Inside Israeli and Palestinian Textbooks

Friday, February 08, 2013

A new study examined Israeli and Palestinian textbooks and found bias, but not dehumanizing language about the conflict. Three experts who worked on the study talk about the findings and the controversy about their conclusions. Bruce Wexler is professor emeritus and senior research scientist in psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. Sami Adwan is associate professor of education at Bethlehem University, and Daniel Bar-Tal is professor of research in child development and education at Tel Aviv University.   


Sami Adwan, Daniel Bar-Tal and Bruce Wexler

Comments [39]

Rachamim Ben Ami from Mindanao, Philippines

First, on the report...Professor Bar Tal has literally devoted his entire career towards demonising Israeli society vis a vis what he believes is its inherent racism towards Arabs. In this "report" Bar Tal, who was given the responsibility of locating racist Israeli texrbooks, focused almost entirely on PRIVATE curriculum, and not state curriculm. Choosing textbooks used by private schools he sought to fool readers into thinking that these are mainstream concepts and ideas. On the other hand, ALL the racist and demeaning textbooks chosen by his colleague on the Arab side of the equation DID come from Palestinian Authority schools. Leading readers to believe that they are juxtaposing two parallel systems the authors have attempted to manipulate public opinion and response. It is akin to my taking whatever textbooks Westboro Baptist uses to educate its children and claiming that because such books contain racist notions it shows that Americans as a whole are racist, et cetera.

The "study" is intellectualy bankrupt and WNYC and other outlets concentrating on it only helps to perpetuate the ignorance and blind obesiance to propaganda that so typifies most Western coverage of the region and certainly of the communal dynamic between "Palestinians" and Israelis.

Feb. 13 2013 07:06 AM
Noach (Non-Zionist, Indpendent Orthodox Jew) from Brooklyn

The overwhelming majority of the foremost Torah sages and rabbinic authorities have always rejected and opposed Zionism-- from its inception, in all of its forms.

Tragically, even many devout and righteous Jews have been misled and corrupted by Zionism.

Feb. 12 2013 11:43 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Judaism existed before Islam came on the scene 1,400 years ago.

Jews were in Israel before "palestine" was invented.

And it's not just Israel that is under attack by Islamists. Hindus in India are under attack too.

Feb. 09 2013 01:11 PM
Non-Zionist Orthodox Jew (Noach) from Brooklyn

jgarbuz wrote,
"Jews are a tribe, and Israel is Jewish tribal land. Otherwise, the whole so-called "Jewish religion"is utterly pointless from Abraham through Moses through King David through all the kings and heroes of Israel, all the way through Theodore Herzl."

This statement is full of problems.

Some responses:

1.) Yet again, you conflate _tribal_, _theological_ and _historical_ arguments.

2.) As I've pointed-out in previous comments, Zionism is actually a _perversion_ of Torah Judaism -- one that has always been rejected by a consensus of the leading Torah sages. (The same G-d who gave us the land exiled us from it and forbade us from re-establishing sovereignty over it before the Messiah arrives).

I realize that you do not appear interested in even _understanding_, let alone _accepting_, this theological position, and debating it would quickly become off-topic and esoteric here.

(Those who are interested, however, may find this site of interest: )

3.) I must note, however, what seems to me like a complete paradox I have found in your posts:

On one hand, you continually invoke the _Bible_ and _religion_ in support of your position that (Zionist) Jews should and must have complete sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel.

Yet, I have also seen posts made by you in which you:
a) stated that you do not even have a solid belief in G-d
b) asserted that religion has been supplanted by science

Aren't you contradicting yourself?

4.) Regarding your assertion that without Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, Judaism is "pointless" --or not even _Judaism_, as it seems you have implied by saying, "the whole so-called "Jewish religion"", I must add the following to the points I have already made above:

What you are saying here, above anything else, is that Judaism is merely a _means_ toward one or more ends. To a believer, however, nothing could be farther from the truth. We consider Judaism to be the _embodiment of Truth_ itself; not merely _an_ end unto itself, but _the_ very purpose of existence, etc.

Feb. 08 2013 03:19 PM
walter from usa

Google and Read the dissenting report of Dr. Arnon Groiss who was one of the committee members. He cites many examples of cherry picking the facts against Israel. Basically this report whitewashes many of the vitriolic screeds against Jews and Israel in the Palestinian textbooks. The report

For example:

"Your enemies killed your children, split open your women's bellies..." was rejected because it did not mention Jews or Israelis and was actually written in the early 20th century. Its appearance in a Palestinian textbook of today with its obviously serious consequences did not change that decision. Similarly, a piece talking of "invading snakes" was also discarded since no Jews or Israelis were mentioned there, as if someone else was intended, who is not involved in the conflict. "

Read the dissenting opinion

Feb. 08 2013 02:34 PM
Non-Zionist, Independent Orthodox Jew (Noach) from Brooklyn

An earlier poster mentioned Chabad-Lubavitch.

I must point-out, sadly, that today's Chabad-Lubavitch movement has strayed quite far from their roots as a venerable branch of the Hasidic movement within Orthodox Judaism.

The most well-known and obvious example of this is the Messianic theology and antics of today's Chabad-Lubavitch, in which they declare their late leader, Rabbi Menachem M. Schnnerson to be the Messiah ("Moshiach"). This alone places the movement outside of the confines of normative Torah Judaism (rejection of the idea of a "second coming" is one of the many fundamental differences that distinguish _Judaism_ from _Christianity_).

But there are many other problems, more subtle and nuanced, with the contemporary Chabad-Lubavitch movement as well.

Included in these are their positions that relate to Zionism, especially their support for the most intransigent nationalist/settler elements.

Ironically, one of the past Chabad-Lubavitch leaders, Rabbi Shalom Ber Schneersohn (known as "The Rebbe Rashab") was among the most vehement opponents of Zionism of his day.

(And not merely of _secular_ Zionism; R' S.B.R. wrote explicitly that _even if_ the Zionists were all devoutly observant and righteous Jews, it would _still_ be forbidden to join or support them.)

You can read some his statements here: )

It was actually Rabbi Shalom Ber Schneerson-- the vehement ANTI-ZIONIST-- and the many like-minded rabbis both of his time and who followed who are well within Torah Judaism. (And _not_ today's Chabad-Lubavitch, etc.)

The distorted impression that has been created today notwithstanding.

Feb. 08 2013 02:02 PM
patty from Manhattan

K Covey --
If Judea has been the homeland of Jews for 2500 years, how is that an "illegal occupation?"

Feb. 08 2013 01:57 PM
Non-Zionist, Independent Orthodox Jew (Noach) from Brooklyn

"Ultra-Orthodox" is a highly problematic and generally misleading term.

The media uses it quite indiscriminately, labeling everyone from the most fanatic and violent "religious-ZIONIST" settlers, to the most zealously ANTI-ZIONIST Orthodox Jews (such as Neturei Karta), under the same "Ultra-Orthodox" label.

The other problem with the term "Ultra-Orthodox" goes beyond the scope of the topic at hand but I will just summarize briefly.

"Ultra-Orthodox" is used (usually with at least a hint of pejorative intent) to label any Orthodox Jews who are to the right (theologically/ in terms of level of observance) of "Modern-Orthodox". This sets _"Modern-Orthodox"_ as the standard of normative halakhic Judaism, against which others are compared. Such an assertion is, at _best_, highly _subjective_ and contentious-- certainly not one that can be made by anyone claiming objectivity.

Feb. 08 2013 12:55 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Remember US Senator Robert F. Kennedy - assassinated by a "palestinian" in 1968.

Feb. 08 2013 12:39 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To blacksocialist

Who says Blacks have to have a whole continent? Jews are a tribe, and Israel is Jewish tribal land. Otherwise, the whole so-called "Jewish religion"is utterly pointless from Abraham through Moses through King David through all the kings and heroes of Israel, all the way through Theodore Herzl. Of course Jews have to have their land! it is ABSURD to even think otherwise!

Feb. 08 2013 12:26 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

K Covey,

If you are honestly against occupation, assuming that you are not a Native American, please repatriate yourself to your ancestral home.

No Double Standards.

Feb. 08 2013 12:13 PM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

@black socialist from bk-

LOL ... that's right, Einstein ....... you DON"T know where to begin.

Feb. 08 2013 11:55 AM
blacksocialist from BK baby

jgarbuz - you are pathetic... where does it say that the precious jews have to have a land all their own. you make so many juvenile assumptions that i dont even know where to begin....

