December 3, 2001 Special Reports No. 6

Narrating Palestinian Nationalism - A Study of the New Palestinian Textbooks

December 3, 2001 | By Goetz Nordbruch*
Special Reports No. 6

"Never has the identity of a people been so exposed to dangers of vanquish or demolition as the Palestinian one has. The preservation of their identity from absolute dissolution remains the basic indication of the existence of this people and a guarantee for its survival at the present and in the future." [1]


In September 2000, six years after the PLO assumed its responsibility and authority over education and culture in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian Authority inaugurated its new curriculum at the Curriculum Development Center in Ramallah.[2]

The new curriculum included 15 new textbooks for grades one and six, as a part of a long-term project. The need to develop new Palestinian textbooks was long overdue.[3] Until then there was no uniform curriculum; Rather, Jordanian textbooks were used in the West Bank, and Egyptian text books in Gaza. Large parts of the content were out of date and lacked clear reference to the Palestinian society.[4]

The overall revision of the curriculum aimed "to prepare the Palestinian people to restore all of their national rights on their land and establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital".[5] It also aimed to respond to the Israeli complaints that the content of the previous books included anti-Semitic, inciting and provoking texts, in violation of the Cairo agreement between Israel and the PLO, which demanded both sides "to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and (...) accordingly (to) abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda".

This analysis deals with the central ideas and content of the new curriculum; ideas and values that will greatly determine the future development of the Palestinian autonomous territories. Palestinian national history as taught in these textbooks lays the cornerstone for the future development of the Palestinian nation. The self-portrayal of the Palestinian nation in these books reconstructs the Palestinian identity, the social roles and the principles of Palestinian society, as well as the relationship between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in Palestinian society.

Identity, social roles, and good behavior

The main goals set by the new curriculum for the early years of schooling, are the shaping of a Palestinian identity and the development of the individual's awareness to his societal obligations. Therefore, the education system was "built on the principles of breeding the individual on the basis of serving the society as a whole." The ultimate goal of education is" -- stated the PA's Minister of Education -- "to enable the individual to perform his duties successfully."[6]

This central theme is emphasized not only in the educational units of the National and Civil Curriculum, but also in many references and allusions in other contexts. The relationship between individual identity and the various public institutions is illustrated, through the question, "Who am I?"[7]

The new textbooks present the many facets of the individual identity: gender, belonging to a school, to a family, to a religion, and to a nationality. The link between the identity and the social roles is forged by connecting the identity to societal obligations. Belonging is tied to the endorsement of social functions and responsibilities.

The discussions concerning identity and social roles overlap other issues, particularly gender relationship in society. In contrast to the previous Palestinian curriculum, the new textbooks partially break away from the traditional gender roles albeit with great difficulty. It is relatively easy in new areas such as computers,[8] and more difficult in traditional areas. The new textbooks also reproduce the traditional assignments of women, who are limited to reproductive activities within the domestic setting.[9] The new textbooks base the traditional social roles on Islamic tradition, arguably quoting the most authoritative codex of tradition.[10]

The demand to respect others appears in the curriculum mainly as a request to cooperate with members of the family, persons outside the family and persons of the opposite gender. Gender equality has been relegated to the background due to the different roles of the genders in the family. Even the criticism of coerced marriages, is diluted by the importance attributed to the family's ability to function.[11]

The numerous duties of women and girls in society, are demonstrated through examples from Arab-Islamic history. These examples include also a reference made to Asmaa the daughter of the first Khalifa (Calif) Abu Bakr, (who succeeded the Prophet Muhammad). The example is used to set the model for schoolgirls. According to Muslim tradition Asmaa helped the Prophet Muhammad in his battles, by providing him with supplies and by informing him of his enemies, thereby making a great contribution to the war against the infidels.[12]

The textbooks refer to the improvement in the status of women in Islam relatively to their status in the pre-Islamic era.[13] Respect for women, however, derives from their social responsibilities as ordained by the Koran which places men in a more responsible position than women and not from modern concepts of gender equality: "Men are appointed guardians over women, in that Allah has made some of them excel others, and in that men spend of their wealth (for women's needs)".[14]

The textbooks define desirable and necessary values of society. A case in point is the concept of cleanliness, referred to in the educational unit on "National Education" citing the Islamic tradition: "cleanliness derives from faith".[15] This desired value is presented in other educational units as well[16] (referring to bodily hygiene, cleanliness in private and public places, etc.)

