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IPCRI ‫פלסטין למחקר ולמידע‬/‫מרכז ישראל‬

‫ﻣﺮآﺰ إﺳﺮاﺋﻴﻞ ﻓﻠﺴﻄﻴﻦ ﻟﻸﺑﺤﺎث و اﻟﻤﻌﻠﻮﻣﺎت‬

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

REPORT III:    Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian  Curriculum    Reviewing Palestinian Textbooks and   Tolerance Education Program    Grades 5 & 10    Submitted to:       The Public Affairs Office  US Consulate General  Jerusalem 

  July 2006 



Table of Contents Introduction Executive Summary 3 Findings 5 Coverage and Treatment of History and Geography of the Region 6 a) Coverage and Treatment of History of the Region b) Coverage and Treatment of the Geography of the Region The Concepts of “Palestine,” “the Homeland,” “the National Soil,” and “Jerusalem” 8 Palestine in Historical Light Palestine in Modern and Contemporary History 10 Holy Place and Historical Sites 11 Homeland 11 Jerusalem 13 References to the Image of the Other 13 References to Judaism and the Jews as a People 14 References to Jews, Israelis, Israel, Israeli Policies and Practices Zionism and Zionists 16 Jewish Holy Sites 17 Israeli Occupation and the “occupied Palestinian territories” 18 Settlements and Settlers 21 Maps 22 Tolerance, Peace Justice, Compassion and Dialogue 23 The Concept of Peace and Peace with Israel 27 Jihad, Martyrdom, Liberation, Freedom 29 Jihad, Sacrifice and Martyrdom Resistance Struggle and Liberation 31 Refugees 34 Civil Society, Environmental Awareness, Human Rights 36 Global Component 38 Appendix I: Final Recommendations and Remarks 40 Appendix II: Thoughts on History Teaching 48 List of Reviewed Textbooks 51


Introduction In the 2004-2005 school year, the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOE) introduced a number of new textbooks for grades 5 and 10. This study shows findings from 24 textbooks used in Palestinians schools (in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) during the first semester of the school year 20042005. The present review and analysis covers the contents of all textbooks as they relate to the themes and concepts of peace, tolerance, civil society, human rights, the image of the “other”, and other relevant concepts. However, a special focus is placed on the language arts, religious education, and social studies textbooks. Executive Summary In the treatment and coverage of the history and geography of the region, the new textbooks continue to show some elements of imbalance, bias and inaccuracy. In some textbooks the Arab’s exclusive claim to the ancient history of the region is emphasized and several passages include references that reflect a continuous Arab presence in the greater Middle East region, with a noted lack of reference to the historical and contemporary presence of the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews in the region. This lack of reference could be viewed as an attempt to exclude Jewish historical presence from the Holy Land and the Middle East region. Except for short paragraphs on some of the basic political decisions that led up to the creation of Israel, the books avoid reference to Israel’s creation and its contemporary political and geographic reality. Overall, the pluralistic nature of the region is not well presented. Although some references to Israel and Zionism are neutral, many others portray Israel and Zionism in a negative light, embedded in accounts that address historical and modern-day events. “The State of Israel and its territory” is referred to directly, but Israel is not treated as a sovereign state and no adequate and objective information about its society and people is found. Nonetheless, there are no references that call for acts of terrorism against Israel or incite hatred towards Jews or Judaism. On the contrary, Jewish Biblical figures are portrayed in positive terms and only two instances of anti-Jewish stereotypes were found throughout the curriculum. In a limited number of texts, peace with Israel is referred to in the context of human and Islamic values. The delineation of the region in maps and texts is somewhat vague. The concepts of “Palestine,” “historical Palestine, “the homeland,” and “political Palestine,” remain blurred and are used interchangeably to denote a region that might stretch from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean or that might be limited to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel, as a political entity, does not appear on any map, nor do any Israeli towns or villages and a good number of maps show Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one geographic entity. Jerusalem is


presented as the symbol of Arabism and Islam, with exclusively Arab roots. The practice of “appropriating” sites, areas, localities, geographic regions, etc. inside the territory of the State of Israel as Palestine/Palestinian observed in our previous two reviews, remains a feature of the newly published textbooks (Part 1 5th and 10th Grade). The concepts of “liberation and resistance” are presented frequently in their generic sense, but there are no express calls for “liberating” Palestine. The struggle for liberation is presented mostly from a militant perspective and martyrdom and Jihad are directly and indirectly glorified. Despite these issues, the new textbooks stress the common human heritage of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Islam is presented as a religion that promotes justice, democratic principles, compassionate societies, responsibility, and other social and religious values. Judaism and Christianity are both respected as monotheistic religions, though students are not provided with enough information to examine similarities and differences between all three religions for themselves. Neither is presented as a rival. Past conflicts that have religious overtones such as the Crusades and modern imperialism are vividly described, sometimes using hostile language. There is no mention of Judaism in connection with the Holy Land’s historical and religious sites and places. The concept of tolerance, in all its aspects, appears in multiple contexts throughout the curriculum. Religious and social tolerance assumes a more prominent place than political tolerance and emphasis is placed on the promotion of good relations between Muslims and amongst Muslims and local Christians. Many calls are made for accepting and respecting the “other,” but the definition of this term is particularly vague. Islamic and Christian religious education books include calls for reconciliation and peace. Attention is given to the issue of human rights, to the concepts and principles of a civil society and to a global perspective in dozens of texts, promoting a culture of open-mindedness, rational thinking, modernization and critical reflection. However, all the texts fall short on other important issues, such as religious freedoms, gender inequality and rights of minorities and marginalized groups.


FINDINGS The textbooks for grades 5 and 10 were examined mostly for content and pictorial materials that relate to the concepts of peace, tolerance, civil society, human rights, and other relevant concepts. The findings of the present analysis/evaluation are presented under the following major and sub-headings: •

Coverage and Treatment of History and Geography of the Region

The Concepts of “Palestine”, “historical Palestine”, the “homeland”, the “national soil,” and “Jerusalem.”

References to and the “Image” of the “Other” (Judaism, Jews, Israel, Israelis, Zionism, Zionists, the People of the Book).


Peace, Tolerance, Pluralism

Peace Accords and Peace with Israel

Jihad, Freedom and Martyrdom

Liberation of Palestine and the Homeland, and Resisting Occupation

Refugees and the Right of Return

Civil Society

Global Perspective

In the following sections, the findings of each theme will be arranged in a way that reflects three dimensions: what is good development, what is negative, and what still needs the attention of the MoEHE. Coverage and Treatment of History and Geography of the Region a) Coverage and Treatment of History of the Region The reviewed textbooks provide students with an almost comprehensive account of historical events that transpired in the region of the greater Middle East along with definitions and origins of great Semitic and non-Semitic civilizations (e.g., in Levantine/Fertile Crescent, Bilad Ash-Sham, Biblical holy land, historical Palestine, the Nile Valley, etc.).


Babylonians, Assyrians, and Aramaic are described as “Arab tribes that migrated from the Arabian Peninsula.”

“Carthage was founded by the Arab Phoenicians in the 9th century B.C.” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 71).

Ancient cities in “historical Palestine” across ages and civilizations (e.g., Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Akron, Gat) are presented as Palestinian (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, pp. 33, 35).

The textbooks also mention that “when Palestine was under Hellenistic rule, some Palestinian cities (e.g., Bisan, Artsof/Artof) had Greek names and that the Romans established new cities at the sites of ancient Canaanite cities, such as Jerusalem, Caesarea, Nablus, Tiberias, etc.” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 72).

Coverage of historical events in the region remains selective and sometimes imbalanced and inaccurate. Inaccuracies in presenting historical facts appear in several contexts and instances. Our review shows that generic statements are made about ancient nations, groups, and civilizations identifying them and the sites they occupied as exclusively “Palestinian”, “Islamic” or “Arab” leaving out the ancient role of the Jews in the region. •

Archeological sites in historical Palestine are limited to those from the Aramaic, Amorite, Canaanite, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic eras (English Language, Grade 10, p. 63; History of Ancient Civilizations, grade 5, p. 30).

The Arab rule of ancient Iraq (Mesopotamia) “ended in 539 B.C. when the Persians conquered it. The region came back under Arab rule in 637.” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, pp. 36, 47, 48)

There is still an almost exclusive focus in the textbooks on the ancient Arab identity of “historical Palestine” and neglect, except in few cases, of its non-Arab and non-Islamic religious, national, cultural, political, and social identities. It is recommended that, in the process of textbooks’ revision, a clearer, more comprehensive and more accurate account is provided of the major historical events. Such an account needs to be objective and multi-perspective in nature in that it truthfully reflects the narratives of all ethnic and religious groups that lived in or passed through the region.

b) Coverage and Treatment of the Geography of the Region The geography of the region is presented in great detail in different contexts across the curriculum. Many references reflect “historical Palestine” as a discrete


geographic entity while others present it as part of a larger region—historically and in modern day designation. Physical geography of “historical Palestine” as well as the adjacent region is well elaborated in that it covers all its aspects and dimensions, including surface and underground water resources (aquifers, basins, rivers, and lakes), coastal plains, mountain ranges, steppe, and desert regions. The textbooks also provide students with ample information on the different climate zones, precipitation rates, and other related data. For example, the textbooks include several sections on the geographic regions in Palestine, including ones on water basins, water bodies, and aquifers. Whereas physical geography is almost comprehensive, political geography of the region still suffers from elements of vagueness and imbalance, especially as it relates to direct references to “the State of Israel” as a geographic and political entity. This lack of references to Israel is coupled with the treatment of many of Israel’s regions, cities, water bodies, mountain ranges and other geographic features as part of Palestine. Examples include: •

The “Valley of Jezreel” that bears a biblical name is treated as Palestinian and is referred to as “Marj ben ‘Amer” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, pp. 14, 16, 31.

Several references to the Palestinian coastal plains on the Mediterranean (Natural Geography, Grade 5, pp. 14, 16, 42; Geography of the World, Grade 10, pp. 25-6) and Palestinian coastal cities that include Akka/Acco (Technology, Grade 5, p. 40; Math, Grade 10, p. 10).

Water bodies, wholly or partially within the State of Israel, are presented as part of Palestine: Lake Tiberias, Lake Hula, the Dead Sea, and the River Jordan (Geography of the World, Grade 10, p. 16, 25, 26; History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 10, p. 29; Health and Environmental Sciences, Grade 10, p. 121, 123).

Several references to geographic regions, mountain ranges and plateaus include ones within the borders of the State of Israel: Galilee, the Negev, Mount Jermaq (Physical Geography, Grade 5, pp. 15, 18-19; Technology, Grade 5, p. 40).

The Levant/Fertile Crescent in its present-day designation is described as being made up of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 30).

Missing in this coverage is a comprehensive treatment of regions and sites within the borders of the State of Israel and an accurate designation of sites, areas and regions in accordance with internationally agreed resolutions, conventions,


accords, and agreements. Although issues with the realm of political geography are still unsettled, textbooks need to reflect that fact in as objective manner as possible. The presentation of objective and factual information that reflects the current state of affairs, although contentious and controversial, at times, should be paramount concern in coverage of the geography of the region. The Concepts of “Palestine,” “the Homeland,” “the National Soil,” and “Jerusalem” These concepts, in their geographic, historical and present day contexts, are adequately addressed across the 5th and 10th Grade curricula. Palestine and Jerusalem are mostly presented through the Islamic and Arab perspective; thus, we notice a focus on their Arab and Islamic character across ages and historical periods. In several contexts, the area of historical Palestine is introduced under different names that reflect political and religious perspectives. Palestine and Palestinians in Historical Light •

Palestine, both as a geographic region and a historical concept, is mentioned frequently across the curriculum. The term “Palestine” in this context, is used with reference to ancient, medieval, and recent historical events such as the military campaigns waged against it, its occupation by different nations across history, its indigenous and transient communities, famous personalities (religious and secular) who were born or lived within its historical geographic borders, etc. The region of Palestine is presented as an area subject to invasion and occupation over the course of history. For instance, it is mentioned in the context of talking about the Philistines “who settled in the area alongside the Canaanites” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 33).

