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Teaching Hatred And Normalizing Violence Against Palestinians

Above photo: A teacher works with students in a school in Ramallah, West Bank before the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: HAYA Joint Programme/Samar Hazboun.

The education of Palestinian youth is under constant criticism for “promoting violence” against the zionist settler state.

Meanwhile, the entire structure of Israel is oriented to generate an environment of violence against Palestinians – including its education system. While resistance to settler colonialism is deemed violent, the violence of the colonizer goes unquestioned.

Since Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, there have been numerous Western officials publicly decrying school textbooks in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) and how they instill violence against settlers, occupiers, and the Zionist entity. The officials rely in their outcries on reports by a liberal institute that defames Palestinian textbooks, while aggrandizing Zionist entity’s textbooks as harbingers for peace. Simultaneously, since the Al-Aqsa Flood, there have been numerous videos circulating showing young settlers not only being apathetic to the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza (when the time of writing, it has surpassed 20,000 civilians killed) but also celebrating such atrocity. Therefore, it begs us to ask: What kind of education does the Zionist entity provide to its settler population to instill such hatred of Palestinians and celebrate the ongoing genocide? And does the notion of violence have a political-economic component that is central to understanding its meaning?

Education in the Zionist Entity

Education is always political; we always teach on behalf of somebody and against somebody, on behalf of some values and against some values. – Paulo Freire’s dictum

In order to understand what kind of ideological interpellation students in the Zionist entity have been exposed to, especially in recent years, one must look at the politics of their textbooks and the culture of schooling. Education should be viewed as a constellation of what is happening inside schools, the politics of textbook authoring and certification by the state, out-of-school state-run programs, and how the state interjects into these spheres to infuse its politics. These, therefore, are not separate entities, but that they indicate education is always political.

Naftali Bennet is a former commando officer in the entity’s Defense Forces (DF) with a dark history of ordering the Qana Massacre in 1996 that led to the death of more than 100 civilians in southern Lebanon. Prior to being the Prime Minister of the Zionist entity between 2021-2022, Bennet served as the Minister of Education between 2015-2018 during the era when the new Nationality Law was proposed and passed – a law that determines the definition of the entity as a national Jewish state that should be given preference over its branded commitment to liberal democratic principles. Bennet, alongside his education predecessor, Gidon Sa’ar, had imposed their Zionist politics onto the process of writing textbooks. In 2012 Sa’ar and Bennet worked closely to dismiss the supervisor of the center responsible for reviewing textbooks because he was too “liberal” and they appointed  Assaf Malach, who is a “religious right-wing hardliner, settler”. Malach and his likes have dominated overseeing Citizenship Education textbooks and other social studies subjects that deal with history and geography. By institutionalizing Jewish superiority to claims of the land, the textbooks since then have even reproduced inconsistent messages about the Green Line, which demarcates the entity’s borders with Palestinian lands. This border fluidity then legitimizes settler colonial expansion and colonialist land grabs by the settlers. This is simultaneously happening as the removal and banning  of a novel about  Arab-Jewish love because it “threatens Jewish identity”. In simpler terms, the entity has become an ethnonationalist.

While the politics of textbooks have shifted to focus on instilling neo-Zionist religious character in the school textbooks, there has also been an increase in silencing and persecution of Jewish voices critical of the apartheid and militarization practices of the entity. Similar to right-wing databases that are supported by the likes of Turning Point USA which defame and slander professors critical of institutional racism, imperialism, and sexism (e.g., and, the Zionist entity also began cracking down on freedom of speech within educational institutions. Several liberal professors supported an NGO of veterans called Breaking the Silence which documents the Zionist army’s violations in Palestine. They faced massive backlash and were barred from visiting schools . As a response, a right-wing organization was formed, called Im Tirtzu (translates to “If You Will”). Im Tirtzu launched a website that has a professor watchlist, which targets academics and professors who demand Boycott, Sanction, and Divest campaigns, call the Zionist entity’s treatment of Palestinians apartheid, and are against the new Nationality Law. The watchlist includes these professors’ photos with their political and professional positions. Malach used the function to remove left-wing professors from the textbook authoring processes and committees and replaced them with like-minded people. The surveillance has increased such that teachers who criticize  the DF are fired .