Feb. 08 2013 11:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

There is no neutrality. Israel is either Jewish land or Arab land. The Arabs have 21 countries covering 3 million square miles. The Jews barely have one tiny one less than 9,000 square miles. And now even Brooklyn, once a Jewish haven, is no longer Jewish and has been taken over. Jews have no other land and must defend Israel at all costs, or cease to exist as a people, which is what many want including leftist "Jews."

Feb. 08 2013 11:29 AM
Kira from Greenpoint

and common sense says that whitewashing palestinian atrocities against civilians and demonzing israelis in order to make things "balanced" is simply a nasty lie.

Peace will come when there is a real arab spring of the mind and sprit and heart

not the raping of women and growing Islamism of the egyptian arab "spring"
not the murder of peace activists in the tunisian "spring"
not the butchering of 60,000 (and more everyday) in the Syrian spring
not the daily slaughter of people in Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Somalia and other Islamist areas

it takes courage, not whitewashing

Feb. 08 2013 11:28 AM
blacksocialist from BK baby

right on kcovey, it is because lehrer is a hack journalist that adopts the tried and true "mainstream media" protocol of the false equivalency argument. he, like most "respected" journalists, tries so hard to be neutral, whatever that is of course, that they ignore common sense. of course, common sense is not so common.

Feb. 08 2013 11:21 AM
Henry from MD

We have become so accustomed to anti-Israel bias that when Brian tries to be neutral it is understood to be biased for Israel.

Feb. 08 2013 11:09 AM
Kira from Grrenpoint

The Framing (or Spin) of the Textbook Study

There are the findings, and then there are the ways they are presented. Notable, though hardly surprising, is the way the The New York Times chose to frame the study. For the newspaper it tends to be all about Israel looking bad, and its report in this case is no different: The study, they tell readers, is about Israel being wrong and Palestinians being vindicated. Its headline reads, "Academic Study Weakens Israeli Claim That Palestinian School Texts Teach Hate." (The article's URL, which refers to the study "belying" Israeli claims, suggests an earlier headline may have been even stronger and more off-base in its conclusions.

The newspaper could have more accurately reflected the contents of the researchers' press release, and of the study itself, if it chose any number of other headlines. One example: "Study Shows Israeli Improvement in State Textbooks; Ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian Texts Lag."

The press release, too, seems to tend toward symmetrical language, with the effect of minimizing the overall finding that "the negative presentation of the other, the positive, non-critical presentation of the self, and the absence of images and information about the other, are more pronounced in the Israeli ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian school books than in the Israeli State school books."

Feb. 08 2013 11:04 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

K Covey - Brian is usually so inclined, yes. Nothing new.

Feb. 08 2013 11:00 AM
Omutunde from Kensington

On October 12, 2000, two non-combatant Israeli reservists (serving as drivers), Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, mistakenly passed an Israeli checkpoint and entered Ramallah. Reaching a Palestinian Authority roadblock, where previously Israeli soldiers were turned back, the reservists were detained by PA policeman and taken to the local police station. Hearing rumors that idf soldiers were in the building, a crowd of more than 1,000 Palestinians gathered at the station, calling for the death of the Israelis. Soon after, Palestinian rioters stormed the building, beating and stabbing the soldiers to death. At this point, a Palestinian (later identified as Aziz Salha), appeared at the police station window, displaying his blood-stained hands to the crowd, which erupted into cheers. One of the soldier's bodies was then thrown out the window and stamped and beaten by the enraged mob. Soon after, the mob dragged the two mutilated bodies to Al-Manara Square in the city center as the crowd began an impromptu victory celebration

Feb. 08 2013 10:58 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

I'd like to know more about the study design, and whether it addresses non-textbook instruction. I think some of this is suggested in other comments in this thread, indirectly or otherwise. We all know that use of a textbook comes down to the teacher. Some use them as guardrails for what's presented to students, and some may assign reading directly from them, with specific pages usually assigned. It's doubtful many students read textbooks completely and at will.

Isn't much of ideology presented beyond the textbook? Shouldn't that be taken into account (though very difficult to measure)?

Feb. 08 2013 10:51 AM

K Covey ~

Totally agree.