A reference is made to Jesus “who appeared in Palestine at the time of the Romans” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 73).

“Historical Palestine” is presented in the textbooks under different names and descriptions: the Holy Land (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 61); Holy Land to the World (English Language, Grade 10, pp. 62-69); the “homeland” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 6), and Land of Zion and the Promised Land (History of Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, pp. 60-1).

“The origin of the Palestinian people goes back to the Canaanites who migrated to Palestine from the Arabian Peninsula about the year 3500 B.C.” (National Education, Grade 5, p. 30).


A short activity asks students to reflect on some historical events. For example: “The Byzantines occupied Palestine in 63 B.C. until the Islamic conquest/capture in 638 A.D. How many years did the Byzantines occupy Palestine?” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 4).

Palestine in Modern and Contemporary History The textbooks still suffer from the too general vagueness concerning the definition of what is meant, in a geo-political sense, by the term “Palestine”. Palestine, both in its historical and present day designation (as comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), is a frequently introduced and used concept. In several instances, especially in the context of talking about the geographic regions and climate zones, the term “Palestine” (pictorially and in words) clearly refers to “historical Palestine” without using the term, per se. This is the case, mostly, when the textbooks talk about its geographic features, climate, natural resources, and its agricultural products (Physical Geography, Grade 5, pp. 13-15, 19, 31-32, 35, 42, 43). On other occasions, the term “Palestine” encompasses the territories under control of the PNA (Ibid, pp. 21). Most of the references in the latter sense are recent or contemporary in nature. They are used in the context of talking about the marriage norms and customs (National Education, Grade 5, pp. 3-50), sources of income (Ibid, 12-15), role of Palestinian women in society and social problems (Ibid, 18-24), population center (Ibid, 34, (National Education, Grade 5, pp. 47-48), UNESCO (Ibid, 34-37), the Arab League’s support of Palestinians’ right to establish their independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Ibid, 40), Organization of Islamic Conference’s financial and economic support (Ibid, 43-45), UNRWA and UNESCO (Ibid, pp. 47-49). Several references are made in the contexts of talking about culture, Palestinian industries, trade, technical and vocational education, development plans, human development, food consumption, agriculture, health and environmental awareness, Palestinian Securities Exchange (Technical Education, Grade 10): “the Palestinian society, stone cutting industry in Palestine, p. 4;” “technical education and human development in Palestine,” p. 7; “technologies that can be developed in Palestine,” p. 15; “practical activities and recommendations for safely disposing waste in Palestine,” p. 35; “avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers in Palestine,” p. 35; “finding ways and means to limit pollution resulting from stone cutting industry,” p. 44; finding practical solutions for the environmental problems that face human beings,” p. 76; “vocational training in Palestine,” p. 81; “trading in Palestine Securities Exchange,” p. 87; “sound planning strategies for human development in Palestine,” p. 106; “technical and vocational education in Palestine under the auspices of Ministry of Education,” p. 115; “vocational centers distributed all over Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip),” p. 117; “table showing different specializations in vocational centers in Palestine,” p. 121; and “distribution of technical colleges in Palestine,” p. 122.


In the same textbook, other references to Palestine in a modern-day context address problems in the domains of agriculture, education, and industry under Israeli occupation: “Israeli occupation’s aggression against Palestinian land,” p. 34; “Israel’s control over land and over power and water resources,” p. 57; “Palestinian economy under Israeli occupation.” p. 98. Palestine is also mentioned in demographic and political contexts. Examples include: • A statement in the 5th Grade National Education textbook reads: Palestine fell under British occupation in 1917 (p. 31). •

A statement in the same textbook reads: Palestinians live in a geographic area called Palestine and live in cities, villages and steppes. They share culture, affiliation, destiny and aspirations” (Ibid, p. 27).

In the context of modern history, a statement in the same textbook reads: “The State of Israel was established on a part of Palestine (p. 30).

Another statement reads: The Israelis succeeded to occupy the rest of Palestine, namely, the West bank and the Gaza Strip…” (Ibid, p. 30).

The State of Palestine/PNA is mentioned frequently and in multiple contexts (political, educational, economic, geographic, demographic, etc.) and in relation to national, regional, Pan-Arab, Islamic, and international contexts. For example: •

A statement in the 5th Grade National Education textbook reads: “After the signing of the Oslo Accords, the PNA was established in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” (p. 31).

“The State of Palestine, along with other countries, is given as an example of famous states in Asia (Natural Geography, Grade 5, pp. 28-9). In the same context, students are asked in several instances to “draw the map of Palestine, to draw its borders and to list the names of the neighboring countries” (Ibid, p. 28). In another activity, students are asked to read some statements and to check (True/False). One statement reads: “Palestinians, wherever they live, are connected/attached to the land of Palestine” (Ibid, p. 28).

The Palestinian Authority is also mentioned in the context of talking about the “Palestinian society.” For example, students are asked to check whether some statements are True or False: “The Palestinian National Authority was established in the year 1987” (Ibid, p. 31). In the same context, a short paragraph talks about the “Resistance of the Palestinian people” and mentions that “…after the signing of the Oslo Accords, in


1993 the Palestinian National Authority was established on some parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1994” (Ibid, p. 31). Holy Place and Historical Sites •

Holy and historical places in “historical Palestine” in Jerusalem, Jericho, Hebron, Bethlehem, etc., are presented as Christian and Muslim (Script, Grade 5, p. 38; History of Arab Civilization, 5th Grade, p. 12, English Language, Grade 10, pp. 63, 65, 69).

There is no mention of Jewish holy places as such. Many sites are presented exclusively as Muslim holy places in spite of their significance for Jews and Judaism (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 61, Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, pp. 61-2).

Homeland The concepts of the “homeland,” “belonging to a “homeland,” and “national identity” continue to receive primary focus in the new textbooks (e.g., National Education, Grade 5, pp, 19, 32-33). The “homeland” is presented mostly in generic, and sometimes, vague statements: •

A statement in the 5th grade National Education textbook reads as follows: “Palestinians live in a geographic area called Palestine” (p. 27). Another statement in the 5th grade Our Beautiful Language textbooks reads, “Palestine refers to our homeland” (p. 6).

In a different context, the “homeland” is used, when discussing the poet Manhood Darwish, to specifically refer to “pre-1948 Palestine.” According to the text ”….When the Israelis attacked Mahmoud Darwish’s village in 1948, his family escaped to Lebanon…. A year later, his family returned, but their village had disappeared: instead, a new Jewish settlement stood there. The family was expelled to another village, and Darwish grew up as a refugee inside his own homeland.” English Language, Grade 10, p. 23)

Another poem in the 5th Grade “Our Beautiful Language” talks about sacrifice in the Andalusia context in the 11th century and reads as follows: “If the enemy take away my homeland…I was eager to challenge and fight them…and when I went out for battle my hope and aspiration was not to come back (alive)….” (p. 68). In the same context one other poet notes, “death has become sweet in our mouths and it is more worthy than a life of humility” (p. 69, Ibid).

In a historically modern context, the 5th Grade Our Beautiful Language textbook includes an excerpt from a book that talks about the homeland:


“The homeland is your soil and water, your land and your sky…and you were born in it and were brought up with the idea of supporting it” (p. 77). Another reference to the “homeland” appears in the 5th Grade National Education textbooks in introducing a poem by Ibrahim Touqan who extols the attributes of the homeland and the willingness to make sacrifices for its sake. For example: “…the young will not give up, their concern/desire is to achieve independence, otherwise death (be obliterated). We …will not be slaves to the enemy. …” (p. 32). In a similar context, a short paragraph talks about the homeland and “the duty to defend it so that it would remain high and dear” (p. 91).

Another verse by a Palestinian poet addresses the youngsters: “You, the youngsters of the dispossessed homeland, is there hope…?” (of taking back the homeland), (note added by reviewer based on the content of the poem (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 108).

Three other instances presented in different historical contexts (Palestine, Al-Andalusia, the Abbasid Dynasty) that promote the love of the homeland: “refusing to live under oppression and preferring death rather than be subjected to oppression,” p. 69, Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5; “usurping the homeland and violating the others’ rights is not acceptable and is illegal,” p. 70 (Ibid); “the brave fighter prefers death to humiliation,” (Ibid, p. 70); “of the characters of “Mujahideen” refuse the life of humiliation and submission,” p. 70 (Ibid).

A statement in 5th Grade Script textbook reads: “The soil of the homeland is dearer than anything and our life away from it (our Diaspora) will not last long (p. 20); “land, (used in the sense of homeland), similar to honor, should be safeguarded” (Ibid, p. 16); “the betrayed heart of this land will stay alive and will not die” (Ibid, p. 22);

An activity in the 10th Grade Reading and Anthology textbook asks students to compare two poems includes several statements that address the issue of land, the homeland, and the need to defend it. For example: Comparison between “The oppressive colonist who came to take land by force and plunder it, and kill, and the owner of the land who is willing to die defending it” (p. 104); the “light of the lamp” denotes “freedom of nations and the inevitability of its liberation” (Ibid, p. 104).

A poem calls for protecting the homeland and for defending it through education. (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, pp.12-13). For example, “…with education as my wings, I fly over here and sing: this land is ours...and I get to be an eagle that protects the homeland, and all thanks to my school….” (p. 12).


An item in a writing activity asks the students to fill in the blank with suitable word, reads: “We …defend the land and the honor” (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 117).

Jerusalem Jerusalem, in historical and modern-day contexts, is mostly presented in terms that highlight its Arab and Islamic nature to the exclusion of other identities. •

In most, cases, the city (especially East Jerusalem) is presented as the “Capital of Palestine” and as belonging to Palestinians alone (Technology, Grade 5, p. 40). Another passage states that “the Palestinian flag will fly over the walls of Jerusalem.” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 15)

Jerusalem’s central importance to Christianity is mentioned in several contexts. However, its historic and present-day significance and holiness to Jews are ignored. In one instance, a reference is made to the “Wailing/Western Wall” in the course of defining the “Al-Buraq Wall”: “AlBuraq Wall was named… and it is the wall that the Jews claim to be the Wailing Wall” (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 61).

Jerusalem is also described as “the jewel of Palestine” built by the Jebusites 5000 years ago (English Language, Grade 10, p. 69).

Sites in and around Jerusalem (Al-Aqsa Mosque, Al-Buraq Wall, the Mount of Olives are also mentioned (e.g., Christian Religious Education, Grade 5, pp. 49-50) in the context of talking about Christ’s life and Mohammad’s Night journey to Jerusalem.

A missing element in this context is a clear definition of the terms “Palestine,” “the homeland,” and “the national soil,” A clear distinction should be made between “Palestine” as a present day political entity in the making, and “historical Palestine” as a geographic region encompassing both the future Palestinian State and the State of Israel. Moreover, any definition of the State of Palestine should emerge from the principles and parameters of internationally recognized agreements and accords signed between the PLO/PNA and the State of Israel. From a historical perspective, the region of “historical Palestine” should be labeled with the proper historically accepted terms that reflect the region’s true designations across different historical periods.

References to the Image of the Other (Israel, Israelis, Settlers, Jews, Judaism, Zionism)


The new textbooks make multiple references to Judaism, Israel, Israelis, Jews, Zionism, and Zionists. A good number of these references are neutral in nature. References to Judaism and the Jews as a People Reference to Jews and Judaism is minimal. Some vague and indirect references are made to the historical connection of Jews and Judaism to Palestine presented in the context of talking about “the People of the Book” (their holy books, prophets and messengers). Examples include: •

In the History of Ancient Civilization (5th Grade), two references are made to the “Torah” and other holy books (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 8; Kor’an Recitation, Grade 10, p. 5).

