School textbooks and the next generation

Nurit Peled-Elhanan is an Israeli academic whose 13-year-old daughter was killed by a suicide bomber in September 1997. She teaches language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in 2001, she was the recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Peled-Elhanan is no slouch. She studied at the University of California in Los Angeles and the Sorbonne (University of Paris) and received her Ph.D. at Hebrew University.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Nurit Peled-Elhanan

The American Friends Service Committee writes:

Peled-Elhanan’s family is active in the peace movement.  Her father is the famous Israeli general-turned-peace activist, Mattiyahu Peled.  Rami Elhanan, her husband, co-founded the Parents Circle—Families Forum. Her two sons are “refuseniks,” Israelis who refuse to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories with the Israeli military and are involved with Combatants for Peace, a movement of former Israeli and Palestinian fighters.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan has studied the content of Israeli textbooks, the subject of her book Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in EducationI haven’t read her book yet . . . but I have it on my list. She discusses some of her findings in this 28 minute video.

Did you know that three generations of Israeli children have grown up without understanding where the borders of the state of Israel are? Their textbooks don’t show maps of the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israeli textbooks discuss the “Palestinian problem” (remember the “Jewish problem” 60 years ago?).

“Any evil done to them (the Palestinians) is condoned if it saves Israelis from some evil,” says Peled-Elhanan. Wars and massacres are wars of victory necessary for a Jewish state. Palestinians may be disadvantaged but that’s their own damn fault.

They are called Arabs. “The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don’t pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don’t want to develop,” she says. “The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.”

About the future, Peled-Elhanan says it “looks very bleak … the state is quickly approaching fascism.”  The discourse is very racist and people don’t even see it.

A fair question might be — what are the Palestinian textbooks teaching schoolchildren about Israel? That’s another blog post.

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