The coupling of themes dealing with hygiene and themes dealing with good behavior and social norms creates an understanding that uncleanness is unpatriotic. Disorderly clothing is seen as a symbol of "foreign behavior" which is portrayed in one of the educational units on "National Education" as undesirable, and in contrast to original Arab culture, tradition and customs.[17] The position of each individual and his/her task in the safeguarding of the cleanliness and the beauty of the fatherland is another aspect that the textbooks focus on. It is by no means limited to ecological aspects.[18] It is an appeal to safeguard Arab-Islamic norms in the face of foreign influences.

Education to Democracy

Democratic values are a central theme in the new textbooks. Aiming to enhance the citizen's participation within society and the state, the textbooks recite the declaration of a parliamentary democratic independent Palestinian state, in 1988 as the main statement of Palestinian self-determination.

Democratic values are conveyed through the family, the school, and the neighborhood. The principles of coexistence within the society or the nation are there to serve the 'common good', which is of a problem, because in a democracy the 'common good' is a matter of diverse individual or group perceptions. "Everyone of us has a role in this society, but we are all brothers in the fatherland".[19] Society is described as an extended family and the nation - a larger home,[20] a problematic analogy since the relationship between family members is characterized more by love and cohesion than by equality.

The family is reserved a special place as the guarantor of individual needs,[21] functioning as the conveyor of general knowledge and of specific democratic values, in addition to providing financial security. The participation of family members in the decision-making process is described as an important prerequisite for living together in society. The ideal of cooperative family life in Islamic Education is based on the status of the father as the authoritative family figure. Although the new textbooks emphasize various children's rights, these rights mostly refer to receiving Islamic education. The duty of the parents to their children is based on their obligation to grant their children Islamic education[22] even before their obligation to guarantee the child's development as an independent personality.

The new textbooks discuss the significance of government in Palestinian society. The non-governmental independent institutions, function as arbitrators between individual interests and government interests. They also guarantee the fulfillment of social duties, which the government fails to fulfill. In order to stimulate the individual's participation in these institutions, the student is asked to describe the various local non-governmental institutions and to determine their functions.[23]

The goal, a vibrant democracy, is described in detail[24] in an educational unit on National Education. However, within this democracy, "values determine acceptable behavior in a society and are binding on the individual. Whoever digresses from these values will be rebuked and isolated from society".[25] This is in contrast to the traditional perception of democracy where the choice of values is considered a basic right of individuals and groups and is to be freely determined by personal convictions. It is noteworthy that the education to democracy in the textbooks is based on the religious commandment to respect other's opinions and customs and as emanating from religious tolerance.[26]

The evident tension between the commandment for tolerance on the one hand and the sanctions against behavior that does not comply with societies values on the other hand, remains unresolved. The plurality of various groups which make-up Palestinian society, is accepted only within "a unified goal: to serve the fatherland and its citizens."[27]

Like tolerance, the concept of freedom, especially in its collective dimension, is a central theme in the new textbooks. Illustrations in the textbooks show the release of Palestinian prisoners, and a parade marking the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. They emphasize the aspects of national freedom in the face of foreign occupation.[28] Various forms of individual freedom are mentioned as an important factor for the development of society, but national freedom is the primary goal and it is discussed thoroughly and comprehensively, widening the scope by relating to other national liberation movements in the Arab world.[29]

The new textbooks seek to integrate the citizen into these organisms, and to guarantee loyalty to the community. The linking of civil rights to the individual's acceptance of, and commitment to civil duties, reflects the boundaries of individual freedom as preached by the new textbooks. The protection granted to the individual by the government/community depends on the individual's acceptance of his/her duties in society. The collective aspects of freedom and equality are presented through the perspective of the national war against foreign occupation, which is the common national interest that forms the foundation of Palestinian society. The textbooks do not leave any room for political and social differences and disagreements among the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Imperative:

The Nation is a 'Natural' Entity

The national Palestinian narrative is based upon the assertion that there is a Palestinian "uniqueness'[30]which is reflected in Palestinian history and in the Palestinian's struggle to maintain their cultural and religious rights.