Dozens of references are made to Joseph, Moses, and King Solomon (Queen Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem and her encounter with Solomon), (pp. 8, 19). There are also multiple references to Jesus, Mary, Abraham, Lot and his people, Isaac, Aaron, and Jonas and the people of Nineveh, mostly presented in excerpts from Koran verses, Hadith, stories of the prophets (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, pp. 39, 127; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, pp. 58, 77; Kor’an Recitation, Grade 5, pp. 26, 42, 61 and Grade 10, pp. 64, 74, 78).

One reference to the “Hebrews” appears in the context of talking about the Aramaic civilization and to one of their kings (Ramin) “who unified several city states/kingdoms under his leadership to protect the region against the expansion of the Hebrews” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 36).

An equally large number present these concepts in negative and unfriendly terms. Generally speaking, Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionists are depicted as occupiers, invaders, aggressors, infiltrators, usurpers, and oppressors. They are, moreover, portrayed in a negative light, especially when it comes to their plans, policies and practices (expulsion and extermination, destruction of villages, control of land and water resources, restrictions and discrimination). Israel, Israelis and Zionists are also blamed for inflicting physical and emotional pain on the Palestinians and for crippling the Palestinian economy. They are also-directly and indirectly—described as oppressors of the Palestinian national identity and partially responsible for some social and ecological ills. References to Jews, Israelis, Israel, Israeli Policies and Practices Israel is frequently presented as greedy in its plans and inhumane in its practices. Examples include:


• •

Attacking Palestinian villages during the 1948 War: “When the Israelis attacked the village in 1948…” (English Language, Grade 10, p. 23); Destroying Palestinian villages (with reference to those destroyed in early days of the 1967 War): “A year later, the family returned, but the village had disappeared” (Ibid, p.23);

House arrests “Israeli actions, including house arrests, made his life (Manhood Darwish’s) very difficult” (Ibid, p. 23);

Desecrating and destroying holy places: “...subsequent to the attempt to burn the al-Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969 at the hand of an extremist Zionist.” (History of the Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, p. 106);

Uprooting Palestinians from their homeland: “UNRWA provides relief to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were uprooted from the homeland, and whose land was taken by force in 1948” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 78); “this area (the area owned by or occupied by Jews) went up to 78% after forcing the Palestinians out and the establishment of (the State of Israel). Israel also occupied the eastern shores of Lake Tiberias to secure full control over its water (Lake Tiberias’)…” (Health and Environmental Sciences, Grade 10, pp. 124125);

Causing hardship to the Palestinian population: “…in the shadow of the harsh living conditions that resulted from Israeli occupation of their homeland…” Ibid, p. 79);

Controlling underground water resources: “After Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 …a number of military orders transferred authority for the control of underground water resources to the military governor…” (Health and Environmental Sciences, Grade 10, p. 125); and “the occupation’s control of 89% of the available water resources in Palestine” (Technology, Grade 10, p. 34);

The Israelis are also mentioned in the context of talking about the control of the waters of the Jordan River (military zone), diverting its water to the coastal plain and the northern regions of the Naqab (Negev) via the “National Carrier” (Health and Environmental Sciences, Grade 10, pp. 124-5).

Erecting a “racist” wall: “…this amount (of water) will go down with the erection of the racist separation wall” (Ibid, p. 126); “the racist separation wall was build based on unfounded security claims…” (Ibid, p. 129). A section in the 10th Grade Health and Environmental Sciences address the issue of the “racist separation wall and its effect on the environment” (p.


127). The section contains two activities that ask that students to: “1) Trace the route of the racist separation wall and familiarize yourself with the regions/areas that were isolated as a result of that. 2) Go back to the resolution of the UN and Hague Court with regards to the racist separation wall. Discuss how this resolution impacts the construction of the wall.” (Ibid, p. 129). In another activity students are asked to “list three negative effects on water and the environment in Palestine of the racist separation wall” Ibid, p. 129). •

Confiscating land through environmental laws and regulations: “laws and regulations were passed whose goal was to deprive the Palestinian citizen of the opportunity to make use of his agricultural land. These include special orders for protecting the environment…the goal of which was confiscating land rather than protecting the environment.” (Ibid, p. 143).

An activity asks students to write a composition on the topic of compelling Palestinians to leave their land by force in 1948: “Write a composition on the life of Palestinian refugees. Include in your composition the following ideas: Life of the Palestinian population before 1948, compelling the Palestinian population to leave its land by force, Palestinians’ dream of returning to their homeland” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 95). Another activity asks students to “name five Palestinian villages demolished by Israel and five Palestinian coastal cities” (Ibid, p. 95).

In recent history and present day contexts, Israel and Israelis are mostly presented as responsible for the catastrophe of 1948 (at the hands of the Zionist organizations), and for subjecting them to brutality and loss (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, pp. 78, 95; National Education, Grade 5, pp. 29-30).

Zionism and Zionists Zionism and Zionists are often mentioned in negative contexts. For example: •

“Zionism itself is a racist colonial movement” (History of Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, p. 60);

“Zionist aggression on Palestine” (Ibid, p. 100);

Zionists’ writings are said to be based on two major ideas: “the idea of longing and desire to return to the Land of Zion, according to their account, and the idea of salvation…return to the promised land, according to their account” (Ibid, p. 60);


• •

Plans “to establish Jewish settlements in Palestine” (Ibid, p. 60) and supporting “Jewish settlements in Palestine” (Ibid, p.60, 62); When discussing the Basel Conference: “The aim and goal of Zionism is to create a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine” and “to work on colonizing Palestine by means of agricultural labor, artisans and Jewish merchants” (Ibid, p. 62). “(NOTE: The Belgian Consulate in Jerusalem affirms that the text about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been removed from the textbooks.

Balfour Declaration: “…the Balfour Declaration that guarantees the achievement of the Zionist settlement project in Palestine” (Ibid, p. 63);

Goals of the Zionist Movement: “The establishment of the state of Israel…, the Jewish state is a true expression and embodiment of what is known as the Jewish nationalism…, the establishment of this state on the lands of Palestine, being the historic and religious state of Israel…, …rendering services to colonial states” (Ibid, p. 63);

Water and Zionist thought: “…the issue of water was of great importance to the Zionists as they started in a parallel fashion to bring the first Jewish settlers to Palestine and their attempt to settle the areas rich in water resources such as the region of the coastal plains and the Galilee, in addition to the region of Tiberias” (Health and Environmental Studies, Grade 10, p. 124), burning the Al-Aqsa mosque “at the hand of an extremist Zionist,” (History of Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, p. 106).

A short paragraph quotes Ben Gureon defining Zionism as “a Jewish philosophy aimed primarily at waging a struggle against integration with Western societies” (History of Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, p. 60).

Jewish Holy Sites There is a conspicuous lack of reference to Jewish holy sites identified as such. For example: •

Several statements are included that describe holy sites in Jerusalem and Palestine, in general, and their significance to Muslims and Christians. However, except for few instances, no similar references are made to Jewish holy sites.

One reference is made to the “wailing wall” in the context of talking about the “Wall of Buraq”…that Jews claim to be the “Wailing Wall” (Islamic Religious Education, grade 5, p. 61).


The 10th Grade History of Modern and Contemporary World makes an indirect reference to the Jewish holy places in Palestine and to Jewish connections to the land. Talking about the reasons for choosing Palestine as a national homeland for Jews, the text reads: “Palestine being more convenient than other regions in terms of convening/congregating world Jewry for the purpose of building a national homeland in it. This is because of its connection to the Jewish religion and because of the ancient historical memories” (p. 63).

Holy sites revered by all monotheistic religions (in many cases by the three traditions) need to be identified by their proper names and by highlighting their religious significance in the different traditions. In spite of the sensitivity of this issue, Palestinian students need to be exposed to all relevant narratives. This practice will enhance students’ awareness of their fellow believers and will give them a better understanding of their own tradition.

Israeli Occupation and the “occupied Palestinian territories” Numerous references to the “generic” concept of occupation and to “Israeli occupation” are made in different contexts across the curriculum. Numerous direct references are also made to the “Palestinian occupied territories.” These references, for the most part, reflect the harsh realities of occupation (policies, and measures) and its impact on the Palestinian society across all domains of life (security, economic, financial, industrial, agricultural, educational, environmental, political, etc.). The concept appears under different forms: occupation, occupation army, the occupation authorities, the occupied land, and the occupied territories. Examples include: •

Israeli occupation of Palestine is described “...not merely plain aggression it is rather an aggression against Palestinians’ freedom, solidarity and human happiness” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 95).

Another statement relating to the 1967 War reads: “The Israelis were able to occupy the rest of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza) along with Sinai and the Golan Heights” (National Education, Grade 5, p. 31).

Also, in the context of the 1948 and 1967 events and wars, the 5th Grade National Education textbook addresses the issue of Israeli occupation of Arab land: “The Palestinian society suffered a Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948 at the hand of the Zionist organizations, the result of which was the migration of the majority of the Palestinians from their land and the establishment of the State of Israel in part of Palestine. …in which the Israelis were able to occupy the rest of Palestine exemplified in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in addition to their occupation of the Sinai Desert (from Egypt) and the Golan Heights (from Syria)” (Ibid, p. 30).


The Israeli occupation is blamed for legislations and regulations in the environmental domain aimed at “depriving Palestinians of the opportunity to make use of their arable land (Health and Environment Studies, Grade 10, p. 143).

Texts frequently refer to the brutal and aggressive actions of occupiers, settlers and colonials (both in its generic meaning and contextspecific/Israeli meaning) and to the different types of oppressive measures they take against the indigenous populations. For example, a statement in the 5th Grade Our Beautiful Language reads: “Colonials use brutal measures against citizens” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 70). More specific examples include the following: A solider in the colonial army in Africa writes a letter to his fiancée describing in it the brutality with which the soldiers fought: “I live for killing the elderly in every corner and in every hut; and my hands dip everyday in the blood of the trodden” (Reading and Anthology, Grade 10, p. 101).

In the 5th Grade Modern and Contemporary History of the World, we find several references to brutality of occupation and occupiers, mostly in the context of talking about British colonization of India and South Africa. More specifically, a section in a lesson on “Examples of Liberation Movements in the World,” talks about the “Massacre of Amristar” committed by the British troops in April 1919 (p. 86). In the same textbooks a section on “Liberation Movement in South Africa” lists oppressive and brutal measures adopted by the British. These actions include “carrying out a massacre against the black,” “detaining thousands of people without court proceedings,” and “employing ugly measures against detainees” (p. 89).

In the Israeli-Palestinian context, the textbooks include references about “the expulsion of Palestinians from historical Palestine’s coastal plain: “the keys of our home that the occupation forced us to leave…” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 7); land appropriation, house demolition, and difficulty of movement on the ground (National Education, Grade 5, p. 23).

Another statement in the National Education textbook for Grade 5 reads: “The Palestinian society fell under British occupation in 1917 and remained so until the Israeli occupation in 1948” (p. 30). Other references are made to the hardship and suffering of the Palestinian people due to occupation and the confiscation of their land, the building of Jewish settlements, home demolitions, control of water resources, and unemployment.

In addressing the topic of the “United Nations”, the textbooks include several references to the “the suffering (of the Palestinian refugees) due to the Israeli occupation of their homeland” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade


5, p. 79). In the 5th Grade National Education textbooks, a short paragraph talks about the fact that the Palestinian woman “supports her family if the husband loses his job due to circumstances surrounding the living conditions under occupation. These conditions have made a large number of workers/laborers lose their jobs (become unemployed)” (p. 20). •

In the 10th Grade Technology textbook, students are asked to “give examples of aggression against the Palestinian people by the occupiers” (p. 34). In the same context students are reminded of the oppressive measures of the occupation that include the closure of academic institutions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (Ibid, p. 35). Other examples include “lack of control (by the Palestinians) of the borders and of border crossings” (Ibid, p. 34).

