The Attitude to the "Other" and to Peace in Palestinian and Israeli Schoolbooks

By Dr. Arnon Groiss July 2018


This paper is based on 18-year research work done by the author on the attitude to the "other" and to peace in schoolbooks of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and on similar research work done by the author and others on Israeli schoolbooks. The author does not claim to have seen all Israeli schoolbooks, since this is a formidable task and also costly - due to the enormous numbers involved, but he read quite a few of them personally and saw the source material quoted in the reports published by Amos Yovel in 2000 and 2002, by Yael Teff-Seker in 2012, the one accomplished in 2013 under the auspices of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) with the financial support of the US State Department, and the new research issued in May 2017 by IMPACT-SE on Ultra-Orthodox textbooks. Other studies done by scholars like Eli Podeh and Ruth Firer of the Hebrew University, and those one initiated by the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) were also consulted. All in all, hundreds of books of various subjects and editions have been reviewed throughout these years and a fair amount of data has been collected, which provides an ample basis for comparison between the Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks, as far as their attitude to the "other" and to peace is concerned. The source material includes the most recently published PA schoolbooks, as well as Israeli schoolbooks published after 2000 and are still in use in Israeli schools. Some of the quotations from these latter books, presented in this paper, were not available to the author directly and were therefore taken from the reports mentioned above.

One should keep in mind the huge difference existing between the PA and Israel regarding the publication and use of their respective schoolbooks: All streams of Palestinian education - state schools in the PA-controlled West Bank and the Hamascontrolled Gaza Strip, private schools, including those belonging to the various Christian churches and the Islamic charity foundations, UNRWA schools, etc. use the same books produced by the PA Ministry of Education's Curricula Center in Ramallah. Non-governmental schools might use additional books, but not at the expense of these ones. In Israel, on the other hand, schoolbook publishing is a private enterprise and each school has the option to choose its books out of the large variety on the market. The Israeli Ministry of Education approves every year a list of books, but not all schools follow it to the letter. The Israeli school system includes state secular and state religious schools under the jurisdiction of the Ministry, the independent ultra-religious schools that belong to the various Hasidic and non-Hasidic streams, each with its own curriculum, and a few other independent schools belonging to the Christian churches and to various organizations with their separate curricula such as the Anthroposophic Movement, the Arab-Jewish schools of the "Hand-inHand" organization, etc. The curriculum of Arab state schools in Israel has not been dealt with in this paper, for it is not part of the portrayal of the Arab-Palestinian "other" to Jewish students.