Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian Curriculum Report II (2004)

The Palestinian education system has made strides in making students think more critically and collaborate with others in harmony, with the new curriculum as an example. However, in the haste to promote harmony and avoid controversy and conflict, they gloss over controversial and sensitive political and social problems and the realities of racial, ethnic, national, civil and religious identities. Palestinian education should encourage pluralism and should prepare their pupils to know themselves as well as their neighbors.

Read the full report: Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian Curriculum Report II (2004)

Reviewing Palestinian Textbooks and Tolerance Education Program. Grades 4 & 9

Submitted to: Public Affairs Office, US Consulate General, Jerusalem

Executive Summary:

Treatment of the History and Geography of the Region

We still notice some elements and dimensions of imbalance and bias in the presentation of critical ancient, recent and modern events that have a bearing on an accurate understanding of the history of the region. In particular, the new textbooks continue, to a lesser extent than the case was in earlier generations of textbooks, to ignore the historical presence of the Hebrews/Israelites, their interaction with the other ancient civilizations in and around Palestine, and their contribution to the formation and development of the pluralistic cultural, religious, and ethnic identity of the region.

The new textbooks still reflect an inadequate and imbalanced representation of the Jewish historical connection to the Greater Middle East. The Jewish connection to the region, in general, and the Holy Land, in particular, is virtually missing. This lack of reference is perceived as tantamount to a denial of such a connection, although no direct evidence is found for such a denial.

Several passages in the Arabic Language, Grade 9; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 4, Part 2; National Education, Grade 4, Part 1 textbooks include references that reflect a continuous Arab presence in the region (some references date that presence back to the ancient Canaanites and Jebusites) even though this claim has considerable contention amongst historians contesting this as historical fact. Other racial, ethnic and religious groups that inhabited and/or had control over the region are not dealt with explicitly in many of the textbooks; especially noted is the lack of reference to Jewish presence.

Insufficient references were made in relation to contemporary history in the region. The textbooks include only short paragraphs on the Arab-Israeli Wars, the First and Second Intifadas, the Oslo Agreements, and the Camp David talks in 2000.

The practice of "appropriating" sites, areas, localities, geographic regions, etc. inside the territory of the State of Israel as Palestine/Palestinian observed in our previous review, remains a feature of the newly published textbooks (4th and 9th Grade) laying substantive grounds to the contention that the Palestinian Authority did not in fact recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people.

Israel and Zionism

Unlike the first and second generations of textbooks published by the Palestinian MOE (National Education, Grades 1-6, 1994; all subjects for Grades 1 & 6, 2000; all subjects for Grades 2 & 7, 2001; all subjects for Grades 3 & 8, 2002) in which Israel was referred to in a very limited number of instances, the recently published textbooks for Grades 4 and 9 include a good number of neutral as well as negative references to Israel, mostly in the context of talking about Israel's policies and practices in the occupied territories. More specifically, the references are very critical of Israel's policies and practices on the ground (demolishing houses, confiscating land, uprooting trees, imprisoning nationalist Palestinians, imposing restrictions on movement of citizens and merchandise, etc.). All references that could be perceived as negative (e.g., "Zionist ambitions," "Israeli occupation," "Zionist settlements," and the like) are all made either within their historical contexts or reflect historically accurate and factual information from the point of view of the Palestinian collective narrative.

The textbooks include multiple references that portray Israel and Zionism in a negative light. However, no evidence was found of direct calls for the destruction of Israel. Except for calls for resisting occupation and oppression, no signs were detected of outright promotion of hatred towards Israel, Judaism, or Zionism. If the lack of ample references to the State of Israel in the body of the texts and on the maps as denial of its existence, no evidence was found that points to an intentional attempt to do so. There is, moreover, no indication of hatred of the Western Judeo-Christian tradition or the values associated with it.

There are few references used to describe "the State of Israel and its territory" the way we observed in our previous analysis (IPCRI, March 2003). In that review, Israel as a political and geographic entity was not clearly or adequately represented. In the newly published textbooks, Israel, as a political entity, is directly mentioned in name in more contexts. Circumlocutions in the form of (land inside the Green Line, the land of the interior, the interior) are much less frequently used as a way to avoid mentioning Israel and its territorial sovereignty by name.

Some references are made to Israel as an historical opponent during the several Arab-Israeli wars. Jordan and other Arab countries are portrayed as having defended Palestine against Zionism and Israel in 1948, 1967, 1967, and 1973.

There are several instances in which the textbooks refer to the Israel government's actions and policies negatively with relation to water resources, land appropriation, home demolitions, etc.

The review revealed instances in which the concepts of "Palestine," "historical Palestine," "the homeland," "political Palestine," and "the national soil" were blurred and used interchangeably. Another case in point relates to the use of "the Zionist state" and "Zionist settlements," "the State of Israel" and "Zionism" in multiple contexts without differentiation. The same conclusions were reached by IPCRI in its March 2003 Report.

The essentially Islamic nature of Palestinian society is made very obvious across the curricula. There are pictures, illustrations and drawings of Muslim holy sites and religious artifacts. Multiple references, in addition, are made to Islamic rituals, feasts, festivals, and its contributions to humanity and global civilization.


A good number of maps presented across the curriculum show Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one geographic entity (without demarcation lines or differentiated colorings). Historically Palestinian cities (e.g., Akka, Yafa, Haifa, Safad, al-Lid, Ar-Ramla, Beer As-sabe') are included in some maps that lump together the areas controlled by the PA with those inside the State of Israel. No map of the region bears the name of "Israel" in its pre-1967 borders. In addition, Israeli towns with a predominantly Jewish population are not represented on these maps.


Jihad is indirectly glorified. References to martyrs, martyrdom, and the need to defend the "homeland" and regain it appear both in historical and present-day context, especially the language arts, social studies, national education, and religious education textbooks.

Liberation and Resistance

The textbooks contain frequent references that relate to resisting the Israeli occupation of the territories taken in 1967. These references are frequently associated with the concepts of "resisting" and "liberating" as national and religious duties. There is no clear evidence or express call for "liberating" the land of "historical Palestine." However, the vagueness and lack of specificity to the 1967 borders may give the impression that is call is made with reference to "historical Palestine" including the territory of the State of Israel.

In spite of the scarcity of references and examples that promote political peace in modern terms, and the absence of direct, clear or serious attempts to promote political concepts that relate to Israel, the curriculum does not openly incite against Israel and the Jews. It does not openly incite hatred and violence unless one considers the calls to liberating the Palestinian land/territories as instances of incitement. The same conclusion was reached in Report 1 (IPCRI, March 2003). In particular, although there are multiple direct and indirect calls for liberating the Palestinian territories from Israeli occupation, there are no explicit calls for destroying the State of Israel or of killing the Jews. Likewise there are no direct references of calls to make peace with the State of Israel or with the Jewish people.


Islam is presented in several contexts as promoting rule of law and democratic principles in government that include accountability and transparency (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 9, Part 2, pp. 81-83). In that context, Islam guarantees religious, political and other human rights (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 9, Part 1 pp. 89-91 and Part 2, pp. 84-89). In addition, the textbooks promote an environment of open-mindedness, rational thinking, modernization, critical reflection and dialogue (Reading and Anthology, Grade 9, Part 1, pp. 11-13 and Part 2, pp. 7-8; Modern and Contemporary Arab History, Grade 9, pp.34, 38; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 9, Part 1, pp. 21-25, 26 and Part 2, pp. 7-8, 69).

Islam is also presented as a religion that promotes personal, social and moral responsibility (Reading and Anthology, Grade 9, P. 1, pp. 3-5, 11/18, 81-82; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 9, pp. 39-41). It urges the believers to honor their commitments (at the local, national, and regional levels) with all Muslim and non-Muslim counterparts and to be true to God and to one's homeland.

Islam is, furthermore, presented as a religion that promotes social and religious values (e.g., belief in God, solidarity with the needy, performing duties, compassion, maintaining ritual purity, and obedience). Islam is also presented as promoting and emphasizing certain solid principles in political life such as justice, consultation and deliberation (Islamic Religious Education, Grade 9, Part 2, pp. 54, 82-83).