In talking about “the problems of the Palestinian family,” the 5th Grade National Education textbook lists the “problems resulting from the occupation”: “The Palestinian family suffers from the effects of occupation. It could lose a parent or a son through martyrdom or imprisonment…. It also faces other difficulties that include land confiscation, house demolitions, and difficulties in movement on the ground.” (p. 23).

In the context of talking about the “problems and challenges of the future,” the 10th Grade Technology textbook lists the problems in the Palestinian industry: “…in addition to the global challenges listed above, the industry faces problems and barriers such as: a) Israeli occupation’s control of the land, water resources, and power” (Ibid, p. 57).

In a writing activity, students are asked “to compare the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israelis and the siege they are under to that of Prophet Mohammad and his companions” (in the early stages of the new faith) at the hands of the Tribe of Quraish (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 49).

Israeli occupation is also invoked in the context of talking about water resources. For example: •

A short section in the 10 Grade Health and Environmental Sciences entitled “Water resources under occupation” talks about River Jordan and its tributaries and that “the area is closed to the Palestinian population” (p. 125). The text also mentions that “after the waters of the river were diverted by means of the national carrier…water quality deteriorated continuously…to the extent that, at present, the quality of the water has deteriorated and is not suitable for any use.” (Ibid, p. 125).

In the same context, a short section in the 10th Grade Health and Environmental Education textbook address the issue of the measures


taken by the occupation (authorities) after 1967. These measures, according to the text “were made with the intent of having a firm control over water resources and of depriving Palestinians of their water rights” (Ibid, p. 128). In the same section, the authors note: “…the occupation authorities had collected large sums of money in the form of taxes that were not invested in the occupied areas” (Ibid, p. 128). Settlements and Settlers Israeli settlement activities figure prominently in the new textbooks. Settlements and settlers are described as the cause of much strife and as a source of many of the environmental problems that plague the areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Examples include: •

The establishment of Jewish settlements is described as “a reflection of the castle and fence mentality” (Health and Environmental Sciences, Grade 10, p. 128) “aimed at gaining control over Palestinian land” (Ibid, p. 126).

A whole section in the 10th Grade Health and Environmental Education textbook is devoted to “Settlements and water” (pp. 126-129). The text reads: “The establishment of settlements in the occupied land is an illegal action according to international laws. Consequently, whatever is created by these Israeli settlements is illegal…” (p. 126). In the same context, the text mentions “those settlements were established for different agricultural, military, strategic, religious, and other purposes for curtailing the expansion of Palestinian residential areas. However, all of them (purposes) share one element, namely the systematic control over the Palestinian land with all its natural resources, especially water” (Ibid, p. 126).

Another part of the section talks about the number of settlers and settlements and the area they occupy. It also mentions the amount of water consumed by settlers (p. 127).

An activity in the 10th Grade History of the Modern and Contemporary World reads: “check a historical source and write down the names of Israeli settlements that appeared in Palestine during the period of 18701914” (p.64).

Settlements and settlers are blamed for many of the environmental problems in the West Bank and Gaza such as surface and ground water pollution, excessive consumption resulting in “the production (release) of large amounts of sewage that, in turn, leads to polluting ground water and spring waters, especially that most of the settlements are lacking in


sewage recycling stations (Health and Environment Sciences, Grade 10, p. 127). •

In the same section students are asked to discuss the issue of industrial zones in the Israeli settlements with all the environmental problems they create (e.g., production and release of poisonous chemicals and the disposal of solid waste) (Ibid, p. 128). In one activity, students are asked to “list four (4) negative effects of the settlements on the environment in Palestine…” (Ibid, p. 129).

In another activity, students are asked to give examples of aggression and attacks on Palestinian land by the settlers and the forces of Israeli occupation (Technology, Grade 10, p. 34).

Maps Different types of maps are presented in the new textbooks (historical, administrative, geographical, climatologically, topographical, political) reflecting local, regional, and international realities. In several instances, maps of “historical Palestine are presented with the areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip contoured. Some carry the label “Palestine” while others are left blank. Several types of the maps still suffer from elements of ambiguity and generality. In many instances, no attempt is made to provide guidance as to their types, functions, and coverage: •

Generally speaking, the maps that appear in the new textbooks show “historical Palestine” without any label (Natural Geography, Grade 5, pp. 31, 57). Others are labeled “Palestine” (Ibid, pp. 61, 65, 66); while others delineate the contours of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, mostly without labeling them as such, and, sometimes, with names of cities and town only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip regions (Ibid, p. 63; National Education, Grade 5, p. 30). The area covering the State of Israel is always left blank and the name “Israel” does not appear on any of the maps.

More specifically, the textbooks include natural maps of the Fertile Crescent/the Levant (Bilad As-Sham), Egypt, the whole Middle East Region, etc., with the areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip contoured (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 28, 53, 54).

There are also other historical maps dating to the ancient Egyptian, Hellenic and Roman eras and showing the label “Palestine” covering the area of “Historical Palestine” (Ibid, p. 70). In some instances, historical maps of Palestine are presented without labels. For example, a map in the 5th grade Christian Religious Education textbook shows historical


Palestine at the time of Jesus Christ with the names of ancient sites and cities such as Kfar Nahom, Kineret, Caesarea, etc. (p. 75). •

A number of present-day political maps show Palestine as one whole entity in the boundaries of Mandatory Palestine without any mention or indication of the existence of the State of Israel (Natural Geography, Grade 5, pp. 61, 65; Geography of the World, Grade 10, p. 15, 16, 22, 23).

Several other maps (weather and natural) show Palestine as one whole geographic entity (with and without delineation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip areas). For example, the 10th Grade Health and Environmental Sciences textbook shows a map of historical Palestine in the context of talking about wild plants in Palestine, bird migration routes in the region, and basins and aquifers in the region (pp. 112, 114, 119, 123). The 10th grade English language textbook includes a weather map showing historical Palestine with no contours and with names of cities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip only (p. 50).

The textbooks also include a number of activities that ask the students to draw maps of “Palestine” showing, for example, the names of the neighboring countries (National Education, Grade 5, p. 28) or identifying the names of town and villages in Palestine (Ibid, p. 37).

A conspicuously missing dimension in all maps is the absence of any reference to the “State of Israel” as a political entity. This fact adds to the elements of ambiguity and confusion that permeate the depiction of political realities of the region. To make maps truly reflective of historical and present-day state-of-affair, they should be free of any elements of ambiguity and confusion. Designating Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas is one step in that direction. It is suggested that political maps reflect present-day realities and be marked and labeled accordingly. In particular, political maps should mark the borders of the State of Israel within the 1967 borders. The borders of the future State of Palestine or “Palestine” would also be marked and labeled as comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The maps, moreover, should include the names of cities, towns, villages, and sites that reflect present-day realities. For example, a map showing pre-partition Palestine could be labeled “Palestine” and would refer to cities and sites the way they were known in that period of time (e.g., Yaffa, Akka, Marj Ibn Amer, Nahr (river) al-Ouja, etc.). Tolerance, Peace, Justice, Compassion, and Dialogue Tolerance, as a concept, is presented in its religious and political facets. Interreligious tolerance is mostly emphasized in the Christian Religious Education, Islamic Religious Education, Civic Education, National Education, and Language


Arts textbooks. The textbooks contain a number of quotations from canonical texts that appeal to people to love and be tolerant of each other. •

Religious tolerance towards Christians is reflected in the inclusion of an illustration showing a Christian wedding ceremony alongside a Muslim ceremony (National Education, Grade 5, p. 3). Other direct and indirect references to tolerance towards others include statements taken from the Kor’an, the Hadith (Tradition) and from literary works. Examples include: “all people are equal” (Script, Grade 5, p. 13). In the 5th Grade Civic Education textbook a lesson is devoted to the concept of “communication with the others” that includes statements that call for avoiding fanaticism (p. 27).

Political tolerance, in the global and regional sense, is highlighted in several contexts, mostly in the context of talking about the League of Nations and the United Nations, and their Charters (History of the Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, pp. 92-99). Similar references are made with regards to the principles and charters of the Conference of the Non-aligned nations (Ibid, 100102) and the Organization of African Unity (Ibid. pp. 103-105). More specifically, several sections in the textbook highlight the goals of the international and regional organizations in regards to “peaceful resolution of conflicts,” “international relations based on justice, openness and transparency,” “protecting members’ political independence,” “securing regional unity of signing members,” “achieving global justice,” “forging and sustaining peaceful relations between countries and nations,” “adopting the principles of tolerance and peaceful coexistence,” “achieving equality between and among member states,” supporting global peace and security through peaceful means,” “fighting racial discrimination in all its forms,” “respect nations rights for self determination,” “not resorting to or threatening to use violence,” and “reinforce solidarity and cooperation between and among member states.” In the historical context, we find a passage in the 10th Grade Islamic Religious Education textbooks that reads: “Islam commands rulers to abide by the principles of justice and equality in ruling over a community. It also commands rulers and other officials to respect conventions and agreements signed between a Muslim community and non-Muslim communities” (Ibid, p. 80). The same textbook includes a passage that reads: The first Rightly Guided Caliph “Abu Baker” addressed the army before it set out on a military campaign: “…Do not betray…do not kill a child, and elderly man, or a woman; do not cut down, uproot, or burn trees…you will come across groups of people who have devoted themselves to worship; so let them do what they’ve devoted themselves to….” (p. 62). A third passage in the same textbook reads: “Islam warns against infringing on the rights of others, against spilling their blood, taking their money or property unlawfully” (Hadith (Tradition). In other instances, the Hadith warns against the tyranny of rulers and judges (not ruling in accordance to what God has decreed and showing bias and/or favoritism) (Ibid, pp. 35-6).


Another example of calls for tolerance is found in the 5th Grade Islamic Religious Education textbook. A passage on page 84 reads: “Islam promotes equality between people. It has prohibited favoritism based on color, race, wealth, or physical attributes. It has clarified that people are equal in rights and responsibilities and that no one is inherently superior to the other except by piety and good deeds: “O you mankind, surely We created you of a male and a female, and We have made you races and tribes that you may get mutually acquainted. Surely the most honorable among you in the Providence of Allah are the most pious” (Surat Al-Hujurat, 13). The textbooks include several texts that encourage Muslims to engage in dialogue with each other over all issues, especially, controversial and sensitive ones that have to do with matters of faith and governance. However, no direct call is made to expand this pattern of communication to non-Muslim believers. For example, we find a Sura (Surat As-Shura) in the 5th Grade Islamic Religious Education that encourages Muslims to engage in “counsel”: “And the ones who…and their command is counsel between them…(p. 11). Another text mentions: “Prophet’s companions used to sit with him to listen to his advice and counsel with regards to their problems and to gain insight into the religious and secular aspects of their life (Ibid, p. 39). A third example is found in the same textbook in which we find a paragraph that reads: “Islamic society is one that is built on the principles of Shura (counsel) and respect. “…a governor should not…or make a decision without prior consultation with experienced individuals.” Thus, governor and rulers are advised to follow Prophet Mohammad’s example. Prophet Mohammad is said to have used to seek the advice of his companions and adopt their point of view. His companions followed in his footsteps after his death (Ibid, p. 85). Instances and practices reflecting other aspects of tolerance and the values and ideals associated with it appear across the curriculum in historical as well as contemporary contexts. Examples include: •

Religious and literary texts included in the new textbooks urge Muslims and people, in general, to be truthful; to show love, compassion, and tolerance towards friends and other individuals; to avoid suspicion; to be steadfast in their defense of justice; to conduct themselves well and be fair and just in dealing with others; to respect their parents, the elderly, their neighbors; to help, aid and protect the weak, the needy, orphans, and the oppressed; to fight oppression, injustice and discrimination; to avoid partisanship (tribal solidarity), (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, pp.29, 44, 80; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 10, p. 14, 62; Language Sciences, Grade 10, pp. 113-14; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, pp. 2, 15, 37, 75, 102, 106, 112; Kor’an Recitation, Grade 5, pp. 10, 17, 27, 37, 38, 55; Kor’an Recitation, Grade 10, p. 60; Calligraphy, Grade 5, pp. 15, 18; Civic Education, Grade 5, pp. 27, 49).


