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Education, Identity, State Building
and the Peace Process:
Educating Palestinian Children in the Post-Oslo Era

Raphael Israeli
Policy Paper No. 64, 1999,
In the book Israel and a Palestinian State: Zero Sum Game?, 2001


In view of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and the obligations that the parties undertook to eliminate incitement and hatred, one would expect that the media and textbooks written for children in the Palestinian school system would be free of all hostile statements and prejudices against Jews, Zionism and Israel. Moreover, exactly as Israel has promoted in its schools since Oslo the values of peace, coexistence, sharing and partnership, it was hoped that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would act likewise.

The reality has shown quite the reverse. In the textbooks produced, sponsored or adopted by the PA in the years 1996-1998, anti-Jewish stereotypes, anti-Israeli and anti-Western statements of hatred seem as prevalent when compared with the textbooks obtained among Palestinian children during the years of Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza. But while prior to Oslo the Palestinians could claim that they had inherited those books from the Jordanian and Egyptian school systems, the new textbooks are all of Palestinian origin and they all date from the post-Oslo period.

This paper examines the official Palestinian attitudes and positions in three domains, all relevant to the perpetuation of hatred and hostility on the part of the Palestinian Authority towards Israel, and to the indoctrination of Palestinian youth and media in such an ominous way as to minimize the chance that these attitudes might be reversed in the future.

  1. Israel is systematically demonized, delegitimized and dehumanized, and the texts selected to educate the children leave no doubt as to the total rejection of the Jews and of Israel, now and in the future.
  2. As a measure of self-defense, and in an attempt to escape the painful reality of the success of the West and Israel in the real world, contrary to their derogation in the textbooks, the Palestinians embark on a campaign of self-aggrandizement that often mixes fantasy with reality.
  3. The Palestinian Authority not only negates its rivals but also positively imparts to its children the notions of Jihad (Holy War) and Istishhad (Martyrdom) in order to instigate them to sacrifice their lives on the altar of Palestinian convictions and ambitions.

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