Education about the Middle East a key issue for Europe

Anti-Semitism is constantly on the rise in Europe  and in the last decade it has become a more and more violent hatred against the Jews of Europe. Islamist terrorists have been targeting not only freedom of speech but also the Jewish people.

It has been revealed that the terrorists who recently committed crimes against humanity by killing Jews in France and Denmark also have been  trigged to do so by lies about a suffering of a Palestinian people and lies about Israel as an oppressor, occupier and an alien to the Middle East. Lies about Israel are not only lies if the lies are created  from hatred against the Jewish people  then it is anti- Semitism. European leaders have reacted against the anti-Semitism but still separates it from hatred against Israel. They have not reacted against the anti-Israeli propaganda  image of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is alive among our youths.

To ignore the anti-Israeli propaganda and view it as political statements  is a European mistake. We Europeans must challenge the propaganda. In order to do so we need to offer our future generations of citizens and lawmakers a much better education about the world.

Since the beginning of this decade our largest groups of immigrants originate from the Middle East or have a connection to it. But how well do we educate them and all the rest of of youths about the Middle East?

Many among them were brought up on propaganda about both the democratic world and the Middle East. Also among Europeans  born here there is a big lack of knowledge about the Middle East.

How many in Europe know that the Christians of the Middle East are ethnically Assyrians and not only belonging to a faith? How many know that Israel is still the only true democracy in the Middle East? How many know that Medina, today the 2nd holiest place within Islam was once a Jewish town?

Has any teacher told his/her class about the massacres against the Christians in what is known as Seifo? How many are taught at schools about the Farhud or other pogroms against Jews in the Middle East and North Africa? Unfortunately not many.

We need a new subject to be added into the curriculum of European  schools to correct an incorrect image of the Middle East, where Israel is the source of all conflicts. The image is false however it is the same image that some of our politicians believe in. It is  dangerous and wrong. We need to tell the story of a pluralistic Middle East where Jews and Christians always have been a natural part of the region and that they do not need to be under the rule of any other religion or people. We need to educate our youths that the Assyrians, Kurds and Jews have the right of self-determination and the right to establish states just as much as  the Arab people which today rule 99,9% of the Middle East. We need the Middle East studies to be a new subject in high school, perhaps even earlier.

We need to problematize the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We must give our youths the possibility to meet both sides in the conflict. We have to discuss other Middle Eastern conflicts, like the one between shias and sunnis. Where do theses conflicts originate from? Should such conflicts of the Middle East be brought to Europe? What conclusions do we draw from those conflicts? We need to really passionately discuss the challenges of the Middle East, which ultimately affects us all. That is what we must do in Europe.

The solution is to not be afraid of reaching out with our democratic  values to the new immigrants in Europe. They are now a part of Europe and we need to transfer our democratic heritage to them as well. We need a common ground to stand on and we need to make sure it is a democratic one. That is in the interest of the EU, Israel and and all nations who detest hatred and want the democratic world to progress and prosper.

Israel, as the only democratic source of information in the Middle East, can play a big part in making our political leaders understand what kind of situation we are facing. When more and more people enter our borders from countries, where they were taught to hate Israel all the democratic world is in danger if we are not starting to deal with the hatred. Because that hate against Israel will, if God forbid Israel would stop existing,  be turned against the rest of the democratic world, which in fact already has happened.

When the hatred is growing in Europe against Jews the solution is not for them to leave for Israel. Jews know they are welcome in Israel as the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said so. It may be a relief for some Jews of Europe to hear it but it may also be depressing. A full exodus would even be dangerous for both Europe and Israel. It would mean that the terror, fear and hate have won new ground not only over the democratic world but also over the truth.

We, the democratic world including Israel, can not afford to lose the battle. The consequences would be very devastating for our civilization and children.We must invest in education.

About the Author
Tobias Petersson is a Swedish freelance writer who has focused on Israel and the MENA region. He came to Israel first in 2007 for a summer vacation and learned much. Soon after his return to Sweden he was suddenly aware of the anti-Israeli sentiments in his country and decided he wanted to change that. He has published articles about Israel in various Swedish and Israeli media to make the distance between Israel and Sweden less. Today Tobias is active in the Swedish pro-Israel network Perspektiv på Israel/Perspective on Israel.