Israeli textbook controversy

Israeli textbook controversy

Israeli textbooks have attracted much interest due to the role of education in the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Education system in Israel and Israeli textbooks

The Ministry of Education of Israel defines the curriculum and is in charge of the recruitment and training of the teachers. Recently the Ministry of Education stopped the practice of issuing an approved list of schoolbooks, since "in a modern country it is not proper to apply censorship". The Ministry may disqualify textbooks containing prejudices and stereotypes. But the disqualification of textbooks will now be triggered by complaints coming from the public, as method "far more effective than censorship exerted by a civil servant". [ Arabs and Palestinians in Israeli Textbooks, September 2000 Report] by Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (also available at [] ), p.10]

The Compulsory Education Law [CMIP 2000 report, p.9: "The Compulsory Education Law adopted in 1949, extended in 1968, 1979 and 1999"] , provides free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 5 to 16, from the last year of kindergarten up to 10th grade. In addition, free education is provided for pre-primary education and for 11th and 12th grades. The law institutionalized two systems of education:
* the state education sector, covering around 90% of the whole education system. In turn, it comprises three networks: [CMIP 2000 report, p.9]
** the general state-run (or secular) network
** the religious state-run network
** the (state) Arab network
* the recognized non-state education sector, sometimes referred to as the independent education sector.

2000 Report by Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace

The main findings of the "Analysis of Israeli Textbooks" performed in 2000 by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) makes "Three fundamental statements... about all the school books"

# The legitimacy of the State of Israel as independent Jewish state on the territory of the Land of Israel and the immigration of Jews to the country are never questioned.
# There is no indoctrination against the Arabs as a nation, nor a negative presentation of Islam. Rather, Islam, the Arab culture and the Arabs' contribution to human civilization are presented in a positive light.
# No book calls for violence or war. Many books express the yearning for peace between Israel and the Arab countries. [ [ CMIP 2000 report, p.6] ]

In the textbooks for state run schools there is an effort to remove stereotypes and educate towards tolerance. In orthodox textbooks derogatory adjectives, prejudices, patronizing expressions and disrespect to Arabs is found.

In some textbooks the Arab leadership is described as as motivated by an eternal hatred independent of historical circumstances and that is can't be changed.

In all textbooks, for every age, Israel's wars are always described as justified wars of defense and "the Arabs" are always held responsible for them. [CMIP 2000 report, p.76]

Most textbooks say that the Palestinian exodus was because they fled from their homes. Only few textbooks mention that some refugees were expelled by Israel or were forced to flee through threats. Some textbooks don't mention the Palesinian exodus at all. [CMIP 2000 report, p.78]


The report states:

Islam is described with respect in both the general the religious state-run educational streams. Many books elaborate in detail how Muhammad established Islam and explain its basic fundamentals in a factual, objective manner. Many books highlight positive aspects in Islam. The language is factual and devoid of offensive terms and stereotypes. Sites holy to both Jews and Muslims are not presented as exclusively Jewish and the Arabs' attachment to these sites is taught. The students are even taught about the Muslims affinity to Jerusalem, although, the focus is on the religious, rather than the political dimension. [CMIP 2000 report, p.7]

Dr. Ruth Frier, a leading researcher from the Institute of Advancement of Peace found that a number of studies by Israelis examining Israeli textbooks and storybooks found descriptions of Arabs using language such as "primitive, hostile to Jews, violent, easily incited, inferior, fatalistic, apathetic, tribal, divided,exotic, sick, poor, dirty, noisy, and ungrateful." For many Israelis, their only other contact with Palestinians was in the military as "the enemy" or as service providers and day laborers.

This disputes the CIMP account that it is only in the ultra-orthodox stream where examples of prejudice, patronizing expressions and disrespect to Arabs can be found.


According to the CIMP report:

In textbooks of both the general state-run network and the religious state-run network, one senses a genuine effort to remove stereotypes and to build a foundation for coexistence and mutual respect between the two peoples. There are many stories that describe friendships between Jews and Arabs in Islamic countries and in Israel even in times of war. There are stories of Jews helping Arabs in daily life and in war as well as stories of Arabs rescuing Jews from physical harm and helping Jews to maintain their religion and identity. In many literary anthologies there are stories about the daily life of Arabs written by Arab authors. Some stories deal with the tensions created by the transition from a traditional society with its values and customs, to a modern western society. [CMIP 2000 report, p.7]

In some books in the ultra-orthodox network relations between Arabs and Jews are portrayed in negative terms.

2001 Update by Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace

Despite the deterioration in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians since September 2000, no negative changes were noted in the new textbooks with regard to the image of the Arabs, the description of the conflict, the presentation of Islam, questions of war and peace and education to tolerance and conciliation. On the contrary, the positive trends noted in the earlier report have, if anything, been strengthened. [ 2002 Update by CMIP] ]

The textbooks of the ultra-Orthodox schools to sensitive issues continue to highlight trends contrary to the State and State Religious Stream. Language is used that conveys an air of superiority and negative expressions appear. The map of Israel always includes all of the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. Many of the textbooks show maps of the Middle East on which only Israel's name appears, the territories of the surrounding Arab countries being depicted without indication of their names.

2004 Report by Professor Dan Bar-Tal

In the article "The Arab Image in Hebrew School Textbooks" by professor Dan Bar-Tal of the Tel Aviv University makes a study of 124 textbooks used in Israeli schools and reports that "over the years, generations of Israeli Jews were taught a negative and often delegitimizing view of Arabs." The two main traits of Arabs in the textbooks are "primitiveness, inferiority in comparison to Jews" and "their violence, to characteristics like brutality, untrustworthiness, cruelty, fanaticism, treacherousness and aggressiveness." In the 1980s and 1990s "Geography books for the elementary and junior high schools stereotype Arabs negatively, as primitive, dirty, agitated, aggressive, and hostile to Jews … history books in the elementary schools hardly mention Arabs … history textbooks of the high schools, the majority of which cover the Arab-Jewish conflict, stereotype the Arabs negatively. Arabs are presented as intransigent and uncompromising." [ [ Reports on Palestinian kids’ hatred grossly exaggerated] ]

See also

* Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education
* Palestinian textbooks
* Saudi textbooks
* Anti-Arabism in Israel

External links

* [ CMIP: Analysis of Israeli Textbooks]


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