The Experts Who Know Too Much

Last week’s Times story about Palestinian “incitement” against Israel is refusing to fade. The Times itself is hanging on, maintaining a multimedia site on the issue more than 11 days after the original article appeared. At the same time, two experts have released a critique of the story in a letter-to-the-editor, which the newspaper declined to run.

The article by Jodi Rudoren appeared on Jan. 7 under the print headline “Israeli Officials Point to an Intensifying Campaign of ‘Incitement’ by Palestinians.” It lists a number of insulting remarks about Israel and Jews said to come from official sources, including Palestinian Authority textbooks, and quotes an Israeli official as saying, “They are poisoning Palestinian children with deep hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.”

There is brief acknowledgement of Israeli “incitement,” but this is brushed off as the work of extremists, which is “disowned and discouraged” by government leaders.

Two academics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Nurit Peled-Elhanen and Samira Alayan, experts on Israeli and Palestinian textbooks respectively, wrote to the Times to point out errors and omissions in the story. Yesterday they released it for publication on TimesWarp after receiving no response. (See the full text below.)

They note that “the books cited are not authorized textbooks, just as The King’s Road, written by Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yossef Elitzur, allowing the killing of enemy babies, is not an official textbook, though it was distributed to soldiers during the Gaza raid in 2009. [The book is better known in English as The King’s Torah.]”

Palestinian textbooks do not denigrate Judaism or Jews, Peled-Elhanen and Alayan write, but aim at an ideology that has led to the suffering and dispossession of Palestinians. They make an important distinction, missing from Rudoren’s article: “Although colonialist Zionism is considered their enemy, they use no racist discourse towards Jews or Israelis.”

As for the claim that racist statements by Israelis are nothing but the work of “extremist fringe individuals,” the letter begs to differ: “Israeli mainstream textbooks, authorized by the Ministry of Education, use both visual and verbal racist discourse regarding both Palestinian citizens and Palestinian subjects in the occupied territories. Palestinians are depicted only as a demographic problem, developmental problem and security problem, described as primitive and vile, as parasites and as enemies-from-within.”

Their letter also has something to say about a video cited in the Times article: “Regarding the video clip, we would recommend the much-acclaimed documentary Soldier on the Roof, that shows how Jewish settler children are educated to harass and kill their Palestinian neighbours.”

Alayan and Peled-Elhanan speak with authority on these topics. Alayan is the author of “History Curricula and Textbooks in Palestine: Between Nation Building and Quality Education,” which appears in a book she co-edited, The Politics Of Education Reform In The Middle East: Self and Other in Textbooks and Curricula. She is a staff member of the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research.

Peled-Elhanan, who hails from a distinguished Israeli family, is the author of Palestine in Israeli Schoolbooks—Ideology and Propaganda in Education. She is the only Israeli to receive the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

All this is not enough for the two women to merit mention in stories that concern their areas of expertise. When Israel repeats the self-serving myth that Palestinians “teach their children to hate,” The Times gets with the program and censors those experts who give evidence to the contrary.

Barbara Erickson

The Full Text of the Alayan Peled-Elhanen Letter:

Regarding your article about Palestinian ‘inciteful’ textbooks, the books cited are not authorized textbooks, just as the Israeli book, The King’s Torah, written by Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yossef Elitzur, allowing the killing of enemy babies, is not an official textbook, though it was distributed to soldiers during the Gaza raid in 2009.  Palestinian textbooks are translated to English on this link [the authors included a link that has since been removed], where you will see that maps do mention Israel. Although colonialist Zionism is considered their enemy, they use no racist discourse towards Jews or Israelis.

Israeli mainstream textbooks, authorized by the Ministry of Education, use both visual and verbal racist discourse regarding both Palestinian citizens and Palestinian subjects in the occupied territories. Palestinians are depicted only as a demographic problem, developmental problem and security problem, described as primitive and vile, as parasites and as enemies-from-within. Israeli textbook maps never depict any major Palestinian city or the green line.

Regarding the video clip, we would recommend the much-acclaimed documentary Soldier on the Roof, that shows how Jewish settler children are educated to harass and kill their Palestinian neighbours.

Respectfully,

Prof. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, author of Palestine in Israeli Schoolbooks—Ideology and Propaganda in Education (I.B. Tauris Pub. Palgrave Dist. London  and New-York 2012)

Dr. Samira Alayan, author of “History Curricula and Textbooks in Palestine: Between Nation Building and Quality Education” (2000), co-editor of The Politics Of Education Reform In The Middle East: Self and Other in Textbooks and Curricula. Berghahn Books;  (June 15, 2012) 

School of Education, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

2 thoughts on “The Experts Who Know Too Much

  1. Incredible how anything that does not support the Israeli narrative, relative to Palestinians, is simply cut out/censored. Why is the NY Times, particularly, such an egregious participant in this trend?

    Like

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