, the Palestinian expert contended, is what is absent from the textbooks. In both Israeli and Palestinian textbooks there is no mention of the peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs before the creation of the state of Israel. Also excluded is any reference to the other group outside the context of the conflict, making them “non-existent.” Maps used in textbooks in Palestine do not show Israel, and the maps used in Israel make no mention of the Green Line between Israel and Palestine. He concluded that this implies that there are two choices in the conflict: us or them, rather than the possibility of us and them. The issue of victimhood and sacrifice are also seen within both textbooks, our Palestinian expert asserts. Both sides portray themselves as the victims without responsibility for the conflict and with the exception of some secular Israeli schools, the material has no self-criticism. Furthermore, although the notion of “jihad” is often associated with the Palestinians, Israelis also show favor to those who give their life for the conflict. The Palestinian expert maintained that any attempted changes to the textbooks come under fire and are ultimately unsuccessful because of the political climate. And because the dual narrative textbooks are not approved, the only materials available to teachers are those advancing a one-sided narrative. Our Palestinian expert concluded that because of these issues, some are asking if trying to create a curriculum in the midst of the conflict is premature. Professor Eyal Naveh began by speaking about history education in Israel. He claims it is often “used to justify historical rights.” He supports our Palestinian expert's idea of victimization, as children in Israel are exposed to the idea of the “victorious victim,” which supports the mindset that “the world is against us, but in the end we will win.” While there are no overt statements against Palestinians, they are often referred to the “Palestinian problem,” and Arab history in Israel is “forgotten or denied.”

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Afternoons with IPCRI The Educational Effects of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

July 17, 2013 Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv

Naveh also agrees that history textbooks are formed through the lens of both education and politics. From his own experience he explains that textbooks need to be approved by a publisher, and then by the Ministry of Education. These committees “practice a form of subtle censorship by suggesting changes.” Because the publishers want the book to be published, they pressure the writers to make the necessary changes. In this way, researches cannot always to be blamed for their work because it goes through this filtering process first. The history of the Israeli Ministry of Education also needs to be understood, explained Prof. Naveh. The educators of the new nation until the 1970s were from the Mapai party, which appointed people from the far right to positions within the ministry. When a leftist government is in power they tried to swing the education system to the left, giving the system little consistency and little opportunity for lasting change. This allows for the continuation of the original “zionist narrative,” in which Jewish settlements are often put on empty land to make it seem as through no one lived there in the 1920s and 1930s. Prof. Naveh also concurs with our Palestinian expert on the lack of multi-dimensional approaches to education. He says although there is a possibility that people will not accept the other narratives, “exposure is the first step in changing people's ideas.” The fact that the conflict is still ongoing adds additional problems, he says, because Israelis still believe they are under attack. Creating a dialogue will hopefully show people that the narrative can change from the “either/or” mindset without creating additional problems. The two experts then took questions at the end of the talk and concluded by saying that peace education is difficult, but important. Both panelists pointed out the importance of working on the issue from the political and educational angles. The Palestinian expert also stressed that the reality of the conflict and readily available information posed difficulties in changing opinions on the Palestinian side. The two agreed that ignoring the issue of textbooks would allow a void to be filled by nationalist groups on both sides, which would only continue the “us versus them” mentality.

www.ipcri.org www.facebook.com/IPCRI office@ipcri.org +972 (0)2 676 9460

Afternoons With IPCRI: The Educational Effects of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict  

Read how national narratives are constructed and presented in textbooks and history curricula both in Israel and Palestine since the beginni...

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