Hamas wrestles with text

Books and dissertations have been written on the influence that school textbooks have on children when they become adults and political decisions makers. Hamas has not studied these to understand the ramifications of the content that they are offering to young minds when introducing new textbooks into schools in Gaza. On the other hand it is positive to see Hamas move away from launching rockets to text books. Maybe they have grasped that the pen is mightier than the sword. However no national education textbooks are used in West Bank schools, leaving individual teachers to run lessons as they wish. So there is now a widening gap between different sections of the Palestinians.

May I recommend that Hamas read one important study that substantiates that the early capitulation of France at the start of World War II was a consequence of French Primary School textbooks in the inter-war years. These portrayed France as a defeatist country during World War I. The obvious statement would be that history repeats itself. The subliminal understanding is that children grew to be adults without being able to make valid and independent decisions. They saw the world of relations with Germany as a given. They were entrapped in their childhood psyche that France would best be served by not fighting, that Germany would eventually lose the war and that France would regain its independence. This did happen; so the end justified the means. However the element not taught in the textbooks, is the interim; that of the high cost to the French nation living under occupation, having its economy and pride destroyed and being forced to live the horrors of war atrocities.

Then the French authors and now the Hamas authors have both failed to understand the purpose of a textbook. A textbook provides a framework by which a teacher can deliver and develop content and independent thought. It offers the child student a support tool to read in addition to other content delivery methods of the teacher including explanation and group discussions. The content of a textbook should therefore be an initiator and not a set and concluding statement. The Hamas textbook is not a framework and it offers only set and concluding statements. After asking the child students to read it, the teacher can offer no further activities. After reading it there will be no engaging discussion. When testing takes place students will be expected to verbatim repeat the content as an answer. Another problem is that the content of the Hamas text book is flawed. This leaves Gaza children on the path to yet another generation of conflict and violence.

Not only is the content of the Hamas textbook flawed, Hamas has also chosen to include content which should have no relevance for a young Gaza child dreaming of and seeking peace and prosperity. Hamas writes that Zionism is “a racist movement whose goals include driving Arabs out of all of the area between the Nile River in Africa and the Euphrates River in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.” They characterize the Torah and Talmud as “fabricated.” They say that “The Jews and the Zionist movement are not related to Israel, because the sons of Israel are a nation which had been annihilated.” Palestine is presented as a state for Muslims encompassing the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. A list of Palestinian cities includes Haifa, Beersheba and Akko – all within Israel’s 1948 borders. They even distort recent history of Israel’s military operation against Hamas in November 2012. The textbooks don’t recognize modern Israel, or even mention the Oslo Peace Accords.  Beyond the attack on Israel, the new texts also provoke a war for influence with Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority. The textbooks refer to the 1929 uprisings calling for a repeat boycott of Israeli products and to prevent Jewish access to the Old City Jerusalem.

Hamas is aiming to infuse the next generation with its militant ideology. Hamas should rather be teaching that if you want real peace, it has to be based on a real change in the culture of hatred. Violence and incitement in education should be condemned. To counter this Israel has strategic communications means including TV, Radio and the Internet to engage Gaza child students and to present them with the truth and to offer real peace. The Israeli delegation to the United Nations should take to task UNRWA schools in Gaza for incitement to racism and violence if they use these textbooks.

Dr. Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.