A general statement in the 10th Grade Islamic Religious Education reads: “The Kor’an promotes the idea of brotherhood between and among Muslims through cooperation and mutual support”(pp. 39-40).

Citations from Islamic religious texts (Kor’an and Hadith) also urge believers and people, in general, to avoid aggression and enmity, to resolve conflicts peacefully and in accordance with the laws (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, pp. 42, 43, 45), and to avoid killing, violence, and spilling believers’ blood (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 60; Health and Environmental Studies, Grade 5, p. 41; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 10, p. 35-6).

Several other texts address the issue of “just rulers” and the obligation to be fair, judicious, rational, and reasonable in carrying out the laws and rules (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 106; Civic Education, Grade 5, pp. 57, 66).

Several texts remind the believers to be pious and to fear God, and to be merciful, charitable, truthful, devoted, and forgiving (Kor’an Recitation, Grade 10, pp. 2, 6, 9; Islamic Religious Education, p. 80).

The texts (many are Kora’nic verses) also remind believers and the readers of God’s mercy and of the fate of ancient oppressive and unjust nations and civilizations (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 14, 32, 34; Kor’an Recitation, Grade 5, p. 2).

Some religious texts promote respect for and belief in all of God’s prophets, holy men and holy books (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 10, p. 20).

Several references are made to the characteristics of Islamic societies and the attributes of believers (keeping agreements and covenants, fulfilling duties and promises, and avoiding damage to others) (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, pp. 10, 12, 80; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 10, p. 12).

Our review also revealed several references to Jews and Christians “the People of the Book” (in name or in a generic sense as believers and/or people) presented in the context of the need to respect their religion, holy places, property, ceremonies, prophets and messengers. In one instance, we find a call to “treat all people well” (Kor’an Recitation, Grade 10, p. 45) and “to work for achieving peace and reconciliation” (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 77). The 10th Grade Islamic Religious Education includes a Sura (Surat At-Tawbah) that stresses the importance of respecting conventions and agreements, even with the infidels and to allow them to go about their business until the expiration


of the agreement term (pp. 5-6). In the same textbook, we come across a statement that reads: “The Kor’an grants pardon to those who have repented and converted to Islam. Those who convert will not be punished for any wrongdoing they committed before their conversion” (p. 6). Moreover, individuals who decline to convert to Islam are given safe passage out of Dar Al-Islam (areas under Islamic rule) (Ibid, p. 6). The 5th Grade Islamic Religious Education textbook also includes a short passage that reflects Islam’s respect for human dignity: “Prophet Mohammad, through his words and actions, provided the best examples of protecting human dignity, even that of the enemy. In this context, he ordered Muslims to treat prisoners of war fairly and in a noble way” (p. 83). Another statement in the same textbooks reads: “Islam promotes the need to provide justice to all people (Muslims and non-Muslims) who are under Islamic jurisdiction” (Ibid, p. 84). In conclusion, it is clear from our review that most references to the concepts of tolerance, compassion, and respect in the 5th and 10th grade textbooks reflect relationships amongst Muslims (historically) and between Muslims and Christians (mostly Palestinian and Arab Christians in modern day contexts). Generally, tolerance towards and compassion for Muslims are promoted as an obligation and a duty. These references come primarily from the Kor’an and the Hadith (Tradition), although other non-religious texts urge Muslims to be tolerant of each other. However, no attempt is made to extend these calls, directly and unequivocally, to include non-Muslim and non-Arab communities and individuals. Although no indication of hatred of the Western Judeo-Christian tradition or the values associated with it is evident in the new textbooks, it would help if the revised textbooks, especially civics and religious education and language arts textbooks, openly and clearly convey a new vision of the Palestinian society in which political and religious tolerance and other universal values are encouraged and fostered.

The Concept of Peace and Peace with Israel The review of the new textbooks revealed little in terms of encouragement to reconciliation with Israel. The concept of peace with Israel is not mentioned in the textbooks. The peace process based on the Oslo Accords, the Wye River Memorandum and the Anti-Incitement subcommittee--whose purpose was to reduce tensions and create a positive atmosphere of positive cohabitation—are not referred to in the 5th and 10th grade textbooks. •

We found one reference to the Oslo Accords in the context of talking about the “establishment of the Palestinian National Authority in parts of the West Bank and Gaza in 1994” (National Education, 5th Grade, p. 31).


In one instance a statement is made to the effect that “peace will prevail when nations’ rights are restored” (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 136). This is probably an indirect call for the restoration of the rights of the Palestinians as a prerequisite to peace with the Israelis.

One textbook cites a poem (prison literature) by Tawfiq Zayyad, who later became the Mayor of Nazareth and who was imprisoned in 1958 after taking part in a political demonstration. The poet challenges the prison guards. It contains elements of hope of a future full of love and peace: “I remember; I remember the Damoun…its bitter nights and the barbed wires…justice that is hanged on the prison wall and the crucified moon on the steel of the “prison’s” windows…; I remember…; we would sigh when we hear a love story…would warn when we hear a story about plundering the land…and would be joyous when we hear about the liberation of a nation that fights (the occupier)…we would talk about the hope in the eyes of a nation…; we talk about our future, about a world of love and peace, of rose gardens…of amber and springs of sugar…; we gaze in the night of the dwarfs…in silence; we challenge the barbed wires, the prisoner’s key, his blue eyes and his yellow moustache” (Reading and Anthology, Grade 10, pp. 80-83).

In the context of talking about Gandhi and India’s struggle against the British colonization, there is a reference to peaceful resistance/struggle as a non-violent means of achieving independence (History of Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, pp. 86-7).

Three more texts reflect a universal perspective by calling on believers to treat all people well (Kor’an Recitation, Grade 10, p. 45) and to work for achieving peace, reconciliation (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 77), well being and happiness for humankind across ages and places (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, pp. 3, 13).

In spite of the signed peace agreements and accords between Israel and the PLO/PNA, clearly, there is no formal peace education as part of the curriculum, nor is there a serious push towards that end. We recognize the fact that, sometimes, protracted processes that lead to a peace agreement represent the beginning of an even longer process of peace implementation and reconciliation. This, however, should not prevent all stakeholders from working towards the creation of a culture of peace based on mutual understanding and justice for all. At the level of curriculum implementation and instructional strategies, this entails more attention to developing cooperative attitudes in children as opposed to aggressive or militaristic attitudes. This should be thought of as promoting nonviolent solutions to conflict and should include, among other things: teaching conflict resolution ability, learning about war, about causes of war, consequence of war and alternatives to war, which includes methods of peace making as well as the more long-term approach to peacebuilding. The challenge for educators,


however, is to replace a belief in peacekeeping with a commitment to peacemaking and peacebuilding strategies to address the multifaceted forms of violence that exist in the region. Jihad, Martyrdom, Liberation, Freedom There are a series of references to Jihad, freedom, martyrdom, and liberation, in historical, recent and contemporary contexts. Jihad continues to be presented as a glorious act. Martyrdom is also glorified and martyrs are praised for sacrificing their lives for religious, national and social causes. Although most references to martyrdom and Jihad are presented in historical contexts, special attention is given to Palestinian martyrs in recent and modern history (e.g., references to those hanged by the British Mandate authorities). Jihad, Sacrifice and Martyrdom The message of Jihad and martyrdom is clear in the new textbooks. The concept of Jihad, as presented in the textbooks, takes different meanings in different contexts. Jihad is sometimes presented as a metaphorical, intellectual and spiritual concept that needs to be pursued. In other instances, the militant dimension of Jihad is emphasized both in its historical and present-day contexts. In that sense, it is presented as a duty to protect and defend Islam, Muslims, and the lands of Islam against aggressors. In that sense, Jihad is defensive in nature and is a reaction to aggression against Islam and Muslims. Instances of references to Jihad, sacrifice and martyrdom include: •

“Love of sacrifice for the homeland remains deep in spite of its occupation.” The reference is made in the context of talking about the Arab dynasties in Al-Andalus/10th century (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 68-9).

Reference to the qualities of Mujahideen (fighters for religious and freedom causes): “The fighter goes to the battle with two desired goals: victory or martyrdom,” “the free sacrifices/redeems his homeland with money and soul,” and “nations earn their freedom by blood and sacrifice” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 70).

Other references in the same textbook describe Jihad as a duty: “Sacrifice to defend the homeland is a duty of the free” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 71).

In one particular text, the author talks about lack of enthusiasm on the part of Muslims to defend Islam and the homeland and wonders why “Muslim


swords are covered (in their sheathes and not used)” (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 4). •

Two references are made to the effect that “Freedom is achieved by blood, fighting and sacrifice (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 70; Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 149). In one of these two instances, the context is historical (about French and British colonization of the Arab world) and the other is a verse in a poem by Ahmad Shawqi refers to Egypt’s struggle against the British in the first half of the 20th century.

A verse from a poem by a contemporary Palestinian poet reads: “My brother: the oppressors have overstepped boundaries; thus, Jihad and sacrifice are (just) justified” (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 160).

A poem urges refugees (post 1967 War) to strive to return to the homeland through Jihad and struggle, blood and sacrifice: “We shall return…The borders will be no longer…We are returning to the homeland; to the plains and mountains; hoisting the flags of pride and jihad and struggle...With blood, sacrifice, fraternity, and fidelity, we shall return… (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 88). The explanation accompanying the poem talks about the poet and the other Palestinians who were compelled to leave their homeland and that “the refugees’ dream is to return to their homeland” (Ibid, 89).

References to prisoners in the Naqab/Negev prison who died there as martyrs: “The prisoners at the Naqab prison race to martyrdom; they plant trees along the path of martyrdom; the martyrs race…they become part of the old soil…they travel to their wedding” (Language Sciences, Grade 10, p. 81).

A statement in a 5th Grade textbook reads: “Martyrs are alive in heavens/paradise” (p. 26).

References to Jihad in historical contexts (death of many of Prophet Mohamed’s companions in Jihad): “the codification/compilation of the Kor’an was undertaken under Caliph Abu Baker after the death of the Prophet and the martyrdom in the battlefield of Jihad of a good number of (companions) who have committed the Kor’an to memory” (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 10, p. 61)

Activity: Students are asked to “refer to contemporary Palestinian poet and write a poem on the theme of love of the homeland and sacrifice for her sake…” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 76). Another activity in the same section asks the students to “write a story on the life of one male or female heroes who sacrificed his/her life for their homeland’s sake…” (p. 76).


The 5th and 10th Grade textbooks, unlike the one reviewed earlier (grades 1-4 and 6-9), include little, if any references to the peaceful aspects of Jihad. Peaceful Jihad is an important mechanism for assisting the persecuted and the oppressed and for establishing peaceful, compassionate and just societies. Thus, this dimension needs permeate the curriculum across all grade levels. At the same time, and to avoid the spread of militaristic attitudes among children and the youth, less significance should be accorded to militaristic aspects of Jihad. Resistance, Struggle and Liberation The concept of “liberation,” especially, as it relates to Palestine, is presented as a struggle against foreign forces of occupation across history (Crusaders, Romans, Byzantines, and Israelis). Liberation of Palestine in the modern context is presented as a struggle against Israeli occupation and Zionist plans. Although many of the references are vague in terms of the “land” occupied, many point to the territories occupied in 1967 (West Bank and the Gaza Strip), whereas others seem to point to the territory of the State of Israel. For example: •

Liberation in historical contexts: “The hero Salah Eddin the Ayyubite liberated Jerusalem in the year 583 Hijri (Islamic calendar)…” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 4).

