It emerges that the Israeli Ministry of Education is outraged that its textbooks were compared with Palestinian textbooks, in a US State Dept-funded study — and an Israeli Education Ministry official has said this is “libel”.
The Israeli Education Ministry said in a statement: the “attempt to create parallel between Israeli + Palestinian education systems is without any foundation… and has no basis in reality”. [This sounds like the high-strung effort to parallel the argument that there’s “no moral equivalence” between Israelis and Palestinians.]
The Education Ministry statement added that “this is a ”study’ the conclusions of which were known in advance … The Education Ministry chose not to cooperate with those…interested in maliciously slandering the Israeli educational system + the State of Israel”…
This study of how Israeli + Palestinian schoolbooks treat the “other” was funded by the U.S. State Department [over $500,000] , and took 3 years. The first organizational meeting was held in August 2009 and it was basically completed in May 2012. The time since then was spent on translating, researchers told journalists at a press conference in Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim on Monday morning. But, there was also fighting, and preparation for the fight that went public just a few days ago, in advance of the report’s launch today.
And, yes, the researchers said at the Jerusalem press conference/launch, the release of the study was delayed until after both the U.S. + the Israeli elections [the U.S. elections??? Somehow, this could hardly have been a major consideration…]
Dr. Bruce Wexler, American [+ Jewish] expert researcher on 3-year study of Israeli + Palestinian school books, revealed that he is having an outraged “Justice Goldstone” moment, as the prepared wave of criticism crested.
[South Africa’s Justice Richard Goldstone was named to head the UN Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza [27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. But, under the organized criticism of his role in that report, he said he was not going to attend his own grandson’s bar mitzvah, to avoid bringing the controversy there… He later recanted, a bit, but that was a personal stance and did not affect the fact that the report he worked on is still on file, intact, at the UN. Goldstone was on assignment for the UN, while Wexler was working in his personal capacity on a study funded by the U.S. State Department, on who Wexler does not depend, which probably explains at least in part why Wexler has been more candidly outspoken…]
Wexler said at the press conference Monday morning in Jerusalem [with emotion] that the statement of the Israeli Minister of Education “is false at every level..I did not come into this study to attack Israel”. He spoke of his loyalty to Israel, and claimed that when the results were conveyed to the two sides, “The Israeli Minister of Education became very aggressive. Frankly, he is a product of these text books …That means he [the Israeli Minister of Education] cannot see beyond the blinders that have come into his mind as a result of the national narrative…and, by the way , people like that [with blinders] “are poor and dangerous national leaders”.
Wexler, a Professor Emeritus at Yale University, said it seems “the Israeli Government would rather hold on to a propaganda claim they know to be false, than to get change in Palestinian books”…
UPDATE: Haaretz reported on 5 February that “Professor Bruce Wexler, the Yale University psychiatry professor who designed the comparative study of Israeli and Palestinian school textbooks, has blasted the ‘blind spots’ of Israeli Education Minister Gideon Saar, saying: ‘National leaders who have those blind spots make for poor and dangerous national leaders’… Israel, which has made the condemnation of the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish content of Palestinian textbooks a focal point of its hasbara efforts against the Palestinian Authority, lambasted the report as biased, unscientific and unprofessional”, This is published here.
Wexler said that this study on Israeli-Palest textbooks had two recommendations: 1) both sides should provide more info about the “other’s” culture, religion, history, and 2) the two ministries should conduct a joint evaluation of study + their own textbooks.
Professor Daniel Bar-Tal [Tel Aviv University] said that while Israeli textbooks do have some stories about individual warm, friendly personal relations, they do NOT on collective level. Prof Bar-Tal: “We must take into account what is written in textbooks is seen as complete truth”; this “imprints” children’s attitudes early.
The study’s presentation notes that “School textbooks are public statements by governments”.
Researchers told journalists in Jerusalem this morning that Oslo + Taba agreements both included signed statements to deal with text books. Professor Sami Adwan [Bethlehem University] told one questioner at the press conference this morning to “Ask parties why, despite agreement on trilateral US-Israeli-Palestinian Committee to look at school books, this trilateral committee has never met”.
The Israeli-Palestinian book researchers flatly denied claim [raised by some attending the press conference] that Palestinian school books contain “calls to go murder Jews” or “praise of those who murder Jews”.
The study said that “Dehumanization + demonization of the ‘other’ is rare is both Israeli + Palestinian schoolbooks”.
Professor Sami Adwan [Bethlehem Univrsity] said at the press conference in Jerusalem: “we have to learn to live with 2 sets of terms for holy sites, 2 diff names”; he noted that this happens elsewhere in the world, as well.
Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad said on Monday that the study “confirms “Palestinian textbooks do not contain any form of blatant incitement..based on contempt for the ‘other’… The Government of Israel should “desist from attempts to detract from the objectivity and professionalism of the study.”
The Palestinian Government appears to be very interested in meeting with the Israeli side to discuss this matter .. will it be a way to ease into the resumption of negotiations?
It would be very interesting to see what would happen if the Palestinian Government were to host a press conference on this study, with the same speakers…
What other media wrote: