[Note: This paper prompted a critique from the “Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.” The critique and my response are available on the web here.]
Democracy, History, and the Contest over the Palestinian Curriculum
By Nathan J. Brown
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs
any discussion of education in the
The external and internal critics may be placing an unrealistic burden on what any curriculum and cadre of teachers can accomplish. Palestinian political and economic realities are often grim, and schools hardly have a monopoly on communicating ways to interpret such realities, especially in matters that are so deeply felt and encountered on a daily basis. Still, the critics charge, the Palestinian educational system, and especially the curriculum, exacerbates existing problems.
This paper is devoted to an examination of the Palestinian curriculum, especially as it approaches issues of history and identity. More specifically, the paper is broken into four sections:
1. First, it will be necessary to clear up some misconceptions prevalent about the curriculum and the textbooks: the Palestinian curriculum is not a war curriculum; while highly nationalistic, it does not incite hatred, violence, and anti-Semitism. It cannot be described as a “peace curriculum” either, but the charges against it are often wildly exaggerated or inaccurate.
2. Second, the treatment of history in the Palestinian curriculum will be examined in some detail. The purpose will be to present patterns both in what it covers and what it declines to cover.
3. Third, the goals that motivate this coverage of history will be examined. Two primary goals—inculcation of identity and respect for authority—will receive special attention. While the curriculum can thus be presented as authoritarian in some respects, it will also be observed that it is simultaneously democratic in its determination to reflect the national consensus rather than develop an elitist approach.
4. Fourth and finally, the paper will examine an alternative educational vision that has been crystallizing among Palestinian educators and the effect of that alternative on the existing curriculum. That alternative vision—that the educational system should promote the development of active learners, critical thinkers, and democratic citizens—has yet to approach issues of identity directly. Yet it is increasingly influential and has had some impact on the current curriculum.
Before turning to these four sections, a brief overview of the history of the Palestinian curriculum is necessary in order to clarify the context in which current efforts are occurring.
treatment of Palestinian education must confront at the outset the oft-repeated
claims that Palestinian textbooks instill hatred of
Then where do persistent reports of incitement in Palestinian textbooks come from? Virtually all can be traced back to the work of a single organization, the “Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.” The Center claims that its purpose is “to encourage the development and fostering of peaceful relations between peoples and nations, by establishing a climate of tolerance and mutual respect founded on the rejection of violence as a means to resolving conflicts.” Critics charge that the Center’s real purpose is to launch attacks on the Palestinian National Authority, and it would be difficult to contest such a conclusion. They point to the identity of the Center’s first director, Itamar Marcus, to support their suspicions.
The Center’s own reports suggest such suspicions are well-founded. The Center began operation by issuing its first report in 1998 on Palestinian textbooks that might best be described as tendentious and highly misleading. When the PNA issued a new series of books for grades one and six in 2000, the Center rushed out its second report that passed over significant changes quite quickly before presenting its allegations of “delegitimization of Israel’s existence,” implicit “seeking of Israel’s destruction,” “defamation of Israel,” and “encouraging militarism and violence.” However, in contrast to the alarm and alacrity with which it studied Palestinian textbooks, the Center’s work on Israeli textbooks showed a far more generous spirit and proceeded at a far more leisurely pace, taking years rather than months. The report on Israeli books followed a very different method: rather than quoting example after example of offending passages with little historical context or explanation (a method that would have produced a very damning report indeed), the report on Israeli textbooks is nuanced and far more careful. Incendiary quotations are explained, analyzed and contextualized in the report on Israeli books; they are listed with only brief and sensationalist explanations in the reports on Palestinian books. In short, the Center is fair, balanced, and understanding for Israeli textbooks but tendentious on Palestinian books.
Center’s work has been widely circulated: its reports are the source for
virtually any quotation in English from the Palestinian curriculum. Indeed, its influence has begun to be felt in
policy circles, and has informed congressional and presidential statements in
While often highly misleading and always unreliable, most of the contents of the Center’s reports are not fabricated. Clearly false statements are rare, though when they do occur they are far from minor. For instance, the Center’s first report on Palestinian textbooks, issued in 1998, included the statement that: “PA TV is a division of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education,” which allowed the report to saddle the Palestinian educational establishment with any statement broadcast on Palestinian television. The statement was false, however. In its second comprehensive report on Palestinian textbooks, issued in 2000 on the new books for the first and sixth grades, the Center claims that “the PA has rejected international calls” to modify books for the other grades. In fact, as will become clear, the plan to replace the textbooks in question was as old as the PNA itself and was proceeding according to a well-published schedule when the Center’s report was issued. Several lesser errors occur throughout the Center’s work.
the real problems with the Center’s reports lie elsewhere. In particular, three sets of flaws
characterize its work (and much of the public debate about Palestinian
textbooks more generally). First, the
Center generally ignores any historical context in a way that renders some of
its claims sharply misleading. In its
1998 report, the Center adduced numerous incendiary statements about
sharp contrast to the Egyptian and Jordanian books, the 1994 National Education series, actually
authored by the PNA, verged on blandness.
The first generation of books made no mention of any Palestinian area
within the 1967 borders (the second generation of books—written after the
Center’s first report—reversed this policy).
Indeed, the 1994 books went to some length to avoid any controversial
matter whatsoever. An organization
claiming to “monitor the impact of peace” might be expected to compare the
older, non-Palestinian books with the newer, Palestinian ones. Indeed, such a task would seem basic to its
mission. The Center goes beyond failing
to live up to its name; its reports are written to obfuscate the distinction
between the old and new books. It does
not simply fail to note the change, but, in one of its rare falsehoods, the
Center claims that in the 1994 series,
second problem with the Center’s work is its prosecutorial style. Its reports offer little more than brief
themes and then list statement after statement purporting to prove the point. Any evidence that contradicts the Center’s
harsh message is ignored, obscured, or dismissed, such as maps that clearly
draw Palestinian governorates as covering only the
primary terrorist organization operating against
In essence, the Center provides a context for the mention of al-Qassam that, while accurate, is irrelevant to the text: it deliberately obscures how the text itself presents al-Qassam or how Palestinians would understand a reference to him. Al-Qassam was killed at the beginning of his attempt to organize a rebellion against the British mandate. Subsequent generations of Palestinians have been able to read various dimensions into his short career: for mainstream nationalists, he is a rebel against the British, for Islamists, a warrior for Islam, and for leftists, he is a mobilizer of the popular classes. To imply that mentioning al-Qassam is an implicit endorsement of suicide attacks and bus bombings is thus based on a hostile, inaccurate, and even dishonest reading—what matters is not whether the textbooks cite him but how they present him. Palestinian texts mention him only as a martyr in the struggle against British imperialism.
short, the purpose is clearly to indict the textbooks and the PNA rather than
analyze and understand the content of the books. Were the Center to take a similar approach in
other countries, including
The final and perhaps the largest problem with the Center’s work lies not simply with the reports themselves but in how they have been read. The Center’s conclusions may be unsupported by the evidence it presents and undermined by the evidence it overlooks. But it does include some qualifications and elliptical wording that usually prevent its reports from outright falsehood. When its reports gain wider circulation, however, the buried qualifications get lost. The Center’s 2000 report actually admitted that changes had occurred in the Palestinian-authored books but then attempted to undermine its own admission:
few changes were noted in the new PA books.