Several references are made in the historical context of “liberation of the Holy Land and Jihad/fight against the Crusaders”: “Al-Qadi Al-Fadel (a statesman who served Salah Eddin) was one of the heroes who made great contributions in the Jihad against the Crusaders…” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 59); “Al-Qadi Al-Fadel is considered one of the heroes…in the Crusades…and provide Salah Eddin with advise that made it possible to gain victory over the Crusaders who came from the West with the aim of taking over the Holy Land” (Ibid, p. 61).

An activity asks students to talk about the significance of some dates and events in the course of Palestinian struggle (e.g., the First and Second Intifada: “We (Let’s) write the significance of the following dates in the course of Palestinian struggle: December 9, 1987 and September 28, 2000” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 6).

In an activity, students are asked to give their opinion about “the reasons for which the Palestinian people boldly embarked on the two uprisings” (National Education, Grade 5, p. 29).

A statement in the 10th Grade History of Modern and Contemporary World textbooks reads: “Palestinians struggle to achieve independence and to obtain legitimate rights” (p. 101).


In talking about the “Islamic Unity Conference” the 5th Grade National Education textbooks contains references to “Palestinian struggle” and the struggle of other nations. For example: Some of the aims of the Islamic Unity Conference include: “Supporting the struggle of all Islamic nations for the purpose of preserving their dignity, independence, and their national rights” (p. 43); “The Islamic Bank for Development took part in…supported the steadfastness of the Palestinian people on its land” Ibid, p. 43); “The Islamic Unity Conference created the Jerusalem Committee because of Jerusalem’s significance to Muslims and because of the Judaization attempts it is encountering” (Ibid, p. 44); “supporting the struggle of the Palestinian people is one of the goals of the Islamic Unity Conference” (Ibid, p. 44); “the Jerusalem Committee’s goal is to support the city of Jerusalem” (Ibid, p. 45).

The 10th Grade Islamic Religious Education textbook contains several references to Palestine and the duty to defend it. For example, in a section entitled “Muslim’s duty towards Palestine” the text reads: “Muslims took Palestine at the time of Caliph Omar ben Al-Khattab who came in person to receive its keys from the Byzantines…so the Muslim who lives in Palestine, protects its land, and defends it is considered “Murabet” (a person who steadfastly protects Islamic territory)…and deserves the best of reward from God” (p. 77); “Muslims’ hearts, all over the world, are attached to Palestine and look forward to liberating, visiting it and to praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque” (Ibid, p. 78).

A text about the “Popular song…reminds of war, enthusiasm, and fervor…. urges people to fight or talk about politics. It also deals with religious ceremonies, holidays, childhood, birth, love, marriage” (Reading and Anthology, Grade 10, p. 45).

In the context of talking about nationalist song, a text in the 10th Grade Reading and Anthology textbooks reads: “The nationalist song occupies an important place in the landscape of popular songs…that call for steadfastness and protecting and defending the homeland” p. 47-48). The lyrics make references to the courage of Palestinian fighters who were executed by the forces of the British Mandate in 1929.

In a final section of the lesson on “Popular Songs in Palestine” we find a poem that pays tribute to and extols the courage of three Palestinians hanged by the British in 1929. The poem (which is sung using a popular tune) reads: “Oh mother, don’t worry, for the sake of the homeland I sacrificed my blood…and Mohamed (the first of the three) says: I will go first so as not to feel the sorrow of your death…Hijazi (the second of the three) says: I will go first…we don’t fear death…Yousef (the brother of one of the men) take care of my mother…and you sister don’t feel bad about


me (my death)…for the sake of the homeland our blood is cheap and we are your defenders O Palestine” (Ibid, p. 56). •

In the same context, a section talks about “Diaspora” and “forced migration” of Palestinians: “…we migrated from Haifa with the intention of returning; God knows what will become of us” (Ibid, p. 48).

A poem by an Egyptian poet entitled “The horizon is engulfed with flames” contains several references to occupation, resistance, and liberation (makes indirect references to Palestine by talking about the orange groves and the olive trees). “How would you respond if a stranger attacks your family…(a stranger) was deluded by his weapon…how would you respond when the enemy…deprives you of air…and deprives your heart of beating…how would your respond when (the enemy) destroys, kills, and blocks the sun…and strangle the green of your time…shakes, at all times, the corners of your home and bloodies the face of the day…; how would your respond…would you throw your sword away, break you bow, and bury your hoe…; or would you take notice and be cautious…make a decision and make use of….and the horrible impossibility…with what would you respond…with what?” (Reading and Anthology, Grade 10, pp. 111-113).

Resistance, Independence and Liberation in the International/Generic Context •

One activity in the 10th Grade Reading and Anthology textbook contains statements (part of an activity) that reflect the concepts of oppression, evil, victory of oppressed nations, and the honor of resistance: “Oppression and evil cannot change the course of history that will eventually be that of a victory for every oppressed nation,” “Evil/oppression existed and still exists; and man is honored when he fights it” (p. 86).

A unit in the 10th Grade History of the Modern and Contemporary World is entitled “Models of Liberation Movements in the World.” It provides the students with concepts relevant to independence and liberation in Cuba, India, and South Africa. An introductory note for the unit is taken from a book by Guy de Bouchere (translated into Arabic by F. Raji). The text reads: “Liberation movements in the world began as a result of a collective feeling by the nations that never accepted deprivation of freedom and control of its resources…this cultural renaissance was going hand in hand with a political renaissance that propelled those nations to jihad (struggle) and resistance by different means that escalated to reach violent ones” (History of Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, pp. 85). The text also reads: “Many factors have contributed to the push by the world’s nation towards getting liberation from colonialism. Chief of these factors are: …colonialist policy of oppression, torture and racial discrimination…” (Ibid, p. 85).


Another section on Cuba talks about Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Manuel Ortega and other military and political figures involved in the Cuban revolution (Ibid, p. 88).

The 10th Grade Reading and Anthology textbook contains a lesson (pp. 100-107) entitled “Letter from Africa.” The focus of the lesson is a long poem by an Egyptian poet (Hashem Er-rafa’i). The poem is replete with references to the concepts of “hegemony, revolt, resistance, tyranny, destruction, fighting, settlements, suffering, pain, blood, and colonialism.”

In the same lesson (in the “Discussion and Analysis section), several references are found to freedom, defending the land (homeland), fighting the colonials, praise of revolutionaries, etc. (Ibid, pp. 104-107).

Although, a couple of references are made to peaceful resistance (boycotting goods, sit ins, marches) in the global context (India, South Africa), no attempt is made to present peaceful conflict resolution as a means for solving the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. In addition, and in spite of the curriculum’s focus on enhancing students’ cognitive and life skills (e.g., the ability to solve problems, cope with pressure, search for positive changes and promote available positives in order to improve the present situation and reach security, peace, and harmony with the society and the environment), they are not directly encouraged to acquire the skills of mediation, conflict resolution and conflict transformation that are essential for creating active citizens of Palestine, the region, and the world. In what follows we cite two references to conflict resolution and peaceful resistance: •

In the same context, a section is devoted to Indian resistance that reads: “The Indian National Conference adopted a position that aimed to carry out peaceful resistance against the British…the Conference demanded getting self autonomy by peaceful means” (Reading and Anthology, Grade 10, p. 86-87).

A third section is devoted to the liberation movement in South Africa. The section focuses on the policy of racial discrimination and on the South Africa’s resistance movement (Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, ascent to power and winning the Peace Nobel Prize) (Ibid, p. 89-90).

Refugees The issue of Palestinian refugees, as one of the final status issues, continues to be presented and discussed in the new textbooks. However, and in spite of its importance, the issue appears in a limited number of instances, mostly in reference to UN Resolutions, refugees’ right of return to their homes and land, the hardships they are enduring, the relief and support they get from UNRWA,


and their aspirations and dreams and of reuniting with the land. In addressing the issue of “Palestinian refugees” the textbooks provide no clear designation for the term “homeland.” This issue is important because of its interconnectedness to the issue of “return of refugees to their homeland.” References to “refugees” and to their “right of return to the homeland” appear in the following contexts: •

A good number of references are made to the support UNRWA, UNICEF, and UNESCO provide to Palestinian refugees. In many cases, the references point to refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Thus, we find statements and questions along the following line: “What are the programs that the UNESCO supports in Palestine?” “Mention two domains in which the UNESCO supports the Palestinian people,” and “How does the UNESCO support the Palestinian refugees?” (National Education, Grade 5, p8. 47-48).

The concept of the “homeland” is rendered in vague terms. In some instances, textbooks refer to the right of refugees to return to their “original homeland.” In others, the textbooks use the term “homeland” without qualifying it. For example, an activity in the 5th Grade Our Beautiful Language textbook requires students to write “a letter from a Palestinian child to the UN, that talks about his and his friends’ suffering in the alleys of the refugee camps and his right to return to his “original homeland” (p. 86). In the same textbook, a statement reads: “The dream of the Palestinian refugee is the return to his “homeland” (Ibid, p. 95).

Israel (by name or implicitly) is presented as responsible for creating the refugees’ problem: “Refugee camps…resulted from compelling Palestinian residents to leave their cities and villages in 1948” (National Education, Grade 5, 36); “…the keys to our house that the occupation forced us to leave” (History of Ancient Civilizations, Grade 5, p. 7).

The National Education textbook, Grade 5, provides definitions of important concepts that relate to refugees, such as “a Palestinian refugee camp, Palestinians in the Diaspora, forced expulsion” (pp. 35-6). For example, Palestinians in the Diaspora are defined as: “They are the Palestinians who live outside the borders of Palestine. The majority live in the neighboring Arab countries, either in camps or outside the camps…” (p. 35).

A number of references are made in the context of talking about UNRWA: The UN General Assembly commissioning UNRWA with the duty of providing “relief to hundreds of thousands Palestinians uprooted from their homeland and whose land was taken by force” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 79). Other references highlight the “forced migration of Palestinians” (Reading and Anthology, Grade 10, p. 46, 47), the erection of six new refugee camps in Jordan to accommodate Palestinians who left


the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 War (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 80), and the number of refugees (3,600,000) receiving aid from UNRWA (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 86). •

Several texts and verses reflect the refugees’ dream, aspiration and insistence to return to their homeland: “The soil of the homeland…and we will not be away from it for long” (Script, Grade 5, pp. 20); “The hope that frequents the dreams of the refugees in the camp,” and “Palestinian people’s dream of returning to its homeland” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, pp. 81, 85, and 95, respectively); “Oh beloved Palestine, how do I live away from your plains and hills! “ (Ibid, p. 55).

A poem urges refugees (post- 1967 War) to strive to return to the homeland in accordance with UN resolutions through Jihad and struggle, blood and sacrifice: “We are returning…under the banners of jihad and struggle…we are returning, Oh hill…we are returning to adolescence and youth…for jihad in the highlands and for the harvest in the land, we are returning” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 88).

The 5th Grade Our Beautiful Language textbook includes a photo of Palestinian children in a refugee camp during the winter season. The photo is part of a section that includes two poems; one of a poet having a secret conversation with a pigeon and another by the same poet (Rashed Hussein) describing the miserable life of the Palestinian refugees living on UNRWA’s monthly rations of “yellow cheese and flour” provided as “a gift to my miserable people” (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, p. 87).

The issue of the Palestinian refugees is also invoked in the context of talking about the solidarity and brotherhood displayed by other Palestinians: “The Palestinians displayed marvelous examples of solidarity and brotherhood when the refugees were compelled to leave their lands in 1948. They (the refugees) were assisted by their Palestinian brothers in Palestine and in other Arab countries and shared who accommodated them and shared their livelihood with them” (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 81).

