ATFP Hosts Washington Briefing on Israeli and Palestinian Schoolbooks
Washington DC, Feb. 6 -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) today hosted a briefing presenting the findings of the first definitive, scientific study of Israeli and Palestinian schoolbooks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. ATFP President Ziad J. Asali welcomed Professors Sami Adwan (Bethlehem University), Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel-Aviv University) and Bruce E. Wexler (Yale University) to present their findings. The three-year study was reviewed from start to finish by a Scientific Advisory Panel of experts in textbook analysis from Germany and the United States, and leading Israeli and Palestinian academics. The advisory panel concluded that the study sets a new international standard for textbook study methodology.
Dr. Asali told the capacity-crowd audience that, "We are very proud to host the distinguished team of scholars. The study shows the need to educate for peace. Narratives in conflict perpetuate the conflict, and are perpetuated by it." Prof. Wexler began with an overview of the methodology and the rigorous standards that were employed, and summarized the study's findings (the full report can be downloaded here).
Prof. Bar-Tal explained that, "This is in many respect an unusual study. We needed to develop a picture that goes beyond the studies that have gone before. We needed a new method that combined qualitative and quantitative factors, which is rarely done, to get a true diagnosis of what is in the books we studied." Prof. Adwan said the study centered on rigorous procedures, including "joint leadership and research assistants, an international advisory team, a standardized research method to maximize objectivity, and simultaneous evaluation for added reliability."
Prof. Bar-Tal emphasized that the schoolbooks tend to reinforce the narratives of each side, as is typical in any conflict, and downplay or ignore the narrative of the other. Prof. Wexler noted that, "The whole story of the study" can be found in the statistics about representations of the other in the various books - Israeli state, ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian schoolbooks. He said that there was more positive representation of Palestinians in Israeli state books than in Palestinian or ultra-Orthodox books. But, he added, "Sub-humanizing depictions of the other were not to be found. They were absent. Extreme negative characterizations of the other are rare and no not involve sub-humanizing depictions."
Prof. Adwan noted that the issue of maps was a major finding, and that, "A majority of both Israeli and Palestinian schoolbooks do not reflect the rights and presence of the other side, especially in maps that show the whole area as either Israel or Palestine. Dehumanization of the other is very rare, but there is a tendency to reinforce their own narratives and perpetuate a lack of information about the other. But there is no incitement or hate speech as we have been hearing." Prof. Bar Tal emphasized that Israeli schoolbooks had greatly improved since the time when he was a student in the 1960s, and Prof. Adwan added that Palestinian schoolbooks are also far superior to the old Egyptian and Jordanian books they relied on before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
Regarding the reception of the report's findings, Prof. Bar-Tal noted, "We are aware what is going on. We are surprised by the reaction even though we are used to being criticized. This is not the last word and there will be more studies. From now on it's up to the political echelons to decide what can be done with our results." Prof. Adwan noted, "We met with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and he welcomed the study. He has instructed the Palestinian Education Ministry to use the results in future work and new schoolbooks."
Prof. Wexler added, "We are scientists and we are not shocked by the results. But we are shocked by those who would try to discredit the results rather than build on them." He said that everyone involved in the Advisory Committee had approved the process and the results and that no one had raised objections until very recently, and that "If we had added every quote presented at the Israeli government press conference yesterday, it would have made no difference to the statistics or the results." He said, "We don't agree with the Israeli government that the study is 'unprofessional,'" and said that the team had not met with Israeli officials.
The study was initiated by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land comprised of the Chief Rabbis of Israel, the Minister of Religious Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, the Greek, Armenian and Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem and the Anglican and Lutheran Bishops of the Holy Land; and was fully funded by the US State Department.
The full study report and the translated quotes from the schoolbooks is available for download here.
For more coverage of, and background on, the schoolbook study, below find an extensive index of press coverage:
Textbook study faults Israelis and Palestinians (AP)
Academic Study Weakens Israeli Claim That Palestinian School TextsTeach Hate (NYT)
Israelis unhappy with study of their textbooks and Palestinians’ (Reuters)
A History of Misunderstanding (Slate) State-Dept.-Funded Study Plays It Safe, Blames Israel and PA (The Jewish Press) Fayyad Welcomes International Report on School Books (WAFA) Israeli, Palestinian Textbooks Reflect Narratives of Conflict (Bloomberg) 3 Year Israeli and Palestinian Textbook Study Provokes Controversy (The Jewish Journal)
A History of Misunderstanding (Slate)
State-Dept.-Funded Study Plays It Safe, Blames Israel and PA (The Jewish Press)
Fayyad Welcomes International Report on School Books (WAFA)
Israeli, Palestinian Textbooks Reflect Narratives of Conflict (Bloomberg)
3 Year Israeli and Palestinian Textbook Study Provokes Controversy (The Jewish Journal)