An educational unit on "Demographic Geography" is dedicated to the division of peoples into various societies and to the formation of nations. The goal is to explain the "relationship between facts of nature and physical features of people"[31]. In illustrations and tables, certain phenotypic features of individuals, for example the shape of the head and nose, are assigned to certain ancestries (sulala). In this description of the origin of people from different regions of the world, the new textbooks identify a significant difference between Caucasian, Mongolic, and Negro ancestries.[32]

The categorization of people into different "natural' groups is refined through the concept of nationality. However, the textbooks tie together features and ancestry: "People are divided into various species (ajnas), which are characterized by specific physical features".[33] The proximity of ancestry and species, as well as the designation of biological and geographical determinants, ultimately leads to a conclusion that Australia and the Middle East - and therefore the Palestinians - are of Caucasian ancestry.[34] Wavy soft hair and round heads are described as features of Caucasian ancestry, with disregard to available scientific information.[35]

The authors seem to be fully aware that the categorization of peoples into groups of certain phenotypic features is questionable and problematic. Therefore, in the introduction of the educational unit, they state their goal: to immunize the student against racism and discrimination on the basis of ancestry and origin. Various references are made in the textbooks to indicate that despite ancestral differences that affect the physical attributes of people - they all belong to the human species. However, the incoherence between the declared goal and the actual result -- remains.[36]

The special characteristics of the Palestinian nation are described as follows:

"1. Agriculture: 70% of the population of Palestine own farmland.

2. Nationalism: the history (of the Palestinian society) is one of battle and heroism in the struggle against British occupation and Israeli occupation with thousands of martyrs and wounded.

3. Education: the Palestinians have focused throughout their long history on learning and knowledge.

4. Arab Identity (Qawmiya): the flag of the Palestinian national movement is the Arab flag, its hymn is the Arab hymn, and Arab unity is the wish of the Palestinian people.

5. Tolerance: Brotherly love and tolerance between Muslims and Christians prevails in the Palestinian society.

6. Pride in its heritage: the national dress and traditional songs, which have been preserved by the people are proof of their pride in their heritage.

7. Resisting Expulsion and Dispersion: the Palestinian people, expelled by the Israeli occupation of Palestine, were exposed to massacres and forced to leave to the surrounding lands".[37]

The new textbooks are unclear about the distinct Palestinian nation as separate of the Arab nation, since Arab unity is characterized by various dimensions that are all shared by the Palestinians with the other Arabs: geographic unity with the Arab world, common history and the same religion. "There are no natural barriers that hinder the (free) movement and social affiliations between residents of the Arab homelands"[38] states the National Education textbook for the Sixth grade. The textbook quotes the Syrian national poet, Fakhri al-Barudi, on the dimensions of the Arab homeland: "from Damascus to Badghad, from Najd to Yemen, to Egypt and Tetuan".[39]

A primary theme in the new textbooks is positive feelings towards the nation. The binding of Palestinian society to the Arab and Islamic world should strengthen the student's willingness to:

1. "Take pride in Palestinian and Arab societies.

2. Appreciate the importance of Arab unity to ensure the survival of the pan-Arab national as well as its retaliation against foreign provocation.

3. Resist colonial greed in all of its forms.

4. Support values of an independent Palestinian state.

5.Take a strong stand against all reactionary elements".[40]

A graphic illustration in one of the Islamic Education units shows a model of the multi-layered loyalties to which the student has to commit himself: the family, the place of residence, the region, the state, and the Islamic world.[41] This presentation, however, is contrasted by illustrations in other units, which place the Islamic identity above the general Arab and Palestinian identities. In this context, Christian Palestinians, as well as Christian Arabs are not included in the larger Islamic identity and, in fact, in lessons on Christian education such a linkage, as the one between Palestinians/Arabs and Islam - is absent, thereby inevitably estranging the Christian community from the larger Islamic identity.

