by: Cheryl Hauer, International Vice President
It’s the rare parent who doesn’t long for their children to receive a good, solid education that will be their pathway to a brighter future. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Ideally, those places where our children learn should be safe havens where curiosity is instilled and confidence and empowerment imparted, preparing them to do their part to make the world a better place for us all.
What happens, however, when those tasked with educating children cross the line between education and indoctrination? In the past, to indoctrinate simply meant to teach. But according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, since the 19th century, indoctrination has become synonymous with brainwashing. In that classroom, learning has ceased to be a window to the world and has become a door slammed shut to anything but the ideals and philosophies of the indoctrinator.
The US State Department, the Israeli government and several independent international organizations have accused the Palestinian “education” system—including in Gaza, east Jerusalem, the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) schools—of educating Palestinian children to hate Israel and support violence. It is, in fact, a system of indoctrination, inculcating a false narrative and convincing children that there is no higher honor than to sacrifice their lives in the process of killing Jews. Virtually no subject in the state curriculum is immune to the use of propaganda under the guise of education.
According to studies done by Palestinian Media Watch, Palestinian children are taught that Jews are subhuman, Israelis are murderous monsters who kill Arab children, the Land of Israel belongs to the Palestinians and killing the Jews is therefore justified, and Israel is intentionally infecting Palestinians with COVID-19. The depth of the hatred being inculcated in children is unfathomable, and despite the efforts of many in the international community, the textbooks—and the brainwashing—remain. But what about the rest of the Arab world?
In 2019, a bill was introduced in the US Congress as a response to the systematic incitement to hatred and violence in the Saudi state curriculum. The kingdom’s educational materials are rife with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda, encouraging hatred or violence against Jews as well as Christians and certain sects of Islam. The conspiracy theory that Zionist Jews control the media, money and politicians for global conquest has been taught as fact, as has the claim that the main goal of Jews today is to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Saudi’s high school monotheism textbook teaches that Christians and Jews are the enemies of Islam and its people, and even enemies of God. Students are explicitly instructed to hate such infidels, even using violence against them in certain situations.
A report issued in December 2020 revealed that some changes have actually been made to the curriculum, although tolerance has not been added. The trope that Zionist forces are attempting to take over the world has been dropped, as has the religious prediction of a war in which Muslims kill all the Jews. References to jihad (“struggle,” war with unbelievers in Islam) have been removed, unlike a decade ago when the focus of the curriculum was to prepare students for martyrdom.
Hatred of Jews is still present, however, including a reference to Jewish wrongdoers who are described as monkeys. The name “Israel” is repeatedly replaced with “Zionist enemy.” Although major Jewish organizations were pleased with some progress, it remains clear that there is yet much work to be done.
The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education recently issued an extensive study on Qatar’s official school curriculum. Its findings indicate that Qatar’s textbooks are on par with those issued by Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority.
These books propagate virtually every imaginable anti-Semitic trope, describing the Jews as power hungry, disloyal, greedy and God killers, in addition to the accusation of blood libel and Holocaust denial. Muslims are called upon to liberate Palestine by any means necessary. And as is true throughout most of the Arab world, all of Israel is labeled “Palestine” on social studies maps. The only bright spot here is that Qatar has stopped its formal teaching of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. However, evidence suggests that the underlying conspiracy theories are still being taught.
A recent study of the Turkish school curriculum was equally as alarming, filled with anti-Semitic and anti-Christian propaganda. Zionism is defined as an imperialist ideal to amass all world Jewry in “Palestine,” reconstruct Solomon’s Temple and take over the world. All catastrophes in the Middle East, including conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, are directly attributed to Zionism. While Turkey’s textbooks at one time referred to Jews as “People of the Book,” they have been significantly radicalized in recent years and now refer to Jews and Christians as infidels. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is referred to as a religious war with Israel as the aggressor, attempting to rid the world of Muslims.
Unfortunately, Jordanian high school textbooks are no exception, using hateful language about Israel and presenting Jews as evil, disloyal and imperialist Christ killers. Israel is blamed for all the ills of the Middle East—past and present—and Zionism is labeled racist and imperialist. A seventh grade textbook contains the question: “Among the characteristics of the Jews for which they are renowned are: (a) the breaking of pacts, (b) treachery and treason, (c) hating Muslims, or (d) all of the above.”
Morocco was once home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel with a population of over 300,000. Today it sets an incredible example for all of the Arab world in terms of respect for the Jewish people and hatred of anti-Semitism. The country has instituted a Holocaust education course that was developed by Moroccan educators working together with the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. This year, it also announced the addition of a course on Jewish history.
In introducing these changes, King Muhammad VI called anti-Semitism the antonym of freedom of expression and referred to the battle that must be waged against it. “It is fought neither with the military nor with money. This battle has a name: education. And in the interest of our children, it is important for us to win, because they will be the beneficiaries and our ambassadors in the future.”
Years of indoctrination have filled generations with hate and brought untold violence and death to the nation of Israel. King Muhammad believes that education can turn the tables, creating an atmosphere of tolerance and coexistence. With Israel entering into various agreements and alliances across the region, there is hope that changes in curricula and in attitude will help to turn those tables and bring his hopes to reality. Let’s pray they turn quickly.
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