“Why do Palestinians teach their children to hate?” “Give two reasons why Israeli girls should not hang out with Arabs.” Palestinians/Arabs are primitive farmers who hate modernization.
All these rhetorical statements and many others are taught to Israeli children in their schoolbooks. They are only few examples of the Israeli racist discourse and the institutionalization of racist representations of Palestinians. In my opinion, such accounts on Palestinians dehumanize them and aim at misleading Israelis and brainwashing them.
I heard about this big issue when I attended a lecture by Prof.Ilan Pappe and Nurit Peled-Elhanan, in the educational bookshop in Jerusalem. Ilan Pappe is a prominent Israeli historian who has been examining and rewriting the history of the creation of Israel. One of his most important books is The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, in which he argues that Israel forced the indigenous people to leave Palestine, contrary to the myth that the Palestinian population left of their own.
Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has also criticized Israel by highlighting the prominent propaganda and ideology in Israeli textbooks. Her book is called Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education.
As Nurit explained, Palestinians are only represented in Israeli textbooks as “Arabs” and “terrorists” who constitute “a constant threat” and “a demographic nightmare” to Israel. Unlike Israelis who are equated to white people, Palestinians are depicted as “primitive farmers” who have no cultural heritage. Moreover, Palestinians, pictured with donkeys, are said to constitute an ecological and environmental problem. In the geography book, students learn that Palestinians in the West Bank steal water from Israel. However, in reality, Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume 70 times more water than Palestinians, who consume only ¼ of the amount of water they need!
Not only is there a big issue of representation, but there is also false geographical information. According to Nurit, all maps are “lying maps and distorted ones,” in which one can’t find Palestinian villages, such as Nazareth and Acre.
The important question is WHY. Why are Palestinians represented in such a racist and orientalist way in Israeli schoolbooks?
One of Israel’s biggest concerns is to attain a Jewish majority. Hence, there is an ongoing demographic war between Palestinians and Israelis. To get this majority, Israelis have to fight very hard and that’s why their major goal is to create good soldiers (through these schoolbooks). The role of these soldiers is not only to fight to maintain security but also to humiliate Palestinians and drive them out of the country. As Nurit has said, “Israelis are really educated to worship death, to sacrifice themselves for the country”.
Anyone who comes to Palestine will easily notice the consequences of such educational system on the way Israeli soldiers treat Palestinians. My own experience at Qalandiya checkpoint-that I cross to get from Ramallah to Jerusalem- is also indicative. Many claim that checkpoints were established to maintain the security of Israelis. However, one sees another reality when passing the Qalandiya checkpoint. The purpose of these checkpoints is to humiliate Palestinians and make their lives more difficult. I waited yesterday 30 minutes at the checkpoint because a little girl didn’t have a permit to go to Jerusalem and was not able to understand the soldier who was speaking with her in Hebrew.
It usually takes me about 40 minutes (minimum) waiting on the checkpoint. So the overall travel from Ramallah to Jerusalem takes about 2 hours, although it should normally take no longer than 45 minutes.
I believe that this issue is very important because education in schools is a significant factor in forming the new generation. So, if Israeli students are brainwashed and keep learning wrong information about Palestinians, this will highly affect the relation between the two populations and the possibility of making peace in the near future.
Posted By Nur Arafeh
Posted Jul 31st, 2012