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Especially obvious were maps that seem not to recognize current boundaries or historical facts, as if “to deny the legitimate presence of the other.” In the textbooks analyzed, that was the case for 94 percent of the Palestinian maps and 87 percent of the Israeli ones.
And in a tendency found in many countries, “historical events ... are selectively presented to reinforce each community’s historical narrative.” Israeli textbooks were more self-critical of the country’s past actions than were Palestinian textbooks about their history.
The study’s methodology has its detractors, including a few Israelis who were involved. But the analysis was done by a range of academics led by Daniel Bar-Tal, an Israeli professor of child development at Tel Aviv University, and Sami Adwan, a Palestinian associate professor of education at Bethlehem University.
The study can also serve as a model for other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, in coming to some agreement on the writing of history in textbooks and in depictions of each other. Often antagonisms are perpetuated because one side ignores past wrongs or schoolchildren are taught stereotypes that are not rooted in current reality.
In the Middle East, many young Arabs and Iranians are still taught myths about Jews, the Holocaust, and Israel’s history. And one Israeli state textbook refers to Arabs as “masses of the wild nation.”
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should use this study to reform their education curricula toward teaching accurate and comprehensive information about their respective societies. Censoring textbooks or inflaming passions toward others is not laying a path for peace.