The open calls for
change is that certain overtly anti-Semitic references defining Jews and
Israelis as “treacherous” or ‘the evil enemy’, common in the previous books,
are likewise not present. However, given the books’ portrayal of
short, the new books removed the earlier offensive material, but the Center
acknowledged the change only by denying its significance. Thus it is not surprising when public
references to the textbooks based on the Center’s report lose any subtlety and
make erroneous claims about the new books.
Charles Krauthammer claimed that since the signing of the Oslo Accords,
the Palestinians had “intensified the propaganda, the antisemitism, in their
pedagogy and in their media” and that while
The Palestinian textbooks were such a politically attractive target that even those who were better informed as to their content criticized them. Hillary Clinton, running for the U.S. Senate, criticized Palestinian textbooks in a way that buried her acknowledgement that the new first and sixth grade books, authored by the PNA itself, were different: “All future aid to the Palestinian Authority must be contingent on strict compliance with their obligation to change all the textbooks in all grades—not just two at a time.” After her election, her comments lost even this subtlety: in June 2001 she joined with her fellow senator from New York, Charles Schumer, in a letter to President George Bush, introducing the false charge (clearly based on a Center report): “A book that is required reading for Palestinian six graders actually starts off stating, ‘There is no alternative to destroying Israel.’” As the second intifada took on diplomatic as well as violent dimensions, the Israeli government cited textbooks as evidence of Palestinian bad faith and hostile intentions. Others held international donors responsible for not forcing changes or even for funding new sources of incitement.
The Center’s reports were the clear source for most of these charges, whether cited or not. A member of the United States Congress wrote to The New York Times:
to the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, today’s sixth-grade
Palestinian students are required to read the textbook “Our Country Palestine,”
which has a banner on the title page of Volume I that reads, “There is no
alternative to destroying
charge was false, though it was widely repeated and even displayed in an
advertising campaign by an organization calling itself (with unintended irony)
“Jews for Truth Now.” No textbook
included such a phrase. The member of
Congress and others had read the Center’s carelessly-written report in a
careless manner. The original report had
actually claimed: “An old book introduced into the PA curriculum is filled with
virulent anti-Semitism.” It then claimed
that there is a banner on the title page stating “There is no alternative to
It was not merely members of Congress who were misled by careless reading of the Center’s reports. Even sloppy academics were led astray. One analysis of Palestinian textbooks reproduced quotations from the Center’s reports (without attribution), mistakenly claiming that all the texts came from Palestinian-authored books (whereas most came from the Egyptian and Jordanian books being phased out). An equally groundless, though far more bizarre analysis of Palestinian textbooks begins with wholesale (though unattributed) borrowings from the Center’s reports and then adds:
acclaim, a non-ending orgy of sex and all the booze you can drink, constitute a
powerful combination of incentives for igniting the imagination and motivation
of pubescent youth, aged 12 and up.
Along with the emotionally charged scenes of actually stoning Jews and
Jewish property, what more is needed to convince them that killing Jews is a
worthy and honorable vocation? The PA is
certainly preparing a huge army for the future that, socially and
psychologically, will be trained to commit unmitigated violence against
vitriolic and often inaccurate criticisms of Palestinian textbooks should not
obscure that those books do treat
Indeed, the textbooks often take on the same kind of awkwardness adults often assume when addressing subjects they would prefer to avoid. In explaining the concept of species, one of the new books explains that animals that are not alike cannot “marry” and have children—a rather Victorian presentation. Discussions of sensitive political topics often show a similar reticence to sensitive topics.
is most marked in the matter of the borders and geographical nature of the
the texts do not help sort out the ambiguous geography of the maps. Pre-1948 cities are mentioned as Palestinian
cities, but often in connection with the past (a large picture of
In short, far from inciting schoolchildren, the books generally treat sensitive political questions as tangential. There are some exceptions to this rule, but not in any sustained way. Palestinian educators have decided not to supply either a coherent narrative or a set of conceptual tools for understanding such issues. History is presented with very different ends in mind.
sensationalist charges against the Palestinian curriculum are based more on
hostility than analysis. But the
curriculum that has been written might trouble more progressive educators in
far more subtle ways. To date, the
Palestinian National Authority has produced interim textbooks for “national
education” and comprehensive textbooks for four grades (first, second, sixth,
and seventh). The need to develop a new
curriculum provoked extremely active and fundamental debates among Palestinian
educators that occasionally spilled over into public view. Yet despite those debates (to be discussed in
more detail below), a fairly coherent view of the past has emerged in the
textbooks produced thus far. As they
move to very recent history, some signs of controversy and debate appear, and
much of the coherence is lost. But for
the most part, the Palestinian curriculum has produced a vision of history that
makes sense of the present by concentrating on three different periods: the
ancient history of the
The Ancient Past:
The Canannite Heritage
the timelessness is not merely ethnic but also territorial: a sixth-grade unit
on “The Arabs before Islam” includes a map of the Arab world that follows the
current borders of
timelessness takes on unintended ironies when dealing with
focus on the eternal nature of Arab and Palestinian identity, in both ethnic
and geographic terms, is generally not based on any active or hostile denial of
other versions of history. Alternative
versions are not refuted but merely ignored; non-Arab populations generally receive
almost no attention. Because Jews and
Muslims lay common claim to some figures (Abraham, David, and Solomon), the
texts show some awkwardness in dealing with such figures. David and Solomon in particular receive only
passing mention. The history of Jews
(either inside or outside of
The Islamic Past: Conflating National and Religious Identity Palestinian textbooks show little interest in history after the time of the Canaanites until the dawn of Islam. At that point the focus shifts from national to religious identity, though the Islam presented to students has an Arab nationalist coloration at points.
Islamic religious education often is centered around the origins of the religion and the life of the prophet, and Palestinian educators have therefore followed a standard pedagogical technique by beginning their religious instruction in such a way. The authors rely heavily on the life of the prophet and the history of the early Muslims to explain Islamic history, doctrine, and creed. And that leads them to include the relations of the Jews of Medina with the prophet and the early Muslims. The 2000 texts are less timid than their 1994 predecessors in this regard but they are no less ambiguous. Both books mention conflicts between the early Muslims and the Jews. But the implications for contemporary Palestinian-Israeli relations are less clear: students are instructed that Jews broke early agreements with Muslims but that Muslims are bound to keep agreements as long as the other side observes them as well. The analogy between Islam in the seventh century and the current conflict is made more directly at one point: students are instructed to mention incidents of violence that “our people” have been exposed to from enemies and then asked how the enemies and occupiers have dealt with the inhabitants of occupied countries. The following question asks how Muslims dealt with those countries that they won control of—implicitly condemning Israeli and European imperial practices but still holding up tolerance and coexistence as an Islamic norm. The authors of the books on Islamic education are far less reticent than their colleagues writing on history, national education, civic education, and geography to address sensitive issues, but they still seem to find ambiguity useful.
grade Palestinian history students are exposed to the “middle ages” which is
almost entirely encompassed by the Crusades and the Muslim states that defeated
notable perhaps in both these periods is the insistence of the books on
conflating Arab and Muslim identity.