The geographic territory of the Palestinian nation, according to the textbooks, includes all the territory west of the Jordan River. Cities such as Haifa[42], Jaffa, Acre and Nazareth are listed as Palestinian, disregarding their present location in the state of Israel.[43] In various illustrations, appears the slogan "Jerusalem is ours"[44], disregards the Jewish/Israeli part of it prior to "67. The maps of the region avoid any indication of Israel and suggest the sole existence of the Palestinian state in the territory formerly under British Mandate.[45] The existence of Israel is ignored, despite the PLO's recognition of the State of Israel in the Oslo Agreements.

The new textbooks describe common experiences of sorrow as important binding themes in the life of the Palestinian nation. The British occupation and the British Mandate, along with the consequences of Zionist settlement politics before and after the establishment of the State of Israel, are seen as formative problems of the Palestinian society.

The Palestinian nation constitutes of Muslims and Christians. The lack of reference to any Jewish presence is especially striking in light of the Palestinian claim to a lengthy Palestinian history in the region, since non- Zionist Jewish communities had existed in the Holy Land before the beginning of Zionist immigration in the late 19th Century. The lesson "A Muslim loves his fatherland" describes the relationship between the Palestinian and the Arab identities: "I am a Palestinian Muslim and I love my country Palestine. At the same time, I perceive of all of the Arab and Islamic lands as a part of my great fatherland, which I love and value with all my heart and I aspire to its unity".[46] Christians are not mentioned.

Rather than explaining the various, sometimes contradictory dimensions of Palestinian identity as deriving from a historical development, the new textbooks simply imply that Palestinian society is a "natural' distinct community, and disregard the inherent weaknesses of such a definition. The choice of geographic, cultural, and religious dimensions to describe the unique Palestinian identity is ultimately arbitrary. The definition of the geographic dimension of the Palestinian nation along the boundaries of the British Mandate totally disregarding Israel is explained in as little detail as the exclusion of Jews from Palestinian society.

The Individual and the Nation:

"The noble soul has two goals, death and its grace"[47]

The self-determination of the Palestinian nation as an entity that is constantly threatened by outside forces, is expressed through the obligations and duties of the individual to the community. The themes of "preservation' and "defense' are emphasized in the new textbooks time and again.

Both National and Islamic Education textbooks deal most explicitly with the bonds between the individual and the nation. Defense of the nation is defined not only as a national but also as a religious duty: "Islam commands every Muslim to defend (his land), whenever even an inch of his land is stolen".[48] "Islam views all those who have died defending it, as the most prominent martyrs (shuhada) because the Koran says: "Why should we hesitate to fight if we are driven away from our homes..."[49]

It is interesting to note that this religious duty is attributed by Christian Education textbooks to Christians. The central text of the unit documents the proceedings against Justinius and other Christians, who were decapitated because of their attachment to Christianity.[50] The questions at the conclusion of the lesson stress the martyrdom of the Christians, who "preferred torture, repression, and death to renouncing their faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ."[51] The concept of martyrdom is emphasized in the appeal to sacrifice one's life for a higher ideal.[52]

Although martyrdom is clearly a religious concept, the willingness to make sacrifices is described as a general national obligation. Arabic literature textbooks contain many references to this obligation as a central theme. The educational unit on "The Honorable Martyr," ("Hamza Ibn Abd Al-Muttalib"'- a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad) who sacrificed his life for Islam, seeks to confirm the "honor of martyrdom and martyrs."[53]

Sacrifices for the freedom of the nation are acclaimed in sections such as "Prison Literature' and "The Intifada". Here the goal of the educational unit is respect for the "sacrifices of our prisoners for the sake of freedom and independence."[54] The students are encouraged to follow the lead of those heroes and draw conclusions and analogies for their daily lives, through various questions regarding the life of the martyrs. The choice of the heroic figure to represent the appeal for "shahada" (martyrdom) -- falls on Sheikh Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam, a Syrian in origin who fought the British Mandate until he died in a battle against British police in 1935, disregarding the fact that Al-Qassam is the historical hero of the Islamic Movement (Hamas) who even names its military wing after him ("The Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades") and violently opposes the peace process.

The textbooks encourage children to participate in the Intifada activities. Questions, such as "describe the methods used by the Palestinian people in resisting British colonialism"[55] or, "what steps can be taken against the expropriation of Palestinian territory"[56] contain an inner appeal to join the resistance movement. Sometimes the textbooks present a direct and compelling question: "Asmaa Bint Abu Bakr (the first Khalifa to succeed the prophet Muhammad) was my age during her "Hijra" to Mecca, when she took part in the struggle by supplying the prophet Muhammad and his companion with provisions, water, and information about (his opponents in the tribe of) Quraish. What role can I play in support of the national resistance movement against the forces of occupation and colonization".[57]

The "Hymn of the Intifada" by the author, Abd al-Latif "Aqil which appears in the Arabic Education textbooks, addresses the students in a similar way.[58] The numerous references to children martyrs in the resistance movement against Israeli occupation, is underpinned by an illustration of a youth carrying a Palestinian flag in a confrontation.[59]

The short explanations about "Jihad" are limited to the lessons on Islamic Education, while the religious connotation of the concept of "Shahid" appear in various educational units. A lesson about fasting in the educational unit on the month of Ramadan denotes Ramadan as the month of "great victories in Islamic history", a "month of strength", and of "Jihad". The ultimate proof, obviously being the "renowned Ramadan War of 1973 between the Arabs and Israel".[60]

The appeal to defend the Palestinian nation is a central theme in the new textbooks. Even in Arabic lessons, there are numerous texts and exercises that call upon the students to sacrifice their lives. The concept of a threatened Palestinian nation gives the impression that the students too must fight the present threats and dangers. National defense is perceived not only as a struggle against the occupation and other external threats, but also as a struggle for the preservation of Palestinian traditions and values. In a lesson on Islamic Education, the love of the fatherland and the struggle against colonialism, are both perceived as elements of preservation of the "cleanliness and beauty of the fatherland".[61]

The emphasis on the national Palestinian identity in the new textbooks includes also an appeal to solidify Palestinian "Uniqueness'. The quasi-natural Palestinian self-determination suggests a homogenous community, under permanent threat. Defining certain norms and traditions as "Palestinian" entails a negative disassociation from foreigners, who are perceived as a threat. The new textbooks encourage the individual student to participate in the struggle against threats and dangers to the nation, and to offer his life. The total subordination of the individual to the national community is encouraged by appeals to eleven and twelve-year-old students of the sixth grade, to sacrifice their lives in this struggle.

The Conflict with Israel

The history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a matter of utmost importance due to its implications on Palestinian identity. It is, therefore, most surprising that any information, which could provide the student with fundamental insight about this conflict, is largely missing.

On the one hand the State of Israel is not even mentioned. On the other hand there are many references to the diverse problems of the Palestinian society, which are attributed to the conflict but without explaining how the problems are related to Israel.[62]

Even in discussion of colonialism and occupation as a threat to the Palestinians, the textbooks refrain from detailing Israel's role. The conflicts during the British Mandate, as well as the conflict with the Zionist pre-state settlers and later with the Israeli State, are summarized within the discussion about external threats and provocation.[63]

No clear definition of the boundaries of Palestinian self-determination is provided nor any boundaries of the prospective Palestinian state, leaving it to the student to determine.

The Oslo accords are mentioned in a most marginal way, in a side reference to " the largest part of the troops of the liberation army (that) returned to Palestine in September 1993 after the signing of the Oslo agreement between the PLO and Israel".[64] There is no discussion of these agreements; neither of their importance, nor of the problems they entail for the Palestinians in the territories. A general criticism of the occupation and of colonialism replaces a vital, but missing, discussion of the problems of the Palestinian society that are related to Israel.

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism

The essence of Islamic culture and the doctrines of Islam are taught in the new textbooks in various educational units.[65] Multiple references to Islamic values and ideals are especially found in history and Arabic language textbooks. The textbooks emphasize through diverse references the coexistence of Islam and Christianity in Palestinian society. Christianity is recognized by quotes from the Koran, on the life of Mary, as well as by references to various churches in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Fundamental Christian ideals are presented through the tales about the miracles of Jesus. Christian Education textbooks refer to the Ten Commandments as the most important principles that should guide the actions of the individual. The textbooks also refer to the tolerance of the Muslims towards Christians after the conquering of Jerusalem by Islam.[66]

Jews are mentioned in the new books in fewer references. These references specifically relate to the attempts by the prophet Muhammad to increase the number of his Jewish followers, and the reaction of the Jews who had settled in the areas of Madina and the oasis of Khaibar in the pre-Islamic period.[67] The unwillingness of the majority of the Jews to convert to Islam is depicted in a story about a small group of Jews from Madina, who did convert to Islam.[68]

Another reference to the Jews appears in a narration of Islamic victories, in which the Jews are described as acting against Muhammad.[69] However, despite their disloyalty, the Jews were guaranteed freedom of religion in the Prophet's known Decree of Al-Madina.[70] This decree is presented in the new textbooks as "one of the first documents in the world to guarantee human rights regardless of nationality, religion, and beliefs."[71] This impression of a well-meaning attitude towards the Jews is clearly contradicted by the stereotyping of Jews throughout the texts.

There are suggestive remarks and questions that relate to the problematic behavior of the Jews. A deliberately stated objective of one educational unit is to "compare the positions of Muslims and Jews on complying with contracts and agreements".[72] The new textbooks also include various references to the resistance of the Jews to Muhammad's armies and their continuous refusal to convert to Islam.

In the interpretation of "Surat Al-Hajar", the expulsion of the Jews by the Prophet Muhammad is described as a punishment from Allah to "those who broke agreements with the Prophet of Allah". Herein the Jews are described as breaching the agreement.[73] In another reference in the new textbooks the students are reminded of the Prophet's instructions to his followers to learn the language of the Jews in order to be able to avoid their cunning, thereby, strengthening the Jewish stereotype. .[74] In a description of the various communities in Al- Madina, and their main characteristics the Jews who converted to Islam, are also mentioned. However their sole characterization is "those who have a large economic influence in Al-Madina..."[75]

Christian Education textbooks seldom refer to the relationship between the early Christians and the Jews. The role of Judas in the capture of Jesus by the Romans is told in the stories about the life of Jesus. The known questions - as they appear in the Gospel of Luke - "Judas, betrayest thou the son of man with a kiss?" - provide a further opportunity to portray the Jewish Judas as a symbol of the enmity of the Jews towards the Christians.[76]

The description of the sentencing of Jesus by Pilate is also problematic. An illustration that describes the story as told in the Gospel of Luke describes the Jews as the judges of Jesus. Pilate poses to the Jews, the question whether Jesus or the convicted thief, Barabbas, should be pardoned and is answered with clear manifestation against Jesus.[77]

While the historical relationships between Muslims and Christians on the one hand, and Jews on the other hand are described as being full of conflicts, the present relationships of the Muslims and Christians are presented in a positive way.

The complete absence of any reference to the Jewish population of Israel and its ties to the region - is a poke in the eye. Judaism and its followers appear in the new textbooks only in the historical context. The references to the passages in the Koran and in the Bible that add to resentment towards the Jews on the basis of Islamic and Christian history - appear to be intentional, indicating the problematic behavior of Jews in present times.

The new Palestinian curriculum is marked by apparent problems, most of which emanate from its fundamental goal: to maintain the claim of a unique and homogenous Palestinian nation as the legitimate basis for the creation of a Palestinian state. The curriculum focuses on themes that are of vital importance to the Palestinian society: the obligation of the individual to the community, his loyalty to his parents, family, school and religious community which sets the stage for the highest degree of loyalty to the Palestinian nation - the willingness to sacrifice his life through martyrdom.

The fulfillment of these obligations and duties is the guarantee to freedom. However, freedom is primarily from external occupation rather than from domestic repression.

The subordination of the individual to the Palestinian community/nation and his obligations as a citizen constitute the basis for demands to self-sacrifice and martyrdom for the nation's sake. The definition of the Palestinian nation as a "natural' entity is based on separation from other communities who are perceived as different and therefore not belonging to the Palestinian collective. The threat, which appears in the textbooks as a vague external enemy, becomes immanent and existential: Israel.

Despite the evident reduction in anti-Semitic references, compared to the old textbooks, the history of the relationship between Muslims, Christians, and Jews, in the new textbooks strengthen classical stereotypes of Jews in both Islamic and Christian cultures. The linkage of present conflicts with ancient disputes of the time of Jesus or Muhammad - implies that nothing has really changed.

The new textbooks disregard internal problems of the Palestinian society and concentrate totally on external problems. The internal problems are swept underneath the suggestion of a unique homogenous nation, which must defend itself against external threats. Rather than conveying values and norms, which could deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the problems within Palestinian society - the new textbooks focus on what is needed to successfully confront the external threats. The blatant disregard of the Oslo agreements, appears to imply the continuation of the conflict.

*Goetz Nordbruch is a Research Fellow with MEMRI.


1) Mathematics, 1st Grade, Part 1, 2000/2001

2) Mathematics, 6th Grade, Part 1, 2000/200

3) General Sciences, 1st Grade, 2000/2001

4) General Sciences, 6th Grade, 2000/2001

5) Technology, 6th Grade, 2000/2001

6) Civic Education, 1st Grade, 2000/2001

7) Civic Education, 6th Grade, 2000/2001

8) Our Beautiful Language, 6th Grade, Part I, 2000/2001

9) History of the Arabs and the Muslims, 6th Grade, 2000/2001

10) Principals of Human Geography, 6th Grade, 2000/2001

11) Arabic Calligraphy Workbook, 1st Grade, 2000/2001

12) English for Palestine, Pupil's book 1st Grade, Trial edition 2000

13) English for Palestine, Workbook 1st Grade, Trial edition 2000

14) Islamic Education, 1st Grade, Part 1, 2000/2001

15) Islamic Education, 6th Grade, Part 1, 2000/2001

16) Reading and Recitation (Koran), 6th Grade, 2000/2001

17) Christian Religious Education, 1st Grade, 2000/2001

18) Christian Religious Education, 6th Grade, 2000/2001

19) National Education, 1st Grade, 2000/2001

20) National Education, 6th Grade, 2000/2001

21) "First Palestinian Curriculum Plan", Palestinian Authority, Ministry of Education, Ramallah, 1998

[1] Palestinian Curriculum Development Center (PCDC) (1998): First Palestinian Curriculum Plan, Ramallah, p.7.

[2] See Al-Ayyam, 9/2/2000, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 8/16/00.For reaction in the international press see The Washington Post, 9/3/00 and The New York Times, 9/13/00.

[3] About the historical background and the organizational framework of the curriculum project See: Palestinian Curriculum Development Center (1996): The First Palestinian Curriculum Plan for General Education. A Comprehensive Plan (arab). Ramallah and Palestinian Curriculum Development Center (1998): First Palestinian Curriculum Plan, Ramallah.

[4] For an evaluation of the curriculum See: Palestinian Curriculum Development Center (1996), p. 175ff.

[5] PCDC (1998): First Palestinian Curriculum Plan, Ramallah, p. 1.

[6] Ministry of Education, First Palestinian Curriculum Plan, 1998, p. 9.

[7] National Education, First Grade, Part One, 2000, p. 8.

[8] Examples of non-gender specific references can be found in the schoolbook, Technology, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 2 and p. 123, and in the schoolbook, Civil Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 9.