Civil Society, Environmental Awareness, Human Rights The new textbooks include several references to concepts that relate to civil society, human rights and justice. In the process of presenting and discussing these issues, they promote civil activity, commitment, responsibility, and solidarity, respecting others’ feelings, respecting and helping people with disabilities. They include texts and activities that reinforce students’ understanding of the values of civil society such as respecting human dignity,


religious, social, cultural, racial, ethnic, and political pluralism; personal, social, and moral responsibility, and transparency and accountability. References are made in different contexts across the curriculum and take different forms (e.g., religious precepts, quotations, literary works, universal declarations, etc.). Examples include: •

Across the curriculum, there are study units, lessons, and sections that include texts promoting the concepts of conservation, pollution, and health awareness. For example, we find texts urging conservation of natural resources, such as water and energy (Technology, Grade 5, pp. 53-56; General Science, Grade 5, p. 86) and protecting flora and the environment (Natural Geography, Grade 5, pp. 54-5; Civic Education, Grade 5, pp. 456; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 23; General Sciences, Grade 5, pp. 27, 28, 31, 86; English Language, Grade 10, pp. 79, 85; Technology, Grade 10, pp. 35, 44, 66, 72, 76), safe disposal of solid, medical, and chemical waste (Health and Environmental Sciences, Grade 10, pp. 83-92), and health awareness (Health and Environmental Sciences, Grade 10, p. 130-134).

Several texts promote mutual responsibility and solidarity in the Palestinian society (e.g., “supporting the families of the martyrs, prisoners, and the wounded in the society”) (National Education, Grade 5, p. 16 and 20); “providing care, education, and training members of the society with special needs” (Ibid, p. 16); family planning and birth control (Ibid, p. 10).

The 10th Grade History of Modern and Contemporary World and 5th Grade National Education textbooks include lessons on international, Islamic, and regional organizations (League of Nations, UN, the Arab League, The Islamic Conference, the African Unity Conference, the Non-aligned Nations), their history and their services (pp. 91-109 and 39-49, respectively).

Several texts promote the values of cooperation, communication, and social and moral responsibility (Civic Education, Grade 5, pp. 26, 30, 35, 41), timelines and doing a job well (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 29), and seeking knowledge (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 10, p. 41).

A number of references promote the concepts of human rights and women’s right to participate in the political process (History of Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10, p. 50; National Education, Grade 5, p. 20).

A whole unit in the 5th Grade Civic Education textbooks addresses the issue of children’s rights (right of education, freedom of expression,


receiving proper medical treatment, not taking part in wars, and protection from physical punishment) as required “in the three monotheistic religions” and as stipulated in the Children’s Human Rights Protocol issued in 1989 (pp. 2-20). •

Several passages across the 10th Grade Islamic Religious Education textbook promote good morals, devotion, and patience (pp. 78-82, 83-85, and 90-93, respectively).

The 5th Grade Islamic Religious Education textbook also contains references to the concepts of human rights in Islamic societies, human dignity, freedom, justice, equality, rights of women, and right of counsel (shura). These concepts are presented in an activity that requires the students to match these concepts to verses from the Kor’an and Hadith (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 5, p. 80).

The same textbook includes a lesson on “brotherhood in faith” (between and among Muslims). The texts encourage Muslims to love each other, be patient in dealing with other Muslims, and avoid the feelings of enmity and envy (pp. 30-40; 43-45).

In spite of the multiple references, across the 5th and 10th Grade textbooks, to the issues and themes of civil society and global and environmental, the activities and the texts proper, fail to relate them to the topic of conflict. Certainly, conflict resolution should be emphasized from the very beginning in school, perhaps starting with interpersonal conflict, and then, as the children move through the education system, there should be a deliberate attempt to identify general principles of conflict resolution that apply to interpersonal, inter-group, and international conflict. Global Component The new textbooks for Grades 5 and 10 address human feelings through the presentation of classical literary works that deal with universal values and with non-Arab and non-Muslim perspectives. They also include topics of global concern such as the environment, social justice, etc. For example: •

The 10th Grade Reading and Anthology textbook includes a lesson on the short story “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant. The story presents a delicate picture of human feelings with all the contradictions involved that transcends time and place (pp. 65-77).

The same textbook includes a lesson entitled “A Letter from Africa” (discussed in a different section of the report) that reflects human feelings. The poem talks about a soldier in the colonial army that writes a letter to


his fiancée describing the goals of colonialism and expresses his longing to go back to his homeland (pp. 100-107). •

Another lesson in the same textbooks entitled “The Ozone: A magical medicine for the poor” addresses the issues of global warming and the possibility of using the Ozone as a treatment for many of today’s illnesses (pp. 124-130).

The 5th Grade Our Beautiful Language textbook includes a lesson on Lev Tolstoy’s “Wisdom of a Judge” (pp. 96-100). The short story depicts human life as full of conflicts and social problems. The short story highlights the need for just judges and compassionate leaders intent on promoting justice in their communities. The textbook introduces Tolstoy as a novelist who was able, through his novels, to paint a picture of humanity. The introduction also points to his strong and continuous condemnation of war.

In the context of talking about the “Characteristics of the Holy Kor’an,” the 5th Grade Islamic Religious Education textbook highlights the fact that “the Kor’an contains canonical laws and regulations that regulate man’s life in its entirety. In it one finds instructions on how to worship and believe in God and how to have good manners in such a way that can achieve good and happiness for human kind across ages and places” (p. 3).

In the same text, we find a section that talks about “mercy” as it relates to God and that “God’s mercy is all encompassing and covers all human beings, Muslims and non-Muslims, the good and the bad” (p. 32).

Several sections in the 10th Grade Health and Environmental Sciences textbooks promote global awareness and interest in global issues, such as infectious diseases (pp. 70-72), AIDS (pp. 73-77), waste (solid, medical, chemical, poisonous, pathogenic, radioactive) (pp.83-90).

In a separate unit of the textbook entitled “Global Environmental Issues” the issues of “the green house effect”, “the ozone layer”, “desertification,” “acid rain,” and “biodiversity” are introduced and discussed (Ibid, pp. 93105). Many of the instructional activities included promote critical thinking, problem solving and other life skills.

A lesson in the 10th Grade English Language textbook introduces personalities and political figures in the national and international arena that have worked for creating a better world and for the betterment of life for their people and others (pp. 22-29). These include Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Mahatma Gandhi, and Manhood Darwish.


Appendix I Final Recommendations and Remarks Introduction The following final remarks, suggestions and recommendations are based on an in-depth review of the first semester’s 5th and 10th grade textbooks. They are intended to provide some thoughts on and insights into approaches that could be used to put the new Palestinian curricula on the path of structural and conceptual reform. They are not intended to be prescriptive in nature: Rather, they are being presented in the spirit of cooperation in the quest to identify, address, and confront some of the complex, controversial, sensitive, and difficult issues in the education system, in general, and the field of curriculum development, in particular. It is our hope that politicians, educators, civil society leaders, and other stakeholders and policy makers take these suggestions and recommendations seriously and make concerted efforts to incorporate them in writing the new generations of textbooks and in revising and modifying the already-published ones.


General Recommendations and Remarks Coverage and Treatment of the History and Geography of the Region •

Our review of the new textbooks revealed some elements of ignoring the “other.” In particular, the Jewish connection to the Holy Land and the region is excluded in the context of talking about the nations, civilizations, and racial, ethnic, and religious groups that lived in, or passed through the region. To achieve historical objectivity, fairness, and accuracy of historical accounts and narratives, Jewish presence in the Holy Land throughout history should not be ignored.

In establishing legitimate claims to the past, or to continuity on the national soil, it is necessary not to de-legitimize others and deny their rights. In the spirit of peace and reconciliation, it is in the best interest of all parties in the conflict to avoid nurturing confrontational and conflictive attitudes. This means that curriculum designers and materials writers should abstain from the using offensive language and incendiary remarks and references. Instead both parties should promote peaceful and tolerant attitudes that recognize the historical and the present-day rights of the other.

There is repeated focus in the textbooks on the ancient Arab identity of “historical Palestine” and neglect, except in few cases, of its non-Arab and non-Islamic religious, national, cultural, political, and social identities. Reconciliation cannot happen until long-held prejudices are challenged and the history, culture, and religion of the “other” are recognized as having their own legitimacy. Thus, all cultures, civilizations and ethnic groups that are not racially, ethnically, or culturally related to the Arab and Islamic civilization should be adequately and accurately presented.

There are several instances in which the textbooks present historical events in a way that is lacking in the basic principles of historical investigation and historical thinking. Especially in covering historical eras, events, and personalities, history textbooks should not promote unsubstantiated claims and historical accounts, or present conclusions based on anecdotal or circumstantial evidence. Instead, textbooks should introduce objective, up-to-date, comprehensive, and historically accurate information and accounts free of inciting, inflammatory, and offensive language and rhetoric and of elements of bias and of stereotypical images and representations.

It is also recommended that in presenting historical events and narratives, textbooks should avoid drawing firm conclusions and making decisive and unequivocal historical claims over issues and events that are subject to debate.


The history textbooks reviewed present the students with the Palestinian version of historical narrative. They, moreover, reflect national views of the Palestinian history. For the benefit of exposing students to different perspectives and for the benefit of enhancing their historical thinking skills, other alternative views should also be included. Students will decide for themselves the accuracy, validity, and objective nature of the narratives.

The presentation of Palestine, in modern-day contexts, as exclusively Arab and Islamic, could be perceived as an attempt to de-legitimize Jews and Christians. To truly reflect the plurality of the Holy Land, serious attempts should be made to make historical, cultural and political accounts more reflective of that collective plurality.

Our review points to the continuation of a practice observed in our earlier review (IPCRI, 2003), namely the inclusion of parts of Israel proper with “Palestine.” What we suggest in this context is to describe these parts of “historical Palestine” based on their legal status as stipulated in international conventions, treaties, and resolutions in a way that does not impact the integrity of the subject matter.

Monotheistic Religions •

Although the textbooks have an Islamic slant, they do not exclude Judaism from the three monotheistic religions. However, they do not mention it (nor do they mention Christianity) by name. Instead, most references are given indirectly in the form of “the monotheistic religions” or the “traditions/religions of the Book.”

We suggest that texts make direct and clear references to Judaism and Christianity as needed and in proper contexts.

In addition, and given the multi-religious nature of the region, both historically and contemporarily, and to educate Palestinian students about the other two monotheistic traditions, we recommend that their symbols, rituals, ceremonies, holidays, and festivals be introduced for informational and comparative purposes.

Non-Islamic religions should be presented as independent faiths in their own right, not exclusively as extensions or precursors of Islam.

Peace, Coexistence, Reconciliation, and Tolerance •

Efforts should be encouraged to initiate and support peace education projects to educate students about the “other” and to familiarize them with the value of working together, of reducing incitement and conflict, and of building constituencies in support of reconciliation. These values, ideals


and principles should be taught for their intrinsic value. One way to achieve this is through reforming the education system. •

Also, and given the religious pluralistic nature of the Palestinian society and the region, we suggest the inclusion of texts, anecdotes, citations, and accounts from the Christian and Jewish canonical books. Introducing ethnically and religiously diverse selections could enhance reconciliation, cooperation, and peace-building efforts.

It is essential to promote a culture of peace, coexistence, cooperation, and tolerance in spite of all the adverse circumstances that prevail. These efforts should be concerted and should cover all aspects of life.

The Concept of Palestine •

The new textbooks should make a clear distinction between “Historical Palestine” with its complete geography, and a “Palestine” that is likely to emerge on the basis of agreements with Israel and in accordance with the internationally recognized standards.

National Identity •

The new Palestinian textbooks continue with the effort to strengthen an awareness of Palestinian national identity by focusing on the history, culture, heritage, and origins of the Palestinian people. In their attempt to do so, the textbooks sometimes include vague pictorial and textual references that may create a misunderstanding of their intended purposes. Serious attempts should be made to clarify both the symbolic and literal meanings of these representations.