This is part of a broader pattern in the books. Sixth grade students are explicitly
instructed that love of the homeland is a duty of all Muslims and that various
loyalties—family, town, province, state, and Islamic world—are best understood
as a series of concentric circles rather than competing in any way. Students are taught to say: “I am a
Palestinian Muslim. I love my country
Recent History: Teaching and Avoiding
the textbook authors avoid such a sustained account. In the first set of texts issued in 1994, the
formative political events in twentieth-century Palestinian history—the British
mandate, 1948 and 1967 wars, the intifada, and the Oslo Agreements—received
only passing mention. For instance, only
68 words were devoted to the 1967 war in all six books of the series. The first mention
comes in the fourth grade in the midst of a discussion of historical places in
The 1994 books—and especially the description of the Palestinian coast—were often lampooned by Palestinians who noted that those who came from towns including Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre were not Palestinian according to the geographical vision implicit in the books. The silence of the 1994 books extended beyond matters of history and geography: the Palestine described in the series was devoid of any political problems—there were no settlements or checkpoints, and refugee camps were simply described along with cities and villages as normal places Palestinians might live—the origin of the camps or the existence of a refugee problem were not mentioned.
more recent textbooks—those for grades one, two, six, and seven, issued in 2000
and 2001—break some of the silences of the earlier books, but they still fail
to develop any sustained or coherent explanation of the Palestinian
present. The issue of borders is not
even raised, and the books give no clear message on the subject. Almost all in-depth descriptions of
trip the book describes—a bus excursion for students from
elements of an explanation are beginning to emerge, to be sure, but they are notable
for their gaps. On areas where a clear
national consensus exists among Palestinians, or where the Palestinian
leadership has given clear and authoritative declarations of a position, the
textbook authors lose all bashfulness.
those issues that remain ambiguous or hotly contested among Palestinians—such
as borders, the nature of a final settlement with
In many ways, the Palestinian curriculum is based on an unexceptional view of history. The distant past is harnessed to serve current national needs; religious and national identities are consciously and carefully merged; and the recent past is approached gingerly with several divisive and sensitive topics avoided altogether. In this respect, Palestinian education follows patterns that are common both among the PNA’s Arab and non-Arab neighbors. It stands out only because it stakes out such positions in a sharply contested international context.
Identity Indeed, it is that international context that explains the special emphasis on national identity. The official curriculum plan, submitted by the Ministry of Education to the PNA cabinet and approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, explains the importance of national identity in precisely such terms: “Never has the identity of a people been exposed to dangers of vanquish or demolition as the Palestinian one has. The preservation of this identity from dissolution remains the basic indication of the existence of this people and a guarantee for its survival at the present and in the future.” Accordingly, the Ministry proclaimed,
[T]he Palestinian curriculum must reflect the dimensions of the Palestinian identity and its special features. It should also reflect the Islamic affiliation, endeavor to achieve the unity of the Arab and Islamic worlds, work for its freedom, realize its independence, act constructively with other nations, and participate in the development of human ideas, and in humanitarian, political, economic, and cognitive issues.
The Ministry approach is that the best way to protect the Palestinian national identity is to constantly affirm it without even acknowledging any possible challenge or alternative.
The earlier National Education series focused exclusively on “national education” by teaching students that the role of the individual citizen was to identify with and contribute to Palestinian society. Indeed, the fifth grade student was told, upon opening the book, that this is the essential purpose of national education: “Dear male/female student; the chief goal of learning National Education is to work to prepare and raise an upright citizen and to strengthen his sense of belonging to his umma and his homeland.”
new 2000 and 2001 books have actually increased the emphasis on
nationalism. Given the opportunity to
write a comprehensive curriculum for the first time, the authors inserted
nationalist symbols in every conceivable location and illustration. Every school is pictured flying a Palestinian
flag, homes have pictures of the Dome of the Rock, classrooms have nationalist
slogans on their blackboards, computers display Palestinian flags, a school bus
carries the name “
it is precisely such unswerving nationalism that leads to the only appearance
of Hebrew in the Palestinian textbooks.
Under the Oslo Accords, the PNA may not issue its own currency. In seeking to show a coin with the word “
Authority The purpose of history in the
Palestinian curriculum goes beyond inculcating a sense of Palestinian identity
to supporting the authoritative structures in Palestinian society. God, government, school, and parents are all
to receive respect and obedience from children.
The 1994 series included a passage in which a father quotes from the
Qur’an so that God,
‘Abir said to her father: I heard the announcer say that the Palestinian people are distinguished by education and elevated culture. What does that mean, father?
The father said, “Yes, this statement is true. Our people love education because God commanded reading and writing. The Exalted said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord who created, He created humanity from a blood clot, read by your Lord the most noble, who taught with the pen, He taught humanity what it did not know.’ Our first ancestors strove in their love of learning in order to preserve heritage and transmit it to the generations after them.”
The purpose of the new Palestinian curriculum is unabashedly supportive of existing authority. But it is not merely that religion, state, school, and family are authoritative structures; beyond this, the authority of one of these is virtually indistinguishable from the authority of the others. The texts work to create a seamless web of authoritative structures and often elide effortlessly among these: parental authority affirms and is based on religious truth; good family life is necessary to cultivate wider social virtues. As finally approved, the “intellectual basis” of the entire curriculum is said to be faith in God. Other sources of authority are joined to this religious faith. First grade students are taught in Islamic Education:
I love my mother who bore me, and I obey her/I love my mother who nursed me, and I obey her/I love my mother who teaches me, and I obey her
I love my father who provides for me, and I obey him/I love my father who teaches me, and I obey him,
I love my mother and my father, and I obey them.
Duty to God and to parents are specifically linked. Sixth graders are taught that a “society free from crime” depends on family, school, and other institutions. The books betray a clear mission of instilling loyalty to God, homeland, school, and family. Moral lessons intrude on virtually every subject, sometimes supported by a Qur’anic verse. First graders studying Arabic language are taught a story of an honest boy who returns some money dropped by a vendor at school; the story is followed with a Qur’anic verse to memorize and further lessons on the value of cleanliness. Sixth-grade Arabic education begins by warning students that the best gift bestowed by God is the mind, but that those who do not use it will turn toward evil and destruction. A sixth grade science book uses verses from the Qur’an to buttress its teachings on human races and natural forces (such as wind); it adduces a scientific justification for neat and proper behavior (such as sitting up straight). Religion, school, science, and parents all stand in positions of overlapping authority.
To be fair, the message is sometimes qualified. There are several concessions to a less authority-centered approach currently developing among Palestinian educators (to be discussed more fully below). Occasionally the texts address the tension between “imitation” and “creativity” directly: sixth-grades are taught as part of their “national education” that imitating a teacher is good but imitating youth in things “not appropriate for our genuine Arab culture and our traditions and customs” can be bad. Creativity is good when it leads to innovation and progress. And sixth graders are also asked to confront the situation in which parents instruct their children to do something wrong. (The problem is addressed in a book by Salih, a righteous Muslim who instructs his family on religious matters each day after evening prayers. He explains that children are required to obey their parents except in such circumstances.) This lesson is followed by a discussion of the rights of children in Islam and an invitation for students to give their opinions on some difficult situations (in which a father forbids his son from continuing his studies or his daughter from playing sports because she is a girl).
