State Department funds Anti-Israeli Hate Study

For a long time, researchers and critics have provided ample documentation that textbooks of the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas glorify suicide bombers, demonize Israelis and feature maps that erase the Jewish state altogether.

Now comes still another study, funded by the State Department, that this time purports to give equal critical weight to the contents of Israeli and Palestinian textbooks. The study has all the academic earmarks of expert, balanced authorship -- a joint effort by an Israeli professor, Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University, and a Palestinian professor, Sami Adwam of Bethlehem University.

Except that under all their professional veneer, the two professors have to stretch mightily to the point of ludicrousness to support their basic thesis that when it comes to inciteful propaganda, there is little, if any, difference between Israeli and Palestinian textbooks. To achieve this result, the study whitewashes the worst examples of hateful Palestinian incitement.

Here are the headlines and leading paragraphs of the New York Times and Washington Post coverage of this new study:

● "Academic Study Weakens Israeli Claim That Palestinian School Texts Teach Hate" by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kersner of the New York Times. "An academic study of the contents of Israeli and Palestinian Authority text books finds that each side generally presents the other as the enemy, but it undermines recent assertions by the Israeli government that Palestinian children are educated 'to hate'".

● "Israelis unhappy with study of their textbooks and Palestinians'" by Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg of the Washington Post. "A State Department-funded study on the contentious issue of how Israelis and Palestinians depict each other in textbooks says both sides are locked into narratives that portray the other side as the enemy and erase it from maps, yet do not dehumanize each other."

So let's see what specific examples are cited by the two professors to reach such equivalence -- starting with teachings on martyrdom and self-sacrifice that are "treated with similar evenhandedness" in the study, as Kershner puts it in the Times.

Palestinian sixth graders read in a language book that "every stone is violated, every square cries out in anger, every nerve is abuzz, death before submission, death before submission, forward!" Pretty powerful brainwashing to achieve martyrdom. Which prompts Kershner to explain that "after years of Palestinian suicide bombings, Israeli critics say, the Palestinian books glorify such acts of terrorism."

So how does Professor Bar-Tal, the Israeli co-author, manage to put Israel in the same dock when it comes to inciting children to become "martyrs" -- i.e. suicide bombers? How do Israeli textbooks match that? According to the Israeli professor, "both sides are in the stage of mobilizing, with most Israeli children being prepared for compulsory army service," Kershner reports.

In other words, the study finds Palestinian suicide bombings and IDF service equally abhorrent.

To her credit, Kershner alerts Times readers to the fact that previous studies of Palestinian textbook by monitoring groups showed that they promoted widespread dehumanization of Jews and Israel and rejection of Israel's right to exist -- unlike the new study that "avoids harsh language and couches the bad news in a kind of symmetry." A polite way of saying that Palestinian sins are treated with kid gloves, while Israel gets tarred -- all in an absurd effort to achieve equivalence.

Another example: In digging up a sample of dehumanization and demonization, the study points up an ultra-Orthodox textbook that describes an Israeli settlement established on the ruins of an Arab village that "had always been a nest of murderers." Which is fairly weak stuff. What if in fact it was home to some Arab killers? Why then hide the truth?

Yet, the study couples this purported example of dehumanization and demonization with a Palestinian textbook that describes an Israeli center for interrogation of Palestinian prisoners as "the slaughterhouse." This is teaching Palestinian kids that Israel kills prisoners -- an outright libel.

In sum, another feeble attempt to reach equivalence with a highly dubious parallel.

No wonder that the Israeli government boycotted the study, sensing a propaganda trap. The Israeli Ministry of Education dismissed it as "biased, unprofessional and significantly lacking in objectivity with pre-determined findings" and without reflecting any "reality."

Arnon Groiss, an Israeli member of an Israeli-Palestinian advisory panel to the study and author of many previous reports critical of Palestinian Authority textbooks, distanced himself from the new study. "Palestinian Authority textbooks," he said, "prepare the pupils for a future armed struggle for the elimination of the state of Israel."
Simply put, an anti-Israel gambit by the State Department, with American taxpayers left to pay the freight.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers