Although Palestinian incitement to murder and maim Israelis is often in the news, its chilling effect on peace efforts does not yet seem to have registered among many in the pro-Arab, “pro-peace” camps around the world.
Even the statues honoring murderous Palestinian terrorists recently erected by the Palestinian Authority have made no difference – except on the young impressionable minds and hearts of Arab children in the PA areas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently issued a short video seeking to make this point directly and succinctly.
“Imagine a seven-year-old Palestinian girl named Fatima,” says Netanyahu in the video, “walking with her mother to school. They pass a statue erected this past June by the Palestinian Authority, and young Fatima asks, ‘Mommy, who’s that?’ Her mother answers, ‘That’s Khaled Nazzal. He planned the murder of 22 Israeli school children and four grown-ups [in Maalot in 1974].’ ”
“On their walk back,” the prime minister continues, “they pass another statue, erected by the PA last year, and Fatima asks again, ‘Mommy, who’s that?’ ‘Oh, that’s Abu Sukkar,’ her mother explains. ‘He murdered 15 Israelis [in the refrigerator bomb attack in Zion Square in 1975].’ ”
Netanyahu has one more example: “As they near their home, Fatima peers up at another statue and says, ‘Mommy, who’s that one?’ Her mother says, ‘That’s a woman named Dalal Mughrabi, who masterminded and perpetrated an attack that killed 37 Israelis on a bus [the Coastal Road massacre in 1978].’ ”
His story over, Netanyahu gets serious: “Fatima doesn’t deserve to be brainwashed with this kind of hatred. No child does. Children should be taught to love and respect, not to hate and kill. There are so many champions of peace to dedicate statues to. Why do the Palestinians consistently choose to honor mass-murderers?”
(Just for the record, the above-mentioned Abu Sukkar was released from prison in 2003 as an Israeli gesture to Yasir Arafat. Shortly afterward, his call for the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers at a Bethlehem rally was widely reported in the PA media. He later served as Arafat’s adviser on prisoner affairs.)
An important step has been taken in an attempt to diffuse PA brainwashing and hatred – one that will at the same time lead to more effective Arab integration into Israeli society. As of this school year, Israeli textbooks are being given out free of charge to Arab schools in the capital, replacing books written and published by the Palestinian Authority.
Out of 261,000 students attending Jerusalem schools this year, nearly a third are Arabs studying in eastern Jerusalem. Most of them study with textbooks replete with incitement against Israel.
Israel originally sought to install its own curriculum, adapted to the Arab sector, in the city’s Arab schools, but with little success. Instead, Jordanian textbooks continued to be used. This was because Jordan had controlled eastern Jerusalem – and all of Judea and Samaria – since the end of Israel’s War of Independence in 1949, without international backing or recognition.
When the PA was established, in 1993, it introduced its own books – often based on themes such as the Right of Return, i.e., the “right” of Arabs in Palestinian refugee camps around the Arab world to return as soon as possible to their great-grandparents’ and great-great-grandparents’ homes in Israeli towns such as Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, Be’er Sheva, and even Jerusalem. This “right” is partly based on the fact that Palestinian refugees are granted that status by the United Nations on an infinitely more liberal basis than any other refugee group in the world.
The textbooks also often have maps of the Middle East in which Israel does not appear; “Palestine” is marked in its place.
Doesn’t Israel supervise the books used in its own schools? To some extent, yes, but often the “censored” books were not printed in time for the new school year – leading parents to rush to purchase the PA books or otherwise acquire them directly from the source. On the other hand, the Israeli-curriculum books often were only available at a higher price than the PA books, further encouraging parents to seek out the latter.
Those who cared about the issue blamed the Ministry of Education for allowing this state of affairs to continue – and now, better late than never, this body is has finally taken action with the distribution of the free textbooks to Arab schools.
Some Arab school principals expressed their satisfaction with the new arrangement on two levels. For one thing, the parents will not have to spend hundreds of shekels per child per year on textbooks. On another level, as a principal from the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina said, “We are interested in a different curriculum, one that is more relevant than the PA program. If we discount the politics, we see that the parents are interested in this curriculum.”
He was also encouraged by another aspect – an aspect that might actually be discouraging to those on both sides who fear assimilation: “The Israeli curriculum will help the students deal with reality, and it will enable them to communicate with the Israeli side and build ties.”
Some of the groups that promote the free distribution of books ignore this aspect, and do not even emphasize the hoped-for improvement in decreasing incitement. Their announcements express only their universalist, liberal belief that “text books must be free for all children in the State of Israel.”
It is to be hoped that Arab children in Israel will no longer grow up with anti-Israel incitement in their mother’s milk, and will no longer seek to retain their national identity at the expense of the Jewish Israel’s ethnic and religious identity. They must further remember that their rights in the Holy Land, as stated by the Balfour Declaration, are limited to individual civil rights – but do not extend into the national, political sphere.
In closing, we wish to invite our readers both in Israel and abroad to make a special effort to visit Jerusalem during the upcoming holiday season and enjoy its beauty and growth. For information on KeepJerusalem’s upcoming tours and events, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.