A Democratic Vision The stress on identity and authority may seem completely contrary to any democratic ideas of education. Such a critique has indeed been launched by Palestinian educators, as will be discussed more fully in the following section. But before that critique is presented, it is important to note that there is something profoundly democratic about the current Palestinian curriculum: it is based on a clear national and popular consensus. In other words, the existing textbooks are very much products of prevailing values in Palestinian society. It is not imposed by a patronizing leadership but developed by those who have worked to translate national consensus into an educational program.
is precisely because the curriculum is responsive to popular values and
pressure that it emphasizes national identity and various forms of authority so
consistently. And the same
responsiveness explains the awkward silences, gaps, and inconsistencies in
matters connected with recent history and current realities. Palestinians are united on the centrality of
goals of the existing curriculum focus on national identity and authority, a
very different set of goals has been advanced by a group of leading Palestinian
educators. This section will present
this progressive alternative to the officially-sanctioned approach. First, the progressive alternative itself
will be described. Second, the impact
that the progressives have had on the new curriculum will be presented. Third, the limitations of the progressive
approach—especially in areas such as history, national identity, and religion
will be considered. In short, the
progressive alternative has achieved some influence, but it is likely that the
last area it will seek to address will be the tremendously sensitive issues of
the meaning of the past, the meaning of
A Different Image of Democracy In the 1990s, even before the construction of the PNA, an alternative education vision, concentrating on ideal citizenship and democratic practice, arose within the Palestinian educational community. Deeply critical of existing educational practices, advocates of the new vision have provoked surprisingly little opposition and increasingly dominate public discussions of education. The core of the alternative vision is to recast the question around which the educational system—especially pedagogy but also the curriculum—is based. Rather than ask, “What body of knowledge should students be taught?” newer approaches ask, “What kind of citizen do we want?” The effect of posing this question is to justify a profound critique not merely of the substance of the existing curriculum but even more of prevailing educational methods.
new educational vision emerged among three distinct (and hardly coordinated)
groups. First, some Palestinian
intellectuals, generally secular and often on the left, were attracted to
educational issues because of their desire to build a more participatory and
democratic national culture. Such
intellectuals often had a strong interest in educational issues but were not
academic specialists in education—nor did all speak respectfully of educational
specialists, especially those employed in the Ministry of Education. While nationalism was often their point of
entry to educational issues, their focus broadened to democracy, especially
after the creation of the Palestinian National Authority. This was the case with Ibrahim Abu Lughod, a
Palestinian political scientist with an American Ph.D., who taught for many
A second group of Palestinian educational reformers consisted of educational specialists. While most shared general Palestinian nationalist aspirations, it was not the nationalist cause alone that motivated them. Many received graduate training overseas, especially in American schools of education, and had a strong professional and international orientation. The idea of a Palestinian-designed curriculum had strong attraction, of course, but their major focus was educational: to turn Palestinians into a community of active and critical learners, based on the most recent developments in educational theory. In developing their ideas, these educators not only shared a highly critical view of existing educational practices but also often extended this to a broader and quite trenchant social critique. Already in the intifada, some educators had begun a reading campaign to compensate for the extended school closings. Munir Fasheh, a specialist in mathematics and science education involved in the reading campaign, expressed an emerging consensus among education specialists:
In my thirty years of experience in various Palestinian educational settings, I have often seen superficial and symbolic improvement that disguises real deterioration underneath: Palestinian students acquire diplomas but no learning abilities; they learn textbook theories but not the ability to construct their own explanations of experiences and phenomena. Schools encourage ready-made solutions and discourage experimentation and innovative ideas. Palestinians build universities that lack good libraries and that impede students’ development of the abilities to express, organize, and produce knowledge; and they build structures and organizations that lack community bonding and community spirit. Enacting visible, but often merely symbolic, improvement without deeper and longer lasting change deceives people and blinds them from seeing the opportunities that are being lost, as well as what could and should be done instead. Palestinians need to create alternatives in their minds and in their practice to deal with current challenges and the increasing demands on formal education.
Hashweh, a specialist in science education at
Firstly, in Palestinian schools knowledge explained by the teacher and found in one official textbook is unquestionable and is to be remembered for future use only. Secondly, the school examination system focuses on the memorisation of information. Thirdly, there is high esteem in the Palestinian society for Western scientific knowledge. This might cause the Palestinian teachers to accept both the scientific knowledge and the empiricist beliefs about its nature which come with it in the same package. Finally, mostly male school teachers are usually unchallenged; although the Palestinian society is probably not as patriarchal as some other Eastern societies, knowledge is still legitimised by the status of the person who has that knowledge.
Even seemingly technical subjects—like mathematics—were not exempt from this critique. Fasheh denounced existing education for treating mathematics as a dead subject, divorced form social reality; he wrote, “this reflects the extent to which we have been conditioned to be passive participants in the teaching process.”
third group developing a vision of educational reform consisted of
teachers. The reforming teachers echoed
rather than repudiated the dim view of existing pedagogy taken by the first two
groups. Complaints about the curriculum
and the physical resources made available for education are fairly common among
teachers. In the 1980s, often during the
extended school closures occasioned by the intifada, some groups of teachers
began to meet to discuss techniques and pedagogy. Ramallah proved an active area in this
regard, and some schools (such as the
The availability of international funding, especially after 1994, led to new organizations being founded (and some members of existing ones splitting off to form their own organizations). In 1995, some of those involved in Al-Mawrid formed a new NGO, the Teacher Creativity Center (TCC), that managed to pursue a critique of current practices and build links to external donors and to the Ministry of Education. Its director criticizes existing pedagogy in the Arab world as designed only to transmit information from one generation to the next; such an approach is no longer appropriate. Instead, students must be taught to become critical and active thinkers. The group began to print a magazine on education; sponsored by local businesses, it was distributed to local teachers. A pamphlet on “The Importance of Dialogue in the Classroom” was also distributed.
Six NGOs active in the educational field (including Tamer, Al-Mawrid, and the TCC) formed and began publishing a bimonthly newsletter on educational issues, Al-multaqa al-tarbawi, distributed as an insert in the daily Al-ayyam. Authors in the newsletter, many of them teachers, contribute articles on topics like role of the teacher, gender in the curriculum, teaching nonviolence, Christian education, summer camps, and education for children with special needs. The tone of the articles varies but all express an enthusiasm for change and reform. An article in December 1999 on education in the coming millennium issued a harsh and sweeping judgment: the twentieth century was “a lost century for Arab education.”
who viewed the twentieth century as a lost century were given their opportunity
to ensure that the next one would be different almost as soon as the PNA assumed
responsibility for education. In 1995,
at the beginning of the second school year under its auspices, the PNA
established a “
final report of the Abu Lughod committee took one year to produce. A thick volume
(over 600 pages in length), the report is often unsettling reading. It is merciless in some of its prose; it also
replete with terminology far more common in conversations about education in
The Abu Lughod report proposed a comprehensive reformulation of the Palestinian educational system, covering every aspect of classroom education. Perhaps the most daring ideas centered on secondary education: the report advocated the complete abolition of the tawjihi examination in order to free teachers and students from emphasizing memorization and standardization. The longstanding enforced tracking of secondary students into literary and scientific tracks (based on examination) would be eliminated as well. Instead, students would be free to choose between an academic and technical track (with considerable overlap between the two). Secondary school students would be allowed an increasing amount of choice among courses as they progressed in their studies.
in areas where they settled on recommending only mild reform, the committee
showed a willingness to rethink established procedures in fundamental ways. For instance, elimination of the summer
vacation was seriously considered though ultimately rejected. The committee did advocate a new school
schedule, however. The school day was to
begin earlier and periods were to be shortened for the lower grades (based on
the shorter attention span of younger students) and lengthened for the upper
ones. Primary schooling was to start one
year earlier, at age five. Some subjects
were to be introduced earlier (English, as an international language, was to
begin at the first grade). The committee
even considered some radical reform of religious education—such as greatly
reducing it or switching to an emphasis on comparative religion or ethics
rather than religious knowledge.
Ultimately religion proved to be too controversial a subject for even
the daring Abu Lughod committee to resolve within its year of operation; the
committee reported the various ideas but did not propose its own. The report did emphasize a more complex
national identity than was traditional by including not only specifically
Palestinian and broader Arab and Islamic dimensions, but also international
elements. With a large and diverse
diaspora, and with ambitions to participate in global economic and political
affairs, Palestinian children were to learn that their identity encompassed a
cosmopolitan, global dimension. As if to
underscore this international dimension, the committee studied a large variety
of other curricula (including some from the
for all its willingness to rethink all aspects of education, the most radical
aspects of the committee’s work lay in two other areas. First, it established a far more open and
participatory method for designing the curriculum than had existed in the past. The committee jealously guarded its autonomy
from the Ministry of Education and other structures of the PNA. In consulting with teachers, for instance,
the committee reached out directly to teachers themselves rather than going
through the Ministry or school bureaucracy. The committee
conducted comprehensive surveys of teachers and studied the results, citing
them in support of its arguments for radical reform. It also scheduled a series
of meetings with teachers. ‘Ali Jarbawi goes so far as to claim that most of
the committee’s ideas came from teachers themselves. The committee
sought out other audiences—students, recent graduates, and religious figures—to
discuss their impressions and present initial ideas. As it began to draw up its proposals, the
committee held a series of “town meetings” (Abu Lughod claims to have
introduced the concept to Palestinians) in the
Second, the committee’s report focused far more attention on pedagogy than on curricular content. Implicitly the committee argued that the realization of Palestinian aspirations depended far more on how students were taught then what they were taught. In this respect, for instance, the report denounced two aspects of the current curriculum. First, it treated its subjects as discrete, paying little attention to connections among various fields of knowledge. In their proposal, members of the committee focused on the integration of the curriculum. For instance, the proposal at the primary level suggests:
Teaching these subjects will be organized in an integrated way so that the teacher will connect the subjects studied during the instructional process. For instance, the teacher of the class should connect mathematics during instruction with the other subjects, like science, history, etc. This will help the students achieve an integrated, unified, and coordinated view toward the curriculum and toward the experiences of life as a whole. Arithmetic skills, for example, will develop as if they are skills connected with the comprehensive ability of the student to use them in all subjects and real-life situations, and not as if they are isolated behaviors used only in mathematics.
A similar sensibility leads to a second major theme in the report: the need to make education practical and connected to Palestinian reality. The existing curriculum is criticized mercilessly as arid, abstract, and impractical. After presenting the results of a survey of social studies teachers, for instance, the report charges that instruction is “without meaning because it appears as if it is separate from the external world and unconnected to reality.” To repair this, the very basis of instruction must change: teachers must lecture far less and engage students in exercises and applications far more.
In their emphasis on practicality and integration, the authors of the report present their argument primarily in terms of rendering Palestinian education useful and accessible for the students. When they add broader social usefulness to this concern for the student, their vision presents an even greater challenge to existing education. Two elements of this new pedagogy appear consistently throughout the Abu Lughod report: first, education must be democratic; second it must foster independent, critical thought. The (largely unspoken) purpose of this revolution in pedagogy goes beyond the needs of individual students to the perceived exigencies of a thoroughly democratic society.
The first innovation, a democratic classroom, is based on a conception of democracy (to be examined more fully below) that is related less to majoritarian governance and more to a model of proper social interaction and decision-making. For the reformers, a democratic classroom does not mean that students are to elect their teachers or textbooks, but they are to discuss in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual respect. Teachers should transform themselves from classroom authorities to guides who help students teach themselves and each other. They are encouraged to use a variety of instructional techniques (group works, experimentation, case studies, field trips) that encourage interaction among the students and between the students and the teacher. Teachers are also enjoined to arrange their classrooms to foster the same kind of interaction. Such an atmosphere is to prevail in all areas of the curriculum—even, for instance, in science and language instruction.
The second of these pedagogical innovations—the emphasis on critical thought—grows similarly out of a harsh view of the current instructional approach in which “the teacher views the learning student as a ‘container to be filled’.” The existing curriculum places the teacher at the center of the educational process; its philosophy “relies on the storage of information.” This fails to lead to the development of “creative, critical thought;” indeed, the goal of the current curriculum is “not to change but to imitate.” In opposition to this “traditional” curriculum, the report focuses its proposed methods “on considering the student the center of the instructional process and on creating students who are lifelong learners.” The new curriculum was to:
…make manifest that truth is not absolute or final and that definitive canons do not exist. Learning cannot take place by giving the students information as if it is a collection of facts that must be memorized. The curriculum must develop the critical, analytical sense among the students by concentrating on following the scientific method, which focuses fundamentally on the importance of verification by the accuracy of information and the credibility of sources. Free, open, unshackled inquiry must take the place of receipt of what the curriculum sets out and arranges. The curriculum must therefore encourage the process of understanding to take the place of the development of the ability to memorize…What is important is not obtaining information but how to use it.
The curriculum must focus as well as developing independence of thought among the students. This is what makes the individual able to interact with his environment and surroundings. The individual is the basis of society, and the independence of the individual is the basis of the existence of a vital, active society.
This is the essence of the new curriculum—the shift from teacher’s authority to student’s individuality, from absolute to relative truth, from receiving knowledge to discovering it, from uniformity to pluralism, from constituting a dutiful member of society to fostering an active and freethinking citizen.
Progressive footprinTs in the new curriculum The Abu Lughod
committee’s merciless approach to the existing educational system offended some
education officials; its willingness to make radical proposals led some to view
it as a utopian or overly aspirational approach. Yet the Ministry of Education was forced to
translate the recommendations of the report into a concrete proposal for a new
curriculum. In 1997, it presented a
formal report, which received official approval and became the basis for the
new curriculum, to be developed by a new, reconstituted
Still, the curriculum and textbooks produced by the new Center, beginning with the first and sixth grades in September 2000, show some unmistakable influence of the progressives. New subjects (such as civic education) have been introduced. The curriculum now includes material on human rights and democracy. New exercises and assignments were added that conformed to the pedagogical vision of the groups pressing for innovation and reform.
Much of the curriculum showed the signs of unresolved debates or uneasy compromises. For instance, some Palestinian educators had criticized older educational material for reinforcing traditional gender roles. Others insisted that proper Islamic behavior—deemed to include modesty in dress—be inculcated in students. While the two viewpoints were not mutually contradictory, their proponents often regarded each other as adversaries. The outcome in the textbooks is an uneasy compromise with something for everyone. A striking number of Palestinian men are shown preparing food and working in the kitchen. The texts explicitly endorse women’s sporting activity on Islamic grounds (provided they are properly clothed and men are not spectators). Women veiled (in the hijab, which covers the hair but not the face) coexist happily in illustrations with those unveiled. In illustrations of religious life, however, even young girls and women at home wear the hijab. And a husband instructs not only his children but also his wife on the duty of prayer.
Perhaps most hopefully for the progressives, the books make concessions to a far more active pedagogy that qualifies much of the stress on authority. Most often, the new attitude is expressed indirectly: the texts make a tremendous effort to engage the student actively, encourage consideration of practical applications, and provoke further thought. The authors of the books pepper their lessons with outside activities, essays, questions for reflection and study, and encouragement of critical thinking. Most lessons begin by explaining their purpose to the student. The books make strong efforts to link to local and concrete applications and examples or make the information more accessible. In order to make the lesson on the prophet Muhammad’s life more interactive, for instance, students are asked to fill in a modern-day identity card for him. Most lessons in all subjects start with the local and the familiar and build outwards (first grade national education, for instance, progresses in the following order: family and house, I and my school, the neighborhood, my town, my homeland). Far more daringly, the books even push the students to engage in critical thought when dealing with difficult and sensitive topics. Sixth-grade students are asked to evaluate the policies used by Mu‘awiyya (the fifth caliph and founder of the Umayyad dynasty) in solidifying his authority and building his state; they are then asked to consider the hereditary method for selecting rulers—an assignment that is likely to lead some to question early Muslims and current Arab political practice in some countries. And sixth graders are also asked to confront the situation in which parents instruct their children to do something wrong.
The concessions to the progressives are real. Science books claim to take a constructivist approach, for instance, implicitly undermining the idea that science is a set of fixed and discovered truths to be taught. Yet despite the attempt to build a more interactive pedagogy, ultimately the new set of texts do not meet the central mission of the progressive educational vision: the books are still generally based on the idea that they impart knowledge from a position of authority; they may encourage more active learning but their encouragement of critical, creative, and independent thought is limited.
History and Religion as the
Last Frontiers In sum, the
progressives have had real influence on some areas of the new curriculum. In the areas of history, religion, and
identity, however, they have had little impact at all. This is not accidental: even the progressives
tread carefully in such areas. Indeed,
it is often precisely their boldness in other areas that lead them to reticence
on history, faith, and nationalism. The
Abu Lughod committee deliberately avoided the two most controversial subjects
they had to consider: religion and the history and geography of
With regard to religion, an emphasis on democratic interaction and critical thought led some committee members in directions that others did not wish to follow. Certainly, changing the emphasis on teaching religious texts as divine revelation would have provoked strong opposition. And the Ministry of Education made clear it would not be receptive to such a recommendation, fearful of the public response. One Ministry official explains: “Of course, there was no question that the curriculum had to include religion. This is wanted by all Palestinians—Muslims and Christians.” Thus, for the committee to pursue a change in religious education would have divided the members, embroiled it in more controversy than it wished to stir up, and ultimately failed. Yet the secularist bias of the committee came through in a subtle manner: the report called for separating religion from history and civics and criticized the overlap between the subjects in the existing curriculum. This approach stood at odds with the same committee’s constant call for integration among various parts of the curriculum.
Palestinian history and geography proved a difficult subject for the same reason. Both Abu Lughod and Jarbawi recalled that they were asked time and again how they were to approach issues such as borders, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the refugee issue, and so on. Once again, they largely avoided such topics; Jarbawi recalls that they were concerned that any extended treatment would quickly become the object of debate, obstructing a broader consideration of their proposal. And as with religion, their brief consideration of such issues seemed to be at odds with their general approach. The emphasis on critical thought, free discussion, and the absence of fixed truths gave way to a recommendation that the curriculum simply stick to the facts. The report acknowledges the importance and sensitivity of the issue that it summarizes in the form of the question “What Palestine do we teach?”
This might be the most difficult question but the answer need not be so difficult. The new curriculum must be a Palestinian creation. It must acknowledge the realities of the situation without falsifying historical truths and their repercussions in various dimensions in the context of social science instruction.
vague emphasis on “realities” left little to contest—or to guide a textbook
writer. In a public discussion in 1996,
Abu Lughod similarly made the issue of teaching
…the history of the Arabs has not really been written. There is no Palestinian history. This is the job of Palestinian academic institutions. Having one book is not enough. We don’t want one interpretation—let us rather get the facts at least. Once students are armed with the basic facts, our teaching of how to think will take over.
The unspoken argument is that Palestinians must write their own history, but they cannot unless they are willing to do so in the same spirit of open debate and critical inquiry that will guide the curriculum as a whole. Because that effort has at best only begun, and because it would be too controversial to allow students such total freedom in debating such sensitive national issues, the authors of the Abu Lughod report fall back on the “realities” and “facts” that they tried to evict from other parts of the curriculum—hoping that a generation of students trained to engage in critical inquiry rather than uncritical absorption will allow a future reform based not simply on dry presentation of the facts but also on attempts to foster democratic and critical debate.
irony is that the advocates of democracy in education lost their boldness not
so much in the face of such difficult topics but because of fear of public opinion. Those who wished to build a democratic
educational system were willing to take up God and
Harsh external critics of the PNA curriculum and textbooks have had to rely on misleading and tendentious reports to support their claim of incitement. But a far milder version of such criticisms—that the curriculum does little to support peace—would be accurate. The Palestinian educational system is designed to serve other goals, most prominently the inculcation of identity and legitimation of authority—largely ignoring the sensitive issues connected with peace. This leads internal critics to launch a second set of criticisms against the curriculum—that its subject matter and pedagogy are stale and authoritarian. Such critics have had some impact and achieved a modest level of reform, but their fundamental charges against the educational system have not been answered.
Is there any hope that the internal, progressive critique will begin to transform the Palestinian educational system in areas such as history and national identity? Can Palestinian students be taught not simply who they are but how to think critically about their past and present? Might this help foster a Palestinian identity—or set of identities—willing to reinterpret the past with an eye not only to violated rights and injustice but also toward peace and reconciliation?
Any hope for such movement in current political circumstances is probably unrealistic. With the effects of conflict felt on a daily basis, what textbooks and teachers say is probably irrelevant in any case. But in the longer term, the progressive alternative does offer an attractive vision. The progressive educators argue for an educational system that does not simply inculcate the values of the past but prepares citizens to think independently and critically. Students emerging from such a system would, if the vision is successful, show far greater ability to confront their past critically, and, more important, interact constructively with those who did not share their values and identities.
the long term, then, the specific content of textbooks on issues of
 I gratefully acknowledge the assistance and comments provided by the late Ibrahim Abu Lughod, Sam Kaplan, `Ali Jarbawi, Elie Podeh, Lara Friedman, David Matz,Khalil Mahshi, Isma`il Nujum, Maher Hashweh, Rif`at Sabah, and Fouad Moughrabi. This research was funded by a Fulbright grant and a grant from the United States Institute of Peace. The opinions expressed are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fulbright or the USIP.
 See the Center’s website, www.edume.org
 An Israeli resident of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, Marcus previously lobbied to keep West Bank aquifers under Israeli control. His work on textbooks led Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to appoint him to a joint committee with the Palestinians on incitement. He then went on to found an organization that searches Palestinian media for anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish statements, following a similar method to that followed for textbooks.
