JERUSALEM – Authors of Palestinian school textbooks took small steps toward softening their portrayal of Israel under the rule of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — but progress was quickly reversed after the militant Islamic Hamas took over, according to a report released on Tuesday.
The report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education and by the American Jewish Committee looked at 120 textbooks published from 2000 to 2006.
The report reflects charges by Israelis that Palestinian textbooks are not in keeping with a peace process that started in 1993. Palestinians counter that Jewish Israeli students are not taught about Palestinian suffering.
Arnon Groiss, author of the report, said most of the textbooks from grade one to 10, issued under the late Yasser Arafat's rule, don't acknowledge any historical Jewish presence in ancient Palestine.
But in 11th grade books issued under the moderate Abbas, there are two maps showing Israel within the "Green Line" — the cease-fire line before the 1967 war, when Israel captured east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The textbooks issued under Abbas' rule also include a discussion of Jewish history in the region, the report said.
However, in 2006, the militant Islamic Hamas won an election and issued a 12th grade textbook that dramatically reversed those steps, the report said.
Mixed with anti-Semitic sentiments in the textbooks are genuine Palestinian complaints against Israel, including settlement building in areas Palestinians want for their future state, and the Israeli separation barrier, which swallows swathes of West Bank land.
Jamal Zakkout, spokesman for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said Palestinian textbooks should emphasize connection to the land and "a call for tolerance."
However, Zakkout said the main cause of Palestinian ill will toward Israel is not textbooks, but Israel's many checkpoints in the West Bank, the separation barrier and military operations in Palestinian towns.
Hamas officials were not available for comment Tuesday.