In several textbooks one notices the use of Quranic verses to introduce units and lesson. This is done even in the sciences and math textbooks to emphasize the comprehensive and inclusive nature of the Quran and Islamic teachings (containing messages and information that relate to sciences, religion, society, arts, etc.). In this context, Islam is presented as a religion that encourages its followers to seek knowledge and education (e.g., Islamic Religious Education, Grade 4, Part 1, pp. 55-56; Islamic Religious Education, Grade 9, Part 2, p. 69).

Judaism and Christianity

The recently published textbooks reviewed contain no negative sentiments towards Judaism or any other religion for that matter. Except for a couple of accounts of historical events and anecdotes about Jews (Jews marry for money, Reading and Anthology, Grade 9, Part 2, p. 22) that could be viewed as an instance of ethnic stereotyping, and one historical account about Christians (Knights of St. Johns in the Island of Rhodes described as sea pirates, Arab History, Grade 9, p. 7), the textbooks are devoid of any blatant or negative representation of either Christians or Jews. Monotheistic religions are mostly mentioned in positive contexts and are viewed in positive light. One unsettling observation, however, is the lack of direct and clear references to Christianity and Judaism in spite of ample contexts to include them in the presentation of new material.

There are no direct instances that reflect a denial of Jewish connection to the Holy Land and the holy places in it However, the terms and passages used to describe some historical events are sometimes offensive in nature and could be construed as reflecting hatred of and discrimination against Jews and Judaism. Moreover, when Judaism (and Christianity are mentioned), the references reflect the holy and religious nature of the ancient Jewish traditions and not of their modern-day representation as the religion of Israel as well as Christianity as the religion of some Israeli and some Palestinian citizens.

Except for a number of references to Christian holy sites and personalities and to Jewish personalities (prophets, messengers and holy men that are also revered by Christians and Muslims), Christian and Jewish holidays, feasts, rituals, etc., are not included in the majority of textbooks. In these textbooks names of individuals and personalities (in stories, tales, narratives, parables, and accounts) are mostly Islamic; some however, are neutral in nature. The only salient exception is the Christian religious education textbooks used in private Christian schools that include religious personalities and events from the Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and the New Testament.

Generally speaking, when "Jews" are mentioned, references to them are mostly made in the context of talking about "the People of the Book," and not to "a Jewish nation." More references, however, are made to Jewish prophets, messengers, kings, and other political and historical leaders. Most of these references are made in religious contexts (quotations from the Quran and verses or historical accounts from the Five Books of Moses and the New Testament).

Human Rights

A good number of textbooks address the issue of human rights (in all its forms) and provide direct quotes from the Quran, human rights declarations, Islamic human rights declaration, and literary works. These quotes point to the need to respect civil, political and religious rights, laws and rules. Furthermore, they promote civil activity, commitment, responsibility, solidarity, respecting others' feelings, respecting and helping people with disabilities, and so on.

Tolerance, Forgiveness, Peace, Dialogue, Regional and Global Perspective

Tolerance, as a concept, runs across the new textbooks. However, the concepts of religious and social tolerance appear more frequently and more directly than that of political tolerance. The concept of pluralism in all its facets also appears in multiple contexts across the curriculum, but do not make specific reference to Jews or to the State of Israel.

The textbooks include a good number of instances of calls to openness, dialogue and interaction as part of the push towards multiculturalism and globalization within Palestinian society and amongst Palestinians.

Several lessons in the Islamic and Christian Religious Education textbooks include calls, prayers and invocations of a peaceful and reconciliatory nature. In some instances there are prayers promote forgiveness, and call upon God to "bless our land and its people" (e.g., Christian Religious Education, Grade 9).

Although multiple references are found in the new textbooks that call for respecting, accepting and showing tolerance to the "others," the textbooks fail to directly and clearly extend the principles and concepts of peace, religious and political tolerance to include non-Muslims and non-Arabs and to apply them in present-day contexts to the Jews and to the State of Israel.