A new textbook is teaching Palestinian kids to hate Israel and think of fighting Israelis as a holy Islamic duty, according to an Israeli media monitoring group.
The textbooks, published in December and distributed in the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian students, deny Israel's existence and teach kids — many as young as 11 — that Palestinians are in the midst of a holy war between Muslims and their enemies, according to a Palestinian Media Watch report entitled "From nationalist battle to religious conflict."
The Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education said it was reviewing the issue, the organization reported..
"The books don't allow for a Palestinian child to accept Israel as a neighbor," Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch's director, told the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) of the United Nations. "When you define the conflict as a religious war you are no longer fighting for your own national identity or territory but for Islamic destiny. You have to accept either Islam or Israel," Marcus said.
"I would be happy if the books talked about a national struggle to get as many rights as possible. But to package it as an everlasting war is to generate years of conflict. It's child abuse against their own kids," he said.
Palestinian Media Watch translated various segments of the new Palestinian textbooks, according to the IRIN report. Lines translated from the "Arabic Language, Literature and Criticism" textbook read:
"Palestine's war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, their lands, and their houses, and established the state of Israel."
The IRIN translation of the "Islamic Education" textbook also contains the lines:
"The Ribat for Allah is one of the actions related to Jihad for Allah, it means: Being found in areas where there is a struggle between Muslims and their enemies … the endurance of Palestine's people on their land … is one of the greatest of the Ribat and they are worthy of a great reward from Allah."
The media watch group also accuses the Palestinian textbook authors of denying the existence of Israel in the "Physical Geography and Human Geography" book. The group's report says: "The size of the 'state' of 'Palestine' is said to be more than 10,000 square kilometers, which is the figure one gets only if Israel did not exist, as the full West Bank and Gaza Strip total only 6,220 square kilometers.
"Maps of the region likewise teach children to visualize a world without Israel, as Israel does not exist on any map and its area is marked as 'Palestine.'"
Dr. Mohammed al-Subu, acting head of Palestinian curriculum development, said, "The problem is there is no trust between the two sides. The P.M.W. is talking about two or three pages referring to historical Palestine and what happened in 1948, when some of the Palestinians became refugees. It doesn't refer to recent history."
He said the textbooks for pupils in grades one to 11 had all been vetted and deemed acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.
"Now we are discussing the grade 12 textbooks word by word and if there is anything improper, we will fix it," he said.
The Palestinian Authority began educating Palestinian children in 1994. Prior to the Palestinian curriculum, Gaza children used Egyptian textbooks and West Bank children used Jordanian textbooks.
Marcus criticized the Belgian government, which is credited in the front of the new textbooks for helping to finance the publications.
"It's a shame that Belgium is funding this stuff because it is not helping the Palestinians. The children read it and just see Israelis as monsters but we don't want to harm them at all," he said.
Pierre Gillon, deputy head of mission at the Belgian Embassy in Tel Aviv, said the Belgian government was investigating.
"We are conducting some preliminary analysis into the reports about the schoolbooks," he said.
Israeli schoolbooks have also proved controversial. Last year, Israeli education minister Yuli Tamir revealed that maps in some Israeli textbooks showed land Israel conquered in the 1967 war — the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights — as part of Israel even though they are deemed "occupied territory" under international law.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) contributed information for this report.