Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a long time peace activist and an academic, has just got her book "Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education" published by I.B. Tauris. Part of the publisher's description of the book: "She analyzes the presentation of images, maps, layouts and use of language in History, Geography and Civic Studies textbooks, and reveals how the books might be seen to marginalize Palestinians, legitimize Israeli military action and reinforce Jewish-Israeli territorial identity.
This conclusion isn't exactly news. Each one of us who has been through the Israeli educational system has experienced this. But for someone like me, whose indoctrination had taken place in the mid-fifties and the 60's, it's of great interest to see what has happened later on. I haven't read the book yet, but my strong impression is that for the most part things have gotten much worse.
I'd also like to note the irony of this, in light of the constant complaint that it's the Palestinian educational system that's based on entrenched racism, which is the cause for the alleged deep hatred Palestinians harbor towards anything and everything Jewish.
Below you'll find a short interview with Nurit Peled-Elhanan, as well as an article by Omar Barghouthi describing what the book is about.
Israeli textbooks portray Palestinians as 'terrorists, refugees, and primitive farmers'
Aug 08, 2011 11:28 pm | Omar Barghouti
This insightful research by respected Israeli scholar Nurit Peled-Elhanan will confirm what Palestinian researchers have always known: Israel's prevailing culture of racism, fundamentalism, support for war crimes, and apartheid against Palestinians is mainly a product of an educational system that indoctrinates Jewish-Israeli students with militant colonial values and extreme racism that turn them into "monsters" once in uniform.
Guardian: Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias "Nurit Peled-Elhanan of Hebrew University says textbooks depict Palestinians as 'terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers"
"Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism– but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service.
"People don't really know what their children are reading in textbooks," she said. "One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behaviour of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering. People ask how can these nice Jewish boys and girls become monsters once they put on a uniform. I think the major reason for that is education. So I wanted to see how school books represent Palestinians."
In "hundreds and hundreds" of books, she claims she did not find one photograph that depicted an Arab as a "normal person". The most important finding in the books she studied – all authorised by the ministry of education – concerned the historical narrative of events in 1948, the year in which Israel fought a war to establish itself as an independent state, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the ensuing conflict.
The killing of Palestinians is depicted as something that was necessary for the survival of the nascent Jewish state, she claims."
Those who see this as an aberration of Zionism seem to lack sufficient understanding of what Zionism really is and the central role it plays as a patently racist ideology in justifying ethnic cleansing and racist domination over Palestinians.
One should not wonder then why, at the height of the Israeli massacre in Gaza 2008-09, a Tel Aviv University poll (reported in the Jerusalem Post, Jan. '09) of Jewish-Israeli opinion showed a shocking 94% support for the assault, despite full knowledge of the enormous suffering this Israeli aggression had inflicted upon the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the Gaza "prison camp" and of the massive destruction of their civilian infrastructure.
As in every other colonial system, only sustained and effective pressure from within as well as from without can put an end to this downward spiral of criminality, impunity and unspoken racism. More BDS is needed to end Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Other than the obvious benefits to indigenous Palestinians, suffering more than six decades of this three-tiered system of Israeli oppression, an end to this system of oppression may well transform most Israelis from colonial "monsters" into normal humans.
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Sarah Anne Minkin
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
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