[9] Civil Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 17.

[10] Quoting Al-Bukhari's codex, quoting the Prophet Muhammad -- "The man is a shepherd in his family and responsible for them and the woman is a shepherdess in her husbands home and responsible for them".

[11] Civil Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 2.

[12] History of Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 34.

[13] History of Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 19 and 21, Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 88.

[14] The Koran, Sura 34, Verse 4. Curzon Press, London, 1991 Edition, p.78.

[15] National Education, First Grade, Part One, 2000, p. 18.

[16] Islamic Education, Part One, First Grade, pp. 70-71. Civil Education, First Grade, 2000, p. 18. National Education, First Grade, Part One, 2000, p. 17.

[17] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 79-80.

[18] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 68.

[19] Civil Education, First Grade, 2000, p. 9.

[20] Civil Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, Introduction.

[21] Civil Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 16.

[22] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 60.

[23] Civil Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 38.

[24] Civil Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, Introduction.

[25] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 66.

[26] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 71.

[27] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 72.

[28] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 73.

[29] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 73-75.

[30] PCDC (1978) First Palestinian Curriculum Plan, Ramallah, p.7.

[31] Characteristics of the Geography of the Population, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 10.

[32] Characteristics of the Geography of the Population, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 13.

[33] Characteristics of the Geography of the Population, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 14.

[34] Characteristics of the Geography of the Population, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 16f.

[35] Characteristics of the Geography of the Population, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 13.

[36] Principals of Human Geography, Sixth Grade, 2000, p.10-11, 14-15.

[37] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 13.

[38] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 6.

[39] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p.5.

[40] National Education , Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 3.

[41] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 69.

[42] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p.8.

[43] Our Beautiful Language, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 109, 120-121.

[44] National Education, First Grade, 2000, p. 24. For example Jerusalem is referred to as the capital in an excerpt from the Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1998, see: National Education, Sixth Grade 2000, p. 32.

[45] General Science, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 81, National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 42 and Characteristics of the Geography of Population, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 53. The reference to the disputed borders is not found in the schoolbooks, but was made by the representatives of the government of Israel in Parliamentary inquiries concerning the maps.

[46] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 67-68.

[47] Our Beautiful Language, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 47. A line from a poem by the author Abd Al-Rahim Mahmoud is illustrated by a painting showing a battle of Jihad under the banner of Islam against, presumably, infidels.

[48] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 67.

[49] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 68. (al-Baqrah, 246).

[50] Christian Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 32-34.

[51] Christian Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 31.

[52] In contrast to the concept of "Shahid" in Islamic and national lessons, the principle of martyrdom as presented in the Christian Education unit does not contain any specific obligation to the nation, rather it relates to keeping faith in Christ. In the tales about martyrs in early Christianity, Christian martyrs appear as passive victims, which does not befit the Islamic notion of martyrdom through active resistance and "Jihad".

[53] Our Beautiful Language, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 46.

[54] Our Beautiful Language, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 122.

[55] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 15.

[56] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 68.

[57] History of the Arabs and the Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 34.

[58] Our Beautiful Language, 2000, p. 130-132.

[59] Our Beautiful Language, 2000, p. 133.

[60] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 33.

[61] Islamic Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 68.

[62] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 15-17.

[63] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 3.

[64] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 23.

[65] PCDC (1998): First Palestinian Curriculum Plan, Ramallah, p. 9.

[66] National Education, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 71.

[67] The History of Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 20.

[68] The reference to Surat Al-Saff is important, since the Jews are portrayed as denying Muhhamad's prophethood . Reading The Koran, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 26-27.

[69] The History of Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 42.

[70] The History of Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 37.

[71] The History of Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 38.

[72] The History of Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 24.

[73] Read the Koran, Sixth Grade, p. 79.

[74] History of the Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 133.

[75] History of the Arabs and Muslims, Sixth Grade, 2000, p. 37-38.

[76] Christian Education, First Grade, 2000, p. 69-70.

[77] Christian Education, First Grade, 2000, p. 73-74.

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