February 04, 2013

US State Department study undermines hasbara effort over Palestinian textbooks

It doesn't undermine it much but it's still much too much for some. Now read on... Here's a strange article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about a US State Department study of Palestinians and Israeli textbooks.

WASHINGTON (JTA) – An in-depth comparative study of Palestinian and Israeli school textbooks is offering some conclusions that already are making some Israeli government officials very unhappy: Palestinian textbooks do not have as much anti-Israel incitement as often portrayed.
While this finding might appear to be welcome news for supporters of Israel, it also threatens to undercut one of the central elements of the official Israeli narrative. For years, the charge that Palestinians “educate to hate” has been an Israeli trump card in undermining claims that Palestinian statehood is overdue, and it is an article of faith among many lawmakers in Congress.
I'm rushing now but here are some bits which leapt out at me:
“This obviously cuts down one of the pegs and a linchpin in the argument that the Israel government makes, that the Palestinian Authority is teaching hatred to their kids,” said an official who works closely with mainstream Jewish organizations in the United States. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Hmm, mustn't be identified with a factual report, we don't want another Goldstone.
Titled "Victims of our own Narratives?" and funded by the U.S. State Department, the study finds both Israel and the Palestinians lacking in making the case for the other side's presence in the Holy Land. It also scores Israeli books as better than Palestinian ones at preparing schoolchildren for peace. 
Might that be because peace is more in Israel's hands than the Palestinians'?

The Israeli government did not formally cooperate with the study; Palestinian Authority officials did.
Now there's a surprise.
Yale University psychiatry professor Bruce Wexler convened the study team, which was headed by Daniel Bar Tal of Tel Aviv University and Sami Adwan of the University of Bethlehem. They assigned Hebrew-Arabic bilingual research assistants to plow through more than 3,000 passages from textbooks -- 74 from the Israeli side and 96 from the Palestinian side....
Most of the advisory panel, including several Israelis, signed onto a statement Sunday endorsing its findings....
At least one Israeli member, Arnon Groiss, said he has reservations about the methodology and could not attach his name to the final report, which he said he has not seen.
He hasn't seen the report but he knows he can't endorse it because it doesn't say what he wanted it to.
Detractors of the study say its rigorous analytical methodology rips biased and sometimes inflammatory passages from each cultural context. They contend that triumphalism is more incendiary in a Palestinian society that they say is more forgiving of terrorism.
Of course Israel's triumphalism couldn't possibly be considered incendiary in a Palestinian society which has suffered such triumphalism for several decades now. Still, the whole thing's worth a look at.

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