Why Britain's anti-Zionist "mandarins" are grinning

A new report on hate education in Israel and the Palestinian territories lends almost nothing to the long-standing debate on the matter

Hate in the barrel of a gun
The Commentator
On 8 February 2013 16:15

For many years, the British Foreign Office has been insisting that incitement and hate education is not a problem in the Palestinian Territories. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have quietly been indoctrinating their children to hate both Jews and Israel. They have done this with little to no push-back from the international community, and certainly none from the UK.

As a result, a culture of hate has wormed its way into the fibre of Palestinian society. Incitement is all-pervading in Palestinian school textbooks, on televisions programmes and at cultural events and sporting events. Plenty of examples can be found through simple and quick Google searches. But it remains the prerogative of the British government to ignore these facts because it suits the presumptive end goal: a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority.

But the end, we're afraid, does not justify the means. The Foreign Office's continued denial has led to academic groups having to present entire reports documenting the subject. Still, nothing has been done. Members of Parliament have written letters, asked questions and sought meetings. Still, nothing has been done. Watchdogs have obtained clear evidence of incitement, but facts are ignored and still, nothing has been done.

In yet another example of the arrogant ‘we know best’ attitude that prevails in the Foreign Office, leaked emails from officials showed the ‘v large pinch of salt’ with which they took this evidence of hate education and incitement. It seems that in seeking a 'partner for peace', Britain is willing to ignore the 'peace' part of the equation.

In 2009 a study began on how Israeli and Palestinian schoolbooks portray either country. The report was initiated by the left-leaning Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land and was funded by the US State Department to the tune of half a million dollars – US taxpayer dollars we might add.

Four years in the making, it became the holy grail of academic studies on incitement for the British Foreign Office. While they refused to give any credibility to the mountains of evidence being presented to them from other sources, they would constantly refer to the ‘soon to be released State Department report’.

This week the report was finally released.

But, already, some members of the study’s Scientific Advisory Panel have refused to endorse the study and the State Department itself has made clear that its provision of an initial grant for the report does not imply support for its methodology or findings. Other scholars and professionals have also come out criticising the study’s methodology and execution.

Clearly, the report was well worth waiting for, and well worth the half a million bucks.

An initial reading of the report has left us in agreement with its detractors. There were moments reading it when one's face quite literally itched in frustration.

The 57-page report looked at Israeli state and Israeli independent ultra-orthodox (UO) textbooks, alongside Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks. It is long, wending and snooze-inducing, but in a nutshell it found that textbooks in all three categories could do more to peacefully portray the ‘other side’. Israeli state school books were however found to be more positive than both Israeli UO and PA books. 

These findings are hardly ground-breaking, perhaps both sides could improve. But that is not the major issue, it is the suggestion that there is room to compare the Israeli educational system with that of the PA that is seriously wrong-headed.

The report fails to analyse the PA Ministry of Religious Affairs’ textbooks, Islamic religious textbooks which one would argue are the equivalent of the UO books. Meanwhile UO textbooks are studied in great detail. It is contended, that when it comes to the question of ‘self-criticism’ in textbooks, there is no significant difference between Israeli UO books and those of the PA system. 

But the unofficial UO system represents only a small minority in Israel, constituting just eight percent of students. It does not represent the Israeli state education system. Nonetheless, the authors of the report seem at ease depending on UO findings as a way to bridge the gap between Israeli and Palestinian educational systems.

The researchers looked at maps and photographic depictions in textbooks. It came down hard on both sides for failing to acknowledge the existence of the other entity. Some Israeli books failed to show the ‘green line’ that marks the border between the West Bank and pre-1967 Israel/Israel proper, while Palestinian books depict both Israel proper and the territories as ‘Palestine’.

To the untrained eye, these may seem equally inflammatory, but it should be noted that Palestinian maps have a duty to show Israel as a clearly defined state. Asking Israel to present maps that show a state of Palestine is arguably impossible, given the fact that there are no agreed borders, and technically there is not yet a State of Palestine.

Historical events in all three sets of textbooks were also analysed. Examples from Israeli text books of pogroms or terrorist attacks against Jews and Israelis were used in tandem with extracts from PA textbooks declaring that Zionism and Israel’s existence are illegitimate.

Let’s be clear, there is no moral equivalence here. Israel is a fully fledged democracy with the rule of law and a self-funded education system. Conversely, the PA is in its seventh year of a four year term with no hopes of elections any time soon. It also has a near total reliance on international aid donations.  

A seemingly pre-conceived insistence on holding both sides accountable prejudges the findings, creating an inherently flawed methodology rendering the report quite useless. According to the authors, Palestinians are at an earlier stage of nation building, they are the ‘weaker of the two adversaries’ and they ‘sustain more hardships’. Apparently, this all serves to explain away the hate education emanating from their textbooks.

Self-styled peacemakers must stop giving the Palestinians a free ride on these issues. While Israel should be doing more to stem the tide of settlements and lay the foundations for peace, the Palestinians must act to educate their children for peace, rather than for war. The problem of hate education is deeply entrenched and we should stop being afraid to say it. 

In that respect, this report has failed.  It is moral relativism of the worst kind. No doubt the British Foreign Office will be jumping for joy.

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