By 5TJT Staff
Jerusalem–Many readers of the Five Towns Jewish Times will by now have heard of the infamous report of Professor Bruce Wexler of Yale University and his NGO, A Different Future. It was a biased, horrid report that, among other things, sought to demonstrate moral parity between Israeli textbooks that teach tolerance and respect and those of the Palestinian National Authority, which glorify terrorism. The report–which was meant to be reviewed by a member of the scientific advisory panel, who never got a full chance to do so before it was published–called “potentially a new Goldstone Report” in the Jerusalem Post, sets a new standard in Western moral relativism.
Already, the Palestinian Authority has used the report, entitled “Victims of Our Own Narratives?” to bash Israel for its seeming obstructionism in finding a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Palestinians are quite happy with the report’s findings, which downplayed and whitewashed Palestinian hatred with statements like “dehumanizing and demonizing characterizations of the other as seen in textbooks elsewhere and of concern to the general public are rare in both Israeli and Palestinian books.”
In fact, the day that the study was finally revealed to the public, and the day on which the U.S. State Department, which funded the study, distanced itself from it, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a statement that Wexler’s study “confirms that Palestinian textbooks do not contain any form of blatant incitement.”
Fayyad called on Israel to “abandon its stated position” on the issue of incitement and to “desist from attempts to detract from the objectivity and professionalism of the study because its conclusions are not in line with its standing preconceived positions.”
Obviously, before even getting to the report itself or the matter of Palestinian schoolbooks, one has to realize that it is not feasible to decontextualize the matter of curricula from broader Palestinian society.
The same Palestinian Authority that runs the schools also names streets after terrorists, airs television shows featuring child actors which glorify terrorism, calls for the death of Jews, and makes shihada, martyrdom, the highest value.
An Israeli journalist friend of mine once told me of a friend of his from Gaza City who came to his house for a visit during the Oslo years. This was before Hamas took over Gaza. While my friend’s children were singing songs of peace and hope they had learned in school, his friend had to apologize for the songs his children were singing, which boiled down to “kill the Jews.”
“What can you do?” he shrugged, apologizing profusely. “This is what they are being taught in school.”
With all of the official Palestinian Authority-sponsored hate that you can find online on websites such as Palestinian Media Watch, it is ridiculous to believe that children are not being indoctrinated in PA schools. That is a safe assertion even before looking into the curricula of the Palestinian Arabs.
Before we even get to that, however, let’s take a look at Bruce Wexler. A Yale academic, Wexler runs a NGO called A Different Future. The first thing you see on his website is the slogan “Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians want peace. We help make it known.”
Let’s forget, for a moment, that according to polls many more Israelis are willing to make concessions on core issues and that there are significant cultural differences towards the peace process between Jews and Arabs, as exhibited both by polling and by what has been offered by each side.
Let’s not even think about what Wexler’s statement shows about his tendency to create false moral equivalencies.
Let’s just focus on what it says about his aims.
His research was set up from the get-go to prove a point. It wasn’t objective. He wanted to show that his website’s slogan was true. The Department of State should have picked up on that immediately.
Of course, members of the scientific advisory panel noted that his final report left out examples of incitement from Palestinian schoolbooks that they thought relevant. Of course such a biased researcher would do such a thing.
Here is just one example of Palestinian hatred:
“Your enemies killed your children, split open your women’s bellies, held your revered elderly men by the beard, and led them to the death pits.” [Reading and Texts, Grade 8, (2010), p. 16]
You are not going to find this in an Israeli textbook, although Wexler did try to portray Israel’s reference to the Munich Olympic terrorists as Palestinians, an accurate fact, as somehow being demeaning.
Of note is Wexler’s focus on maps. Israeli maps don’t always show a difference between the 1948 and 1967 Israeli lines. PA maps in school textbooks show all of the land as Palestine.
This must make the two sides equal in their rejection of the other side’s narrative. right?
Jews have considered the land an indivisible unit for millennia prior to the arrival of the first Muslim Arabs in Israel. We have a claim and traditions going back to when the Arabs were pagan savages in Arabia.
The Palestinians have a national identity that only began to coalesce in the 20th century and which, if you read Palestinian media at all, seeks to supplant Jewish history, even going so far as to claim that central figures in the Christian religious books were actually Palestinian. They even claim, at times, to be Canaanites.
So for Jews to maintain ancient ties to the land as an indivisible whole is the same as the Palestinians rejecting any Jewish presence. At least to Bruce Wexler.
Again, it’s about context. The Palestinians, with similar maps to ours, teach their children to “liberate” all of Palestine, while the Jews teach their children that yes, the land is all ours by right, but that it may be necessary to split it for peace.
But when you strip the conflict of context, when you intentionally try to make both sides the same, and when you care more about preconceived notions than objective truth, you will of course come to Wexler’s conclusions. v