For an example of a criticism of the Center's work that focuses on Marcus personally, see the document submitted by the PLO to the Mitchell Commission, “Third Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee,” 3 April 2001, www.nad-plo.org/eye/Response%20to%20Israeli%20Submission.5.pdf, p. 22.
 The report’s method of listing large number of statements from the books led it to include all sorts of material under the anti-Israel rubric. For instance, any mention of a Palestinian character to Jerusalem was listed as questioning the Israeli nature of the city. Since Jerusalem was designated as a matter for final status negotiations, the idea that the Palestinians questioned Israeli annexation should have been unsurprising. What is more surprising—and unremarked in the report—is that all mentions of locations in Jerusalem in the Palestinian-authored books refer only to the Old City and a few Arab neighborhoods. If textbooks are taken as indications of negotiating positions—an implicit assumption of the report—then the Palestinians showed far more willingness to compromise on Jerusalem than Israel.
 The Center’s report does include some excerpts from the 1994 Palestinian-authored books but none can fairly be viewed as hostile to Israel or to Jews. The texts are examined in more detail below.
 My son attended a Tel Aviv school which celebrated "tolerance day," assuring all students that Israelis can be religious or secular, light-skinned or dark-skinned, and Jewish or Arab. Following the Center's methodology, such a unit might be lambasted for failing to include Palestinians who do not hold Israeli citizenship and for denying Palestinian identity (by not mentioning it).
 To follow the Center’s methodology, an American textbook from the late 1930s mentioning Abraham Lincoln might be seen as carrying a pro-Communist message because of the role of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Certainly the Center’s logic could be used to cite any Israeli textbook mentioning Yitzhak Shamir as encouraging massacres of Palestinians and political assassinations of British and UN officials.
 The Center eschews such a prosecutorial approach in its treatment of Israeli textbooks. Were it to be more consistent in its approach, it could easily (and, to some extent, unfairly) smear the efforts of Israeli educators. My own son's experience in a fourth-grade class in Tel Aviv can bear this out. He was given maps that included all the PNA territories in Israel and none that excluded them. (With Israel not having determined its borders or recognized Palestinian sovereignty, this is understandable, but the Center hardly approaches Palestinian textbooks with such sympathetic understanding). A unit on the history of the land included no significant material on the Palestinian population and the only treatment of Muslims (the Ottomans) was negative. A biblical text (Joshua) was presented that defined the borders promised to the Jews ambitiously covering much of Jordan and Syria. While the text itself could not be changed, the edition given to my son included notes designed to ensure the students understood the nature of these borders (the same book was reticent only when dealing with an incident involving a prostitute: the commentary indicated that the word "prostitute"--an unfortunately common playground epithet at my son's school--really meant "vegetable seller." In short, the edition showed embarrassment when the text mentioned sex, but not when it dealt with borders.) Perhaps most shocking, my son was given a song sheet during a unit on the history of the city of Tel Aviv that advocated beating and even the death of Arabs (the song lauded a guard for beating up Arabs and quoted him saying, "Get out of here, `Abd Allah, you should die, God willing, but just not in Tel Aviv.") My point here is not that Israeli textbooks are racist (my vague impression is that the secular educational establishment is to be commended for steadily growing sensitivity over how such matters are to be taught). I only wish to observe that a report using the same selective techniques as the Center could easily portray them extremely negatively. (A completely fair account here should mention that the offensive verse in the song was not taught to the students in my son's class after my wife and I complained to the teacher, who apologized profusely and expressed extreme embarrassment that she had circulated a song with such words.) A full and fair-minded treatment of Israeli textbooks is forthcoming from Elie Podeh, The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Israeli History Textbooks (Westport: Bergin and Garvey, 2001).
 Without a hint of irony, Krauthammer simultaneously denounced the Israeli changes, favorably citing a book that covered the issue "in rather great and shocking details." See the transcript of remarks delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, "Is the Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process Dead, and if so, What's Next," 6 November 2000, www.aei.org/past_event/conf001106.htm.
 Berl Wein, "Illusions," Jerusalem Post, 26 October 2000.
 Christina Lamb, "Intifada: The Next Generation," Sunday Telegraph, 15 October 2000, p. 26
 Commission of the European Communities, "Statement on behalf of Commissioner Patten on press reports regarding alleged EC funding for text books used by the Palestinian Authority," press release, 27 April 2001. The statement came after a story in the European Voice on the textbook controversy.
 "Hillary Clinton: Link PA Aid to End to Antisemitism," Jerusalem Post 26 September 2000.
 The text of the letter can be found at http://www.senate.gov/~clinton/news/2001/06/2001614111.html.
 Gerald Steinberg criticized European assistance and diplomacy for ineffectiveness in 1999, writing that "new Palestinian textbooks dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict contain the same myths and hostility." (See The European Union and the Middle East Peace Process” Gerald M. Steinberg, Jerusalem Letter, No. 418, 15 November 1999. Steinberg's description of the books published by 1999 is unsupportable even by the tendentious standards of the Center.
 Steve Israel, letter to The New York Times, 10 June 2001, Section 4, p. 14.
 Two Palestinians (Khalil Mahshi and Fouad Moughrabi) looked for editions in the libraries in Ramallah and found the editions there--the ones that would have been available to the textbook authors--did not contain the banner. I located an edition published in 1991 that also lacked the banner (Mustafa Murad Dabbagh, Biladuna Filastin, Kafr Qara`: Dar al-Huda, 1991). In short, while it may or may not be true that one edition of the book contained the banner, most editions—including the one authors most probably relied on—do not. And the Center makes other mistakes: it claims the book is dedicated to "those who are battling for the expulsion of the enemy form our land!" In fact, the dedication is to "those who strove for maintaining the Arabness of Palestine."
 Raphael Israeli, "Education, Identity, State Building and the Peace Process: Educating Palestinian Children in the Post-Oslo Era," Terrorism and Political Violence 12 (1, Spring 2000), pp. 79-94.
 Shlomo Sharan, "Israel and the Jews in the Schoolbooks of the Palestinian Authority," in Arieh Stahv, Israel and a Palestinian State: Zero-Sum Game (Shaarei Tikva: Ariel Center for Policy Research, 2001), available at http://www.acpr.org.il/publications/pa/pp58.doc, p. 57.
 Principles of Human Geography (2000), Grade 6, p. 48.
 National Education (2001), Grade 2, Part I, pp. 4-5.
 Arab and Islamic History (2000), Grade 6, Unit I. North African areas are not included. All of mandatory Palestine is included as is Alexandretta, a district transferred from Syria to Turkey under the French mandate, a move still regarded as illegitimate by Syria.
 Lest an unsympathetic reader misinterpret my words, I should explain that I do not question the depth or the passion of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem; indeed, I share it. I seek only to observe that strongly nationalistic feelings have led some--on both sides--to erase significant portions of the city's history and population, either through disinterest or denial.
 Arts and Crafts (2000), Grade 6, pp. 37-45. The reference to ending the Hebrew occupation of Jerusalem is striking because it pits the pre-Islamic Arabs against those mentioned in the Qur’an as prophets, undermining (almost certainly unconsciously) the close identification between Arabs and Islam that pervade other textbooks.
