The murder in a drive-by shooting of an Israeli father of six by a Palestinian terrorist, has turned the spotlight once again onto the public atmosphere which adulates and encourages acts of “martyrdom” and violence.
While Palestinian leaders claim to have renounced violence, in practice official actions suggest otherwise. The US congress and a number of European parliaments have been expressing their concern about the Palestinian Authority prisoner payments which effectively reward violence and terror by linking stipends to the severity of the crimes committed.
Another significant aspect of the social environment in which terrorism is admired and encouraged is the educational system. Daniel Taub, a veteran Israeli peace negotiator, insists that this plays a critical role in fostering the environment in which violence can take root.
Daniel Taub, who headed the Israeli side of the Culture of Peace negotiations with the Palestinians in the Annapolis peace process argues that the primary victims of this indoctrination are the Palestinians themselves. “The willingness of the Palestinian education system to sacrifice children’s education for a political agenda is a form of child abuse” he says.
Glorification of terrorists and violence is only one aspect of this abuse, argues Taub. Another is the distortion of history to conform to the political narrative. “When you knowingly rewrite historical facts, that’s an educational betrayal of your children”, says Taub.
Taub gives an example from his own experience. “In our negotiations over the culture of peace we had to look at Palestinian textbooks”, he says, “and we found that these had actually been rewritten to rename the Tomb of Rachel the Mosque of a Moslem prophet. This was in direct contradiction to the Guide to the Temple Mount published by the Supreme Moslem Council in the 1920’s said that its identity as the site of Solomon’s Temple was “beyond dispute”.”
Attempts to address the issue have hit political resistance. Taub recounts that with his Palestinian counterpart in the negotiations, he developed a program for school textbooks to be reviewed by an independent committee of experts. Sadly, when it became public knowledge the program was rejected by the Palestinian leadership.
While the permissive attitude to violence that the textbooks creates is of course a primary threat, Taub sees the lack of concern about providing a genuine education based on the facts as troubling in a broader context. In Taub’s words” “I often think that the truest test of a society’s intentions is what it teaches its children. Currently the curriculum gives us serious cause for concern.”
The international community has tried to address the issue on a number of occasions, but without success. Taub considers this may be because the subjects have been presented as an element of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with any changes to the curriculum being regarded as a concession to Israel. “I’d like to see the international community leave Israel out of the equation on this” says Taub. “they should tell the Palestinian leadership that we want to see your children having the best education they possibly can. And incitement and indoctrination can’t be a part of it.”