Feb. 08 2013 10:49 AM
K Covey

B. Lehrer can never fully face the unevenness of Holy Land conflicts: that the state of Israel is occupying the non-state Palestine-- by military force, illegally, and in ways condemned by every neutral human rights agency. At best, Lehrer treats the "both sides" as equal McCoys and Hatfields; at worst, he implies that Israel exists on a higher cultural plane.

Feb. 08 2013 10:48 AM
Isak Mendes from Park Slope

I'm a product of the lubavitcher hasidic school system in brooklyn and like the orthodox text books in Israel much of my religious instruction and books were filled with inflammatory language for arabs.

Feb. 08 2013 10:47 AM
Non-Zionist, Independent Orthodox Jew (Noach) from Brooklyn

@ Edward from Wash. Heights ( 09:31 a.m., 1st comment):

I could list just as many examples of Israeli settlers indoctrinating their children against Palestinians and Arabs as well as actually terrorizing and committing other crimes against them.

Bob from Brooklyn wrote: (10:34 a.m.)

"News to all you Christians, Muslims and Jews: Your religion sucks and the holy land is a collective fantasy."

I'm sure Mr. Lehrer appreciates you making this comment just after he praised these comments pages for civility...

Feb. 08 2013 10:47 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

Re: Describing a Palestinian village as "a nest of murderers".

Remember the two (non-combat reservist) Israeli soldiers, Vadim Nurzhitz (also spelled, “Norzhich”) and Yosef Avrahami, who were literally ripped apart alive in 2000 at a Palestinian police station in Ramallah, while a mob of Palestinians cheered?

Feb. 08 2013 10:46 AM
Lee from Queens

Trumpeldor said "it is good to die for one's country." How do you interpret that as defensive, necessarily? I don't understand.

Feb. 08 2013 10:45 AM
Naomi Lewin

"I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." Last words of Nathan Hale, as he was about to be hanged by the British for being a spy for the (American) Continental Army during our Revolutionary War.

Feb. 08 2013 10:44 AM
Robert from NYC

Yes I do believe that religion is the root of all evil, or at least most evil.

Feb. 08 2013 10:44 AM

1. Why Textbooks? I thought kids learn from TV (see first posting links, such as Mickey Mouse vs. the blood sucker Jews);

2. If Textbooks -- which ones? I thought many terrorists get their education from Islamic schools -- not secular.

3. Also Wexler is presenting the study as a scientist -- but for whatever reason Adwan's answers sound quite biased and defensive (although in his current reply he has corrected his tone toward neutral).

Feb. 08 2013 10:43 AM
Jenna from UES

Why is this on the radio in the US? What relevance does this have to the average American? This station spends a lot of hours on this "conflict."

Feb. 08 2013 10:42 AM

Religious kooks!

Religion: JUST SAY NO!

Feb. 08 2013 10:38 AM

Let's see, what grade was I in when I first heard "Give me liberty or give me death"...? About second grade.

Feb. 08 2013 10:37 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

News to all you Christians, Muslims and Jews: Your religion sucks and the holy land is a collective fantasy. You all make it more difficult to let each other live peaceably. We, the sane people, want you to stop your immature bickering, side taking, and propaganda. If you really can't do that, please just go ahead and get it over with already.

So tired of these all these tribes ruining everything.

Feb. 08 2013 10:34 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

I'm curious to know if Palestinian text books show Israel on the map of the Middle East.

Feb. 08 2013 10:33 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

What we have here are two groups of people with psychotic levels of PTSD.

Feb. 08 2013 10:30 AM

Thank you for this segment. I tell my kids that there are not that many bad people out there in the world.

The enemy is most often ignorance and fear, and the solution is education, empathy and contact with other cultures.

After all -- we humans ought to remember our core business: self-preservation!

Feb. 08 2013 10:14 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh thanks Edward I've seen Hudson Heights and had no idea where the hell that is! LOL Thanks for the education.

Feb. 08 2013 10:02 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Arabs brainwashed little girls to hate Jews

Hamas Mickey Mouse Teaches Terror to Kids

Hamas Indoctrinating Toddlers

Hamas Mickey Mouse hatred show continues

Rodgers and Hammersteins "South Pacific" said it best...

"SOUTH PACIFIC" - "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught"

Feb. 08 2013 09:31 AM

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