The Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Education, Sabri Saidam, is worried these days. He is not worried, he says, because Palestinian schoolchildren are being taught to hate Israel. He is not worried because Palestinian schoolchildren are being goaded by their leaders to carry out terror attacks against Jews, from stone-throwing to stabbings to ramming cars.
The PA minister of Education is worried, he says, about a "crime" that is about to be committed against Arab children in Jerusalem schools. The "crime," in his view, is that the children will be taught according to an Israeli, and not a Palestinian, curriculum.
Saidam sees the decision to apply the Israeli curriculum to Arab schools in Jerusalem as an "ugly crime of counterfeit." These are the exact words he used to denounce the decision to introduce the Israeli curriculum into Arab schools.
Why are the minister and the Palestinian Authority so truculently opposed to Arab schoolchildren studying according to the Israeli curriculum? Is this curriculum really an "ugly crime of counterfeit," as the minister says?
The main reason the PA leadership is opposed to the Israeli curriculum is because it does not promote hatred. The curriculum also does not demonize Arabs in parallel to the way the Palestinian curriculum demonizes Jews.
A recent study of Palestinian textbooks found that Palestinian children are being taught to glorify and value terrorism and violence. The study, called "Palestinian Elementary School Curriculum 2016-17: Radicalization and Revival of the PLO Program," was conducted by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
The Palestinian curriculum teaches students to be martyrs, demonizes and denies the existence of Israel, and focuses on a "'return' to an exclusively Palestinian homeland," according to the study.
Within the pages of the textbooks, children are being taught to be expendable. Messages such as: "The Volcano of My Revenge"; "The Longing of my Blood for my Land"; and "I Shall Sacrifice My Blood to Saturate the Land" suffuse the [Palestinian] curriculum. Math books use numbers of dead martyrs to teach arithmetic. The vision of an Arab Palestine includes the entirety of what is now Israel, defined as the "1948 Occupied Territories."
While Islam is not used as a radical political tool for this age group, negative messages linger regarding non-Muslims. And though Christian education is provided, Jewish roots are ignored. Arabs continue to be presented as original dwellers of the land. Palestinian identity, as conveyed to these children, is now more realistically based on Levantine-Palestinian folklore alongside Arabism, Islam, and the struggle against Israel.
"Within the pages of the [Palestinian Authority] textbooks, children are being taught to be expendable. Messages such as: 'The Longing of my Blood for my Land'; and 'I Shall Sacrifice My Blood to Saturate the Land'". (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Palestinian minister of education, then, is worried that Arab children in Jerusalem will no longer be exposed to the poison and brainwashing of the Palestinian curriculum. He is even worried that the Arab children will not be taught about the 1974 PLO's Phased Plan to conquer Israel in stages. Phase one (Article 2) is to create a Palestinian state on any territory vacated by Israel. The next phase (Article 8) is to use that territory to "foment an allied Arab assault against a truncated Jewish state."
This PLO Phased Plan is still an integral part of the Palestinian curriculum.
Saidam and his Palestinian Authority want Arab schools in Jerusalem to teach the students why Muslims should be killing Jews. Take, for example, the religious textbooks for the upper grades in Palestinian Authority schools, which include genocidal messages such as the following hadith (a record of the traditions or sayings of Prophet Mohammed), from Hadiths, Bukhari, Book number 4:
Fighting the Jews and victory over them: The Messenger [Mohammed] already announced [the good news] of the end of the Jews' oppression upon this Holy Land and the removal of their corruption and of their occupation thereof. [It is told] by Abu Hurayrah [one of Mohammed's Companions] that the Prophet said: "The End of Days will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them to a point that a Jew will hide behind a rock or a tree, and then the rock or the tree will say: 'O Muslim, O God's servant, there is a Jew behind me, so come and kill him, except the salt bush (Gharqad), for it is one of the Jews' trees." Faith, (Sharia Studies) Grade 11, 2003, p 94.
The Palestinian Authority and its Ministry of Education are angry because this hadith has been removed from the textbooks in the Arab schools of Jerusalem.
The removal of the hadith, they argue, is an "ugly crime." In other words, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is fighting for the right of students to be taught that Jews are "corrupt" and "occupiers" and should be killed, even as they try to hide behind a rock or a tree.
Now has come a fatwa (Islamic religious decree) recently issued by Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, prohibiting schoolchildren from studying in accordance with the Israeli curriculum.
"Teaching the Israeli curriculum in Palestinian schools is dangerous and abusive," the fatwa determined. "The Israeli curriculum consists of matters that contravene the Islamic faith, the Arab identity, and Palestinian values and traditions."
Conspicuously missing from the fatwa was even a single example of how the Israeli curriculum was dangerous and abusive to schoolchildren. The reason: there is nothing there -- in the Israeli curriculum -- that can poison the hearts and minds of the Arab students.
What the Palestinian Authority is failing to tell its people and the rest of the world is that there are hundreds of thousands of Arabs who do study according to the Israeli curriculum. These are the Arab citizens of Israel, who for the past 70 years have been studying in accordance with a curriculum set by successive Israeli governments.
Why is it all right for those Arab children to be studying according to a curriculum that does not contain bigotry and racism, while it is wrong for Arabs living in Jerusalem? Why is it alright for tens of thousands of Arabs to attend Israeli schools, universities and colleges and study according to Israeli curricula, while it is banned for Arabs in Jerusalem to do so?
The Arab citizens of Israel who studied in Israeli educational institutions are probably the most peaceful, pragmatic and moderate Arabs living in the Middle East. They are among the country's leading professors, lawyers, businessmen and physicians; they have their own political parties, members of parliament and sit on Israel's Supreme Court. This is what happens when a student gets a good education, free of indoctrination, incitement and messages of hate.
If the Israeli curriculum is as bad and dangerous as the Palestinian Authority claims, why are thousands of Arabs continuing to enroll in Hebrew University, Haifa University, Tel Aviv University and even the "settler" Ariel University in the northern West Bank? How come the Arab citizens of Israel have never complained about the Israeli educational system?
The number of Israeli Arabs pursuing bachelor's degrees at Israeli universities and colleges, has, in fact, jumped 60% over the last seven years to 47,000 in 2017, according to the Council for Higher Education in Israel. In just the past seven years, the number of Arab students studying in Israeli universities and colleges has climbed 78.5%, the council said.
The answer is because they evidently like the education that Israel has been offering them for the past 70 years. It is an education that teaches them to value life, freedom of speech and democracy, and Arab Israelis admire it. They love the education Israel offers them because it does not demonize any race or group of people. They love it because it does not teach them to kill Jews, but to live with them in peace and security.
This is the truth that the Palestinian Authority does not want to hear. This is the truth that it does not want the rest of the world to hear. Instead, the PA leadership in Ramallah wants to continue to teach children to hate Israel and Jews and prepare to destroy Israel.
The Palestinian minister of education can continue to talk about resisting the Israeli curriculum, but the good news is that the Arabs residents of Jerusalem and the Arab citizens of Israel will continue to knock on the doors of Israeli educational institutions to seek a good education.
The true intention of the Palestinian Authority, namely to raze Israel to the ground and wage jihad against the Jews, has once again been exposed. If one is seeking "ugly crimes," one need look no further.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.