- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

JERUSALEM — Both Israeli and Palestinian schoolbooks largely present one-sided narratives of the conflict between the two peoples and tend to ignore the existence of the other side, but rarely resort to demonization, a State Department-funded study released Monday said.

The study by Israeli, Palestinian and American researchers, billed as setting a new scientific standard, tackled a fraught issue — Israeli claims that Palestinians teach hatred of Israel and glorify violence in schoolbooks.

The research appeared to undermine those allegations, while emphasizing that books in secular Israeli government schools did far better in acknowledging the Palestinians than vice versa.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad welcomed the study as proof that “there is no incitement in our textbooks,” while Israel’s Education Ministry dismissed the research as “biased, unprofessional and profoundly unobjective.”

Underlying the textbook debate are mutual fears and suspicions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argues that the conflict with the Palestinians is not over land, but over Israel’s acceptance in the region, and that peace is not possible until the alleged incitement stops.

Palestinians say Mr. Netanyahu hides behind such claims to divert attention from settlement building on occupied lands and from what they say is his unwillingness to reach a peace deal on internationally backed terms.

The new study said the schoolbooks of both sides are typical for societies in conflict — though books used in Israeli state schools include significantly more information about Palestinians and more self-critical texts.

Books used in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious schools, attended by more than a quarter of Jewish students, and in Palestinian schools contain little information about the other side, the study said. Israelis criticize the ultra-Orthodox schools for failing to sufficiently teach secular subjects in general, like mathematics and English.

“On both sides, the chief problem is the crime of omission. It’s the absence of a clear, outright recognition of existence and the other side’s right to exist,” said Gershon Baskin, an Israeli member of the study’s scientific advisory panel.

The study analyzed 74 Israeli and 94 Palestinian books, covering grades 1 through 12 and teaching social sciences, geography, literature, religion, Arabic and Hebrew.

The Israeli books were from state-run secular and religious schools, as well as independent ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. The vast majority of the Palestinian books were used in government schools, and only six in private Islamic schools.

Scholars said they developed a new method to ensure greater objectivity, as they reviewed nearly 16,000 pages from Israeli state school books, close to 3,500 pages from books in ultra-Orthodox schools and close to 10,000 pages from Palestinian books.

Israeli and Palestinian researchers were fluent in Hebrew and Arabic so they could analyze the books of both communities.

Often, texts were reviewed by more than one person, and the data were entered remotely into a database at Yale University so researchers could not be influenced by how the study was progressing, study organizers said.

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