Europe is in bad need of a psychiatrist, a couch, and some thorazine.
EUROPEAN SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS PROMOTE ANTI-ISRAEL INCITEMENT
Anti-Israelism in European schools is rarely monitored. It finds expression in many ways, one of the most worrying being the dissemination of extremely false information about Israel in commonly used textbooks. Some European schools have thus become front line participants in the widespread anti-Israeli incitement on the continent. The disinformation ensures that any knowledge about Israel acquired by pupils using these texts will be negative.
Even a superficial overview reveals many such cases in a variety of areas, the Netherlands presenting a prime example of this phenomenon. This has to be seen in the context of a country where 37% of the Dutch population believes that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. In other words “Israel seemingly behaves like the Nazis.”
In the Netherlands three biased school textbooks were published within the space of a few months. In May 2015 Noordhoff Uitgevers released a history book for vocational high schools, which claimed that David Ben Gurion declared Israeli statehood only after “Jewish militias carried out murders in Arab villages, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled and settled in refugee camps across the border.”
The book makes no mention of any of the many documented Arab atrocities toward Israelis. Nor does it describe the invasion of Israel by Arab countries after Independence was declared. Pre-state massacres of Jews by Arabs, such as the 1929 Hebron massacre, were omitted as well. When questioned, the Dutch Ministry of Education responded that textbooks are chosen by individual schools and do not require ministry approval. The publisher maintains that it acted responsibly. The misinformation was accidentally discovered by a pupil at the Jewish high school Maimonides in Amsterdam, when his school made use of the textbook.1 2
A few months later, another Dutch publisher, ThiemeMeulenhoff, released a high school textbook on the Middle East, which claimed that the Balfour Declaration, promising a homeland in British Mandatory Palestine for the Jews, was an attempt to woo Jewish bankers to invest in British war efforts.3
Around that time the same firm published a geography book with twelve pages devoted to Israel. A pro-Israel organization, Likoed Nederland, discovered thirty-nine obvious errors, which included the lie that the Jews refused the UN’s 1947 partition plan where the opposite was true: the Arab nations refused it.4 The editors were only willing to make four corrections in the next edition.
In 2011, the German daily Die Welt wrote that “the three leading German publishers of schoolbooks, Klett, Westerman and Cornelsen have all published materials about the Middle East conflict.” The article concluded that “Pupils get a one-sided view on the crisis. The Israeli side is shown as the perpetrator and the Palestinian side as victim.”
In 2011 the Westerman group brought out a history textbook for twelfth grade students, which includes sections on Jewish terror and attacks on Arabs. All actions by Arabs were presented as reactions to Jewish attacks.
Another book, also from the Westerman group, entitled “History of Islam” claims that Israel has caused unlimited suffering to the Palestinians. The book also inflates the number of Palestinian refugees in 1948 from 700,000 to a million. These books did receive ministerial approval.5
From 2011 to 2014, the Georg Eckert Institute in Braunschweig for Research on International Schoolbooks analyzed hundreds of history, geography and sociology textbooks. The institute’s director Prof. Simone Lässig stated that the normal civil society of Israel is hardly mentioned. She added that “textbooks in Germany often describe Israel with simplistic pictures from current news. This leads to distorted views for young readers.”6
Of a different nature is a booklet distributed at Parisian public schools by the League against Cancer. It contains a map that does not feature Israel. Instead, the label “Palestine” appears in Israel’s geographic area. Israel’s neighbors Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey are correctly marked. In a response to concerned parents, the city of Paris released the following statement: “The borders of the map divide incorrectly the geographic area occupied by Israel and Palestine. The city affirms that this constitutes no adoption of any political stance.”7
Textbooks used in Arab schools in Europe are a separate problem. In 2014 in Vienna, an Arab school funded by the government of Saudi Arabia was shut down by the city’s board of education for a variety of reasons, including reports of a textbook containing anti-Semitic libel. This book taught, inter alia, that the Freemasons were a “secret, subversive Jewish organization dedicated to ensuring that Jews rule the world.”8
In 2010 a BBC Panorama program disclosed that 40 Muslim weekend clubs and schools in the UK use Saudi textbooks. These describe Jews as descended from “monkeys” and “pigs” and mention “reprehensible qualities of Jews”.9
This is a small selection of biased textbooks to which many other examples can be added.10 These textbooks facilitate the warped teaching and hate mongering furthered by anti-Israeli educators in European schools.
These textbooks are an integral part of the overall hate campaign to undermine Israel’s existence. As such it is the responsibility of the Israeli government to intervene and deal with this incitement, together with many other aspects of anti-Israeli hate, in a systematic way. In some cases it may need international reactions at the ministerial level, in particular if textbooks have been approved by ministries in the countries where they are being used. This cannot be left to local private initiative or even to Israeli diplomatic representations abroad.
1 “Israeli embassy slams ‘outrageous’ Dutch textbook,” JTA, 26 March 2015.
2 “Dutch ministry says not responsible for ‘anti-Israel’ textbook ,” JTA, 28 May 2015.
3 “Dutch textbook: Britain endorsed Zionism to gain favor with Jewish bankers,” The Jerusalem Post, 10 September 2015.
4 “Tweede schoolboek van ThiemeMeulenhoff boordevol fouten,” Likoed Nederland,” 16 September 2015. [Dutch]
5 Gideon Böss, “Deutsche Schulbücher erklären Israelis zu Tätern,” Die Welt, 23 September 2011. [German]
6 Wolfgang Dick, “Deutschland und Israel im Schulbuch,” DW, 2 July 2015. [German]
7 “Paris calls public school map showing Israel as ‘Palestine’ a ‘production error’”, JTA, 29 September 2015.
8 “Saudi school in Vienna allegedly used anti-Semitic book ,” Ynet News, 15 December 2014.
9 David Goldberg, “Saudi Arabia’s intolerable antisemitic textbooks,” The Guardian, 24 November 2010.
10 Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in Western Schools,” The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 6 November 2011.