Politicization of the Curriculum •

Many of the statements and messages in the Palestinian textbooks are overtly political. Although school textbooks in every political context are part of political indoctrination programs that reflect public opinion and/or shape it, educators should make every effort to avoid pushing the growing children of today and the adults of tomorrow into the dangerous grounds of extremism and hostile action.

Jihad and Martyrdom •

In an era of peace and reconciliation, the violent and warlike dimension of Jihad should be suppressed and abandoned as much as possible, especially at it relates to present-day context. At the same time, the peaceful and compassionate aspects of jihad should be promoted.


Coverage of Contemporary Issues •

History textbooks should cover the post-Oslo period adequately and objectively. They should alert students to the inalienable rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace. They should also promote the political rights of the two parties, and to teach about the “other” in a way that reflects the present-day political, religious, social, historical, geographic, and demographic realities.

There is silence regarding several contemporary issues such as lack of security at the national front, religious freedoms, gender inequality, corruption, tribalism, favoritism, early marriage, education quality, access to and affordability of higher education, etc. More texts should be devoted to addressing these important issues, especially in the context of promoting civil society and the rule of law.

In the context of presenting concepts and information in the political, geographic and demographic domains, it is advisable to provide clear and straightforward definitions for all references that are susceptible to confusion, misunderstanding and misinterpretation (e.g., historical Palestine, present-day political Palestine, national soil, jihad, liberation, resistance, etc.). This suggestion also applies to the already-published textbooks that are identified for revision.

Along the same lines, a political philosophy of “the homeland” needs to be promoted to dispel any perception that the Palestinian education system is “ignoring” and/or “denying” the sovereignty and legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Textbooks need to deal, in some detail, with the present situation in the region, especially as it relates to relations with Israel. They should also deal with the concepts of structural, educational, financial and political reform, regional cooperation, etc. Avoiding dealing with unresolved political issues will not serve the student population, and will give unofficial sources, groups, and entities the chance to step in and provide information that is not necessarily compatible with the official position.

Maps •

Maps should be free of any elements of ambiguity and confusion. Designating Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas is one step in that direction. It is suggested that political maps reflect present-day realities and be marked and labeled accordingly. In particular, political maps should mark the borders of the State of Israel within the 1967 borders. The borders of the future State of Palestine or “Palestine” would also be marked and labeled as comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The


maps, moreover, should include the names of cities, towns, villages, and sites that reflect present-day realities. For example, a map showing prepartition Palestine could be labeled “Palestine” and would refer to cities and sites the way they were known in that period of time (e.g., Yaffa, Akka, Marj Ibn Amer, Nahr (river) al-Ouja, etc.). •

Historical maps should be marked as such and should indicate the historical periods they represent, along with the political, geographic, and demographic realities of those periods.

Global Component •

To help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and the tools to understand the complexity of their world and the problems that face us all, the MOE should endeavor to systematically incorporate a global/international dimension in the curriculum. Internationalization at the national, sector, and institutional levels require a process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of education.

We recommend the inclusion of more texts and ideas that reflect a regional and global perspective (environment, social justice, experiences of emerging democracies, human rights, etc.). In particular, we recommend the inclusion of more texts, questions and activities that focus on universal values, and that make reference and give credit to the contribution of non-Arabs and non-Muslims in the development of the Arab and Muslim civilization.

Portrayal of the “other” •

One of the most important messages of comparative education is that stereotypes are dangerous. It is important that politicians and educators take the dangers of stereotyping to the heart of their political and educational theorizing precisely because educators, especially, need to uphold the humane and humanistic values of education.

Israel •

Although there are no direct and express indications or statements that point to an attempt to deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel, the way and contexts in which Israel is presented may give rise to the impression of an implicit denial of its legitimacy. Thus, and to promote peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding, attention should be taken in the manner and contexts in which such references are presented.


Palestinian basic values and strategic decisions, as embedded in the Declaration of Independence, the Draft Constitution, the regional and international agreements and accords should serve as points of reference in the presentation of concepts, themes, topics, and ideas relating to the State of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For fear of misconstruing the illustrative and verbal references, or lack of, to Israel, Jews and Judaism, it is advisable to provide a comprehensive, objective, and consistent coverage of the history and geography of the region.

Israeli Occupation •

The issue of dealing with Israeli occupation in Palestinian textbooks will always present challenges. Occupation is the enemy and no Palestinian can find any justification for it or any kind words to describe life under occupation. We have found numerous references to the occupation in the textbooks. It may be worthwhile for the Palestinian Ministry of Education to indicate in the texts that the goal of the Palestinian national struggle is bring about an end to the occupation of the territories occupied in 1967 and to live in peace with the State of Israel following a negotiated settlement.

We recognize that the MOE has achieved a great deal in producing completely new textbooks is such a short time. We applaud their effort and their attempt to, in particular, integrate civic education into the curriculums. There is no denying that education and the materials used by Palestinians to educate their youth will have an impact on the destiny of a future Palestinian state. Therefore, as the Ministry continues its reviews and revisions of these textbooks, we encourage the curriculum reformers to: •

Use the principles and ideas embedded in the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, the Draft Palestinian Constitution, UN Charter and Resolutions to guide and inform educational decisions and policies regarding national, regional, international issues.

Put a stronger emphasis on reconciliation and peace by confronting any attempt to foster conflict and violence. This entails improving the textbooks in the areas of peace, mutual understanding, tolerance and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. It also involves expunging all statements from the textbooks that could be perceived as offensive, inciting, or inflammatory and that could create misunderstanding, prejudice and conflict.


Devise tools and mechanisms for making better and informed decisions regarding the selection, inclusion, and the depth and breadth of addressing sensitive issues. These issues include, among others, dealing with the history and geography of the region, dealing the concepts of Jihad and martyrdom, and dealing with the maps.

Address, in an explicit and straightforward fashion, issues relating to the State of Israel and its representation in the textbooks.

Put more emphasis on promoting the principles of peace. As an authoritative source to determine the values and skills to be promoted and lived by in the Palestinian society, textbooks need to highlight the importance of adopting peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding as long-term strategies.

Increase coordination and remove duality between governmental and nongovernmental organizations, especially in the endeavor to mainstream lifeskills based education (LSBE) throughout departments at the ministry (teacher training, counseling, school health, and Curriculum Development Center). LSBE is likely to promote the development of responsible Palestinian children by helping them acquire and develop skills to interact with their own community and the outer world.

Offer the students a clear geo-political message. It is not clear what message the textbooks attempt to impart to the student, especially as it relates to the State of Israel. This lack of clarity allows room for misunderstanding and continues to be one of the sticky points in any discussion of the curriculum. It is, thus, recommended that the MoE offer clear definitions and terminology in the textbooks.


Appendix II Thoughts on History Teaching Although the present report does not touch on other dimensions of the education system (e.g., teacher training, professional development, testing and assessment), some of the suggestions and remarks below address these issues out of a conviction that they constitute an integral part and an essential dimension of education reform. The centrality of the textbooks in learning history, civil education, national education, and other school subjects has long been established. Texts address different specific topics and educational levels and appropriately reflect authors’ particular ideas, attitudes, and beliefs. Particularly, in history education, textbooks play a vital role. As in other fields, good textbooks offer a distillation of available knowledge on major subjects in the discipline. Moreover, to be effective in enhancing students’ reflective and historical thinking skills/historical habits of mind, textbooks need to provide adequate, accurate, balanced, up-to-date, and comprehensive factual coverage. They also need to encourage students’ critical thinking and analytical capacity. Factual Coverage Most history textbooks primarily convey factual materials. These materials are necessarily selective, involving choices about what relevant historical data to include and exclude. For example, a world history text may downplay certain early periods or geographical regions and still measure up to coverage needs. The choices, however, should be indicated and explained. In addition to explanations, adequate textbooks do not select coverage without attention to problems of bias and distortion not only in the accuracy of the materials presented, but also in the choice of major topics. Up-to-date coverage: Improvements in the teaching and learning of history result from the systematic utilization of research-based knowledge. Regular adjustments in light of new research are essential for textbook accuracy and for achievement of necessary balance, especially, in topical coverage. Balance: Coverage should deal with several perspectives (national, regional, and universal) in order to convey both shared and diverse reactions to key developments. It should also deal with several aspects of the human experience (political, social, cultural, religious, etc.) and with interrelationships among these facets. Appropriate Regional and Global Perspectives: Regional and global perspectives are increasingly important in defining textbook adequacy. In all


cases, an adequate text will place developments in some wider perspective, so that international trends and forces are given appropriate attention and so that principal distinctive features (for example in a particular national experience) gain some comparative treatment. Treatment of Controversial and Sensitive Issues: Factual coverage must not be defined by sheer avoidance of controversy. Indeed, an adequate history textbook must treat some topics about which debate continues to occur and must assist readers in balancing an understanding of diverse viewpoints with attention to the historical factor involved. For example, religious, political, racial, and ethnic conflicts are a vital aspect of the history of virtually every society and time period. Their treatment must often acknowledge diversity of viewpoints, and be given appropriate weight. Enhancing Historical Habits of Mind Even with a primary emphasis on factual materials, adequate history textbooks must actively encourage the development of appropriate historical habits of mind beyond memorization. Presentation of data itself must promote an ability to see how historical facts can be used and recombined in coherent written or oral argument. In particular, history textbooks should: •

Encourage critical thinking, with sections that help students understand how different kinds of arguments and interpretations can be assessed.

Directly include or be readily compatible with primary documents and other materials. The inclusion of primary sources allows students to gain and develop the following skills: o Assessing different kinds of data, o Judging potential bias, and o Building arguments from various pieces of evidence.

In addition, and to further students’ ability to understand uses of historical evidence, it is always useful to include sections that present and discuss the method and procedures that historians use in their “historical investigations.” These procedures may include: how historians develop data of the sort embedded in historical texts, and how different evaluations of data figure into historical controversies. Enhancing the Capacity of Assessing Change Over Time Textbooks should endeavor to promote students’ capacity to assess change over time, the causes and impacts of change, and continuities that coexist with change. More specifically, textbooks should not simply accumulate data; rather, they should present discussion of issues of change and causation. In many texts


and across all grade levels, comparisons between time periods and/or between societies will encourage analytical capacity. In conclusion, effective history education has a variety of purposes. Its most essential goals, which any textbook must promote, are to satisfy criteria of adequacy, objectivity, accuracy, comprehensiveness, multi-perspectivity, and balance, and to prepare users to encounter new data and new kinds of historical developments (including developments in contemporary history) with enhanced capacities for understanding and analysis.


List of Textbooks Reviewed a) 5th Grade Our Beautiful Language/Arabic Language, (Grade 5, Part 1) National Education (Grade 5, Part 1) Civic Education (Grade 5, Part 1) Islamic Religious Education (Grade 5, Part 1) Christian Religious Education (Grade 5) Kor’an Recitation History of Ancient Civilizations (Grade 5, Part 1) General Sciences (Grade 5, Part 1) Physical Geography (Grade 5, Part 1) Script (Grade 5) Technology (Grade 5) Math (Grade 5, Part 1) b) 10th Grade History of the Modern and Contemporary World (Grade 10) Geography of the World’s Continent (Grade 10) English Language (Grade 10) Linguistics (Language Sciences, Grade 10, Part 1) Reading and Anthology (Grade 10, Part 1) Kor’an Recitation (Grade 10) Islamic Religious Education (Grade 10, Part 1) Mathematics (Grade 10, Part 1) Health and Environmental Sciences (Grade 10, Part 1) Technology (Grade 9) Technological Education (Grade 10) General Sciences (Grade 10)


Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian Curriculum Report III  

In the 2004-2005 school year, the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOE) introduced a number of new textbooks for grad...