Following Friday night’s UN Security Council Resolution 2334, Palestinian Authority President Abbas lost no time during a Christmas Eve celebration, in smoothly pivoting to his tried-and tested-talking points, carefully crafted for the international community:
“You [Israel] have your state, and we can have our state, and then we can live side-by-side in peace and security.” And the sides should “sit together at the negotiation table to discuss all the outstanding issues between us and resolve them with good intentions … we are neighbors on this holy land and we want peace.”
Messages of peace, of two states living side by side, negotiations and security, are all very much in the spirit of the Holiday Season, the Oslo Accords and indeed everything the international community has heard from Abbas for the last 12 years of his four-year presidency.
So why are none of these aspirations for a negotiated peace with Israel — none at all — in the Palestinian school curriculum? The current curriculum is made up of nearly 200 books that together represent the single most comprehensive expression of Palestinian national identity and reflect the values that the PA wishes to pass down to future generations. There is enough space and enough subject matter in this large corpus of information for young Palestinians to delve into what exactly Abbas means when he speaks of “living side-by-side with Israel” and “sitting together to negotiate.”
But none of this appears in the PA curriculum. No living side-by-side and no sitting together. In fact, the word “peace” does not appear in the curriculum at all.
Instead, the textbooks delegitimize and demonize Israel, including the characterization of Israel as “an evil entity that should be annihilated.” Israel barely intrudes onto textbook maps — the entire area from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean Sea is marked as Palestine. Textbooks promote a continual war drawing on a culture of martyrdom and specifically reject negotiations.
This is not an accident. The curriculum studied by generations of young Palestinians is carefully crafted by the Palestinian leadership to lay out a national strategy which alternately combines violence with international pressure against Israel.
In one of many examples, such as in the poem “Palestine,” by Ali Mahmoud Taha, jihad is justified: “O brother, the oppressors have exceeded all bounds and jihad and sacrifice are necessary” (Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 1, 2015, p. 44). A seventh-grade textbook, Our Beautiful Language, refers to pre-1967 Israel as occupied and speaks of the return to it.
The strategy behind Friday night’s UN Security Council motion is encapsulated in a paragraph in Contemporary Issues, Humanities, Grade 12, 2014, p. 25, which teaches about the “transfer of the Palestinian question from a question controlled by Israel, via bilateral negotiations, into an international question.” Moving unilaterally, the Palestinians will grant Palestinian citizenship to Palestinians all over the world, which will automatically give them the right of return to their homeland, as well as various means to pressure Israel internationally.
As Dr. Eldad Pardo writes in IMPACT-se’s 2016 report on the Palestinian curriculum, “In effect, the glaring absence of the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security, together with the overall tone of the curriculum — stressing everlasting jihad/ribat [guerilla] war, venerating shahada (martyrdom), vilifying/denying Israel, and insisting on flooding it with millions of “return” immigrants — all suggest a two-pronged strategy by the PA: hatred, demonization and continuous violence, together with international pressure to eventually do away with Israel.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Education was handed over to the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords. One would have hoped for it to have operated in the spirit of the Oslo Accords and support the mutual recognition and the two-state solution that Abbas voices so piously to foreigners. On the contrary, and as Abbas knows well, the Palestinian educational curriculum completely rejects negotiations, teaches hate and the establishment of a single Palestinian state achieved by war and international resolutions.
Abbas and the PA have laid out a national strategy in black and white, in its school curriculum. The international community can continue to be taken for a ride, pass the UN’s resolutions and keep paying for the PA Education Ministry — or it can stop allowing itself to be a part of the PA’s two-pronged strategy that that does not bring peace closer.
Particularly, the many agencies and countries that are involved on the ground in PA development must begin to demand changes to the PA curriculum, eradicating the hate and insisting that Abbas’ talking points of living side-by-side in peace and security are, for the first time, articulated to the young Palestinians who need to hear them most. This is surely a constructive way for the international community to help.