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Israel calls text book study biased

By MARGOT DUDKEVITCH   |   Feb. 4, 2013 at 9:27 AM   |   Comments

JERUSALEM, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- A U.S. State Department-funded study of Israeli and Palestinian schoolbooks found both tend to ignore each others' existence but rarely dehumanize each other.

The 57-page study released Monday, examined passages from 74 Israeli and 94 Palestinian elementary and secondary school textbooks. The Israeli books were from state-run secular and religious schools as well as independent ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. The Palestinian books were mainly from government schools and six private Islamic schools. Some 2,188 segments from Israeli books and 960 Palestinian books were reviewed.

The Israeli and Palestinian ministries of Education were informed of the study, which began in 2009.

The Washington Post said Israel's Ministry of Education refused to cooperate with the researchers and called the study biased, saying it presented a false comparison between the Israeli and Palestinian school systems.

A Palestinian Authority spokeswoman said the Palestinian Education Ministry would be willing to study the conclusions, the Post said.

The main findings of the study were that dehumanizing and demonizing characterizations are rare in both Israeli and Palestinian books but both sides tend to present the other as the enemy and chronicle negative actions. The study also found there was a lack of information about economic, religious and cultural activities. The absence of images and information about each other were more significantly pronounced in Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Palestinian books.

"We found that both the Israeli and the Palestinian books hold close to their national narrative. Each describes itself as a victim of the conflict, which is to be expected," said Israeli Professor Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University, of the leaders of the study.

Bar-Tal said he was disappointed with Israel's response to the study outcome.

"Israel's reactions were disappointing, even though it fared better in our study, it seeks to delegitimize our findings, which is disappointing," he told United Press International Monday. "The Palestinians accepted the results. The reactions from both sides represent the state of the conflict."

The study was commissioned by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land and the research was led by Bar-Tal, Sami Adwan, a Palestinian associate professor of education at Bethlehem University, and Professor Bruce E. Wexler of the Yale University together with a team of scientists and researchers.

The study said characterization of the Palestinians in a "very negative" or "negative" manner was found in 39 percent of books in Israeli state schools and in 73 percent of the ultra-Orthodox schools. One of the examples given quoted the book "Being Citizens in Israel in a Jewish and Democratic State" used in state and religious schools:

"Since its establishment, the state of Israel sought to make peace with its neighbors. ... Its efforts, however, have failed in the first 30 years of Israel's existence because of the refusal of Arab countries and nations to recognize the right of existence of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state. In order to harm Israel, to weaken it and destroy it, the Arab countries have initiated terror attacks, infiltrations into the territory of the state of Israel and harming the civilian population. The Arab countries have accumulated weapons and ammunition and strengthened their armies to wage a total war against Israel."

The characterization of Israel in a "very negative" or "negative" manner was found in 84 percent of Palestinian books, the study found. One of the samples cited in the study is from the "Modern Arabic History" book, which says "Zionism is a colonialist political movement founded by the Jews of Europe in the second half of the 19th century, with the goal of bringing together the Jews of different nationalities from all across the world, and amass them in Palestine and neighboring Arab countries through migration and displacing the Palestinian people in Palestine from their land in order to found the state of Israel."

Bar-Tal said in general the Israeli books, especially those from the state schools, were far more self-critical.

"This was not found in the Palestinian books," he said. "Books studied in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools were found to be similar to the Palestinian books, whereas books in Israeli state schools were found to be more positive in their description of the other."

The study found maps in books from all school systems provided concrete examples of the contrasting and problematic aspects of the narratives.

In Israeli books, 76 percent of the maps show no border in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, implying the whole area is Israel, the study found. Many of the maps that do show borders make no mention of Palestine or the Palestinian Authority.

In ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools, 95 percent of the maps showed no borders and 25 percent label the West Bank -- Judea and Samaria.

In Palestinian books, 58 percent of the maps show no borders, and label the entire area as Palestine, with Israel being identified in only 4 percent of the maps, the study found.

"In general, the maps disregard the existence of the other -- Palestinian maps disregard the state of Israel, and Israeli maps disregard the Palestinian entity," Bar-Tal said.

Asked what he hoped would be achieved from the study, Bar-Tal said he would like "Israel and the Palestinians to view the results and work for a better future."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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