 There is the additional irony, similar to that of the reference to Nebuchadnezzar, of using the word "jizya:" it places Ibrahim, a Muslim prophet, in the position of a non-Muslim and the idol-worshipper (as the pre-Muslim Arabs are described) in the position of a Muslim ruler. See Our Beautiful Language (2000), Grade 6, Part II, pp. 20-23.
 Islamic Education (2000), Grade 6, Part II, p, 84.
 Islamic Education (2000), Grade 6, Part I, pp. 66-69.
 Dr. Sami Adwan, "Analysis of the 1967 War Narrative in Palestinian History and Civic Education School Textbooks," Tonsberg: Vestfold College, 1998; http://www.bib.hive.no/tekster/hveskrift/rapport/1998-4/index.html.
 National Education (1994), Grade 4, p. 42. `Imwas fell in a strategic region near the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. In 1948 the area saw intense combat as part of the battle over Jerusalem. Having occupied the area in 1967, Israel evicted the inhabitants on the grounds of protecting the highway that ran nearby. The area has been turned into a large park ("Canada Park") and treated by Israel as part of its territory. For many Palestinians, destroyed villages remain some of the most poignant symbols of their conflicts with the Zionist movement and the state of Israel. This makes the brevity of the text and its use of the passive voice especially striking.
 National Education (1994), Grade 5, p. 34.
 National Education (1994), Grade 5, p. 36.
 National Education (1994), Grade 5, p. 37.
 National Education (1994), Grade 3, p. 31.
 The phrase is used in the preface of each book issued in 2000 and 2001.
 Our Beautiful Language (2001), Grade 2, pp. 60-61.
 Our Beautiful Language (2000), Grade 1, part II, Unit Seven.
 Ministry of Education, General Administration of Curricula (Palestinian Curriculum Development Center), First Palestinian Curriculum Plan (Jerusalem: al-Ma`arif, 1998), p. 7.
 National Education (1994), Grade 5, p. 2.
 The coin is illustrated in Mathematics (2000), Grade 6, Part II.
 The stamp is on the cover of National Education (2001), Grade 2.
 National Education (1994), Grade 4, p. 40.
 First Palestinian Curriculum Plan, p. 7.
 Islamic Education, Grade 1, Part I, p. 39.
 See, for example, Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part I, p. 19.
 Civic Education, Grade 6, Unit IV.
 Our Beautiful Language, Grade 1, Part II, Unit VI.
 Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part I, p. 4.
 General Science, Grade 6, Part I, pp. 10-11.
 National Education, Grade 6, Unit III, section on “Imitation and Creativity.”
 Islamic Education, Grade 6, pp. 45-61.
 Denis As`ad, "The Arab Youth [Publishing] House…A Significant Educational Experiment," (Arabic), Al-multaqa al-tarbawi Issue 10, December 1999.
 "Ramallah: Tourism and Archaeology Opens a Workshop about the Special Touring Guide for Schools," Al-ayyam 8 September 1999. The same archaeologists produced the first Palestinian-authored English-language travel guide, the PACE Tour guide of the West Bank and Gaza Strip "Palestine" (Ramallah: Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange, 1999).
 For one expression of this orientation, see Zaynab Habash, Tarshid al-manahij al-madrasiyya fi al-daffa al-gharbiyya wa-qita` ghazza [Guiding the School Curricula in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip] (Jerusalem: n.p., 1996).
 Munir Jamil Fasheh, "The Reading Campaign Experience within Palestinian Society: Innovative Strategies for Learning and Building Community," Harvard Educational Review 65 (1, Spring 1995), p. 68.
 Maher Z. Hashweh, "Palestinian Science Teachers' Epistemological Beliefs: A Preliminary Survey," Research in Science Education 26 (1, 1996), p. 97.
Munir Fasheh, "Is Math in the Classroom Neutral--Or Dead," For the Learning of Mathematics 17 (2, June 1997), p. 24.
 Isma`il Nujum, director, Al-Mawrid, personal interview, Ramallah, July 2000; see also Palestine and Education: The "Teaching Palestine Project" (Ramallah: Al-Mawrid, 1997).
 The Al-Mawrid guide included a case in which a student acts aggressively toward a teacher; the student is expelled after the teacher threatens to resign but relatives of the students attempt to mediate the dispute. See Maher Hashweh, Al-Tarbiyya al-dimuqratiyya: Ta`allum wa-ta`lim al-dimuqratiyya min ajl istikhdamiha (Ramallah: Al-Mawrid, 1999). The unit was used in some local schools, though one school administration found the material too sensitive and pulled out of the project. For an English-language description of the Center's work (including the democracy project), see Maher Hashweh and Ismail Njoum, "A Case-Based Approach to Education in Palestine: A Case Study of an Innovative Strategy," paper presented at the Selmun Seminar, "Innovative Strategies in Meeting Educational Challenges in the Mediterranean," Malta, 13-19 June 1999.
 The other NGOs were the Early Childhood Resource Center (Jerusalem), the Educational Information and Coordination Project (Ramallah), the Young Scientists Club (Ramallah), the Tamir Social Education Foundation (Ramallah), and the Consciousness and Participation Foundation (Bethlehem).
 Salah al-Subani, "The Problems of Arab Education and the Conditions of Maintenance and Progress in the Third Millennium," Al-multaqa al-tarbawi, Issue 10, December 1999.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal li-l-ta`lim al-`amm: al-khitta al-shamila [officially translated as A Comprehensive Plan for the Development of the First Palestinian Curriculum for General Education] (Ramallah: Curriculum Development Center, 1996). I have referred to the group as the Abu Lughod committee rather than its formal name (despite his objection to me, expressed in a personal communication) to distinguish it from the permanent Curriculum Development Center that was established after the first body of that name had completed its work.
 Personal interview with Ibrahim Abu Lughod, Ramallah, October 1999.
 `Ali Jarbawi, personal interview, Ramallah, January 2000.
 `Ali Jarbawi, personal interview, Ramallah, January 2000.
 Personal interview with Ibrahim Abu Lughod, Ramallah, October 1999.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, p. 90.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, p. 449.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, pp. 105-106.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, p. 35.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, pp. 53-54.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, p. 104.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, pp. 455-56 [emphasis original].
 Islamic Education, Grade 6, Part I, p. 49.
 Islamic Education, Grade 1, Part I, p. 57.
 Arab and Islamic History, Grade 6, unit on “The Umayyad Caliphate.”
 `Ali Jarbawi, personal interview, Ramallah, January 2000.
 Khalil Mahshi, Director General, International and Public Relations, Ministry of Education, personal interview, Ramallah, August 1999.
 Interviews with Ibrahim Abu Lughod, Ramallah, October 1999 and `Ali Jarbawi, Ramallah, January 2000.
 `Ali Jarbawi, personal interview, Ramallah, January 2000.
 Al-manhaj al-filastini al-awwal, pp. 454-55 [emphasis original].
 "Education Strategies and the Future Needs of a Palestinian Curriculum, Roundtable with a Presentation by Dr. Ibrahim Abu Lughod, Head of the Palestinian Curriculum Development Center" 15 August 1996, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Jerusalem, http://www.passia.org/meetings/96/meet28.htm.