While teachers and professors who show a modicum of criticism against the apartheid regime face tremendous backlash, and while the textbooks do not recognize Palestine as a state – textbooks call it Palestinian Authority, without a clearly delineated border (Green Line), promote Jewish entitlement to the land, and frame the entity “as a small sheep among wolves” – it is crucial to understand how much violence children are being prepared to not only watch but to commit themselves. There are summer camps  (ages 3-11) that take place in the DF’s military bases to teach children armed combat basics. There are specific  summer camps (ages 11-14) that teach students army drills, firing with semi-automatic weapons, flying virtual F-16 fighter jets, and bombing landscapes resembling Gaza. The culture of apartheid, Zionism, and militarism has seeped through the education system that produces young pupils who are not only apathetic to Palestinian suffering but also instill in them the values of celebrating such violence.

On Palestine’s Textbooks and Claims of Violence:

“There is a radical difference between the violence of the oppressor and the violence of the oppressed. That of the former is exercised in order to express the violence implicit in exploitation and domination. That of the latter is used to eliminate violence through the revolutionary transformation of the reality that makes it possible.”  – Paulo Freire on Guinea-Bissau’s PAIGC armed resistance

The so-called only democracy in the Middle East prides itself, through state-branding, in how it is a haven for liberal freedoms, with a multiethnic, multi-religious society with tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. This pinkwashing façade is fascistically used in the genocidal war on the Palestinian people of Gaza, where the entity’s DF has demolished tens of thousands of houses and displaced more than 1.5 million people so that the DF can carry the rainbow flag inside Gaza. This is imperialism with intersectional characteristics. This is what the Zionist entity celebrates and prides itself in that it is a welcoming space to different cultures, religions, and identities.

This state project also has an educational dimension. There is the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) that was founded by the Zionist entity in 1998 to collect textbooks and analyze them based on how they portray Judaism and the Zionist occupation and promote values of peaceful coexistence. They evaluate  the content of the textbooks based on “respect, individual other, no hate, no incitement [of violence], peacemaking, unbiased information, gender identity and representation, sexual orientation, and sound prosperity and cooperation”. For example, this liberal institute recently published  reports on Saudi Arabia, praising the Kingdom’s retracted adversarial tones in their textbooks, which indicates the furtive normalization Saudi Arabia is undertaking. What is pressing is the ahistorical liberalist language used by the institute, such that objecting to the Zionist entity and its imperialist project is equated with a lack of tolerance of religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity. In other words, critical framings of the entity become equated with intolerance and hatred.

This institute has worked tirelessly in recent years to frame Palestinian textbooks as rife with antisemitic violence that does not recognize the Zionist entity as a state and frames the entity’s DF as terrorists. It is ironic that the entity’s textbooks do not recognize Palestine as a state and expect the Palestinian textbooks to recognize the entity as a state. Furthermore, these reports do not make a distinction between militant resistance to occupation and random acts of violence, thus the oft-repeated propagandistic claim by the Zionist entity and its allies that Palestinian armed resistance is the same as the violence done by Al-Qaida and the Islamic State (it is worth noting that the entity has acknowledged arming  Al-Qaida in Syria to fight  President Assad’s government). Palestinian textbooks , for example, teach Newton’s second law of motion through the use of slingshots to confront “the Zionist Occupation”, which is portrayed by IMPACT-se as terrorism. Such depictions and articulations are based on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 37/43 which reaffirms  the right of armed struggle for liberation from foreign domination and occupation.

However, the so-called rules-based world order is marred with hypocritical political stances that contradict UNGA resolutions, and there is an intentional blind spot towards Palestine’s struggle for liberation. It must be stated that Palestine is a politically and economically sanctioned and isolated state because of the apartheid politics by the Zionist entity and its allies, which makes Palestine dependent on aid to fund its education sector. Because of pre- and post-Al-Aqsa Flood IMPACT-se reports, many donor  states have decided to stop funding  education in Palestine (both in Gaza and the West Bank). This exemplifies structural adjustment programs that are contingent on the receiving country to privatize its markets and all spheres of life, aid to Palestine is predicated on the textbooks depicting ahistorical, liberal values of peacefully co-existing with the oppressor, namely the Zionist entity. Sanctions and aid are coercive economic measures that show the ideological impact they have even on something, such as education, that should be guided by national interests as opposed to imperialist liberal desires.

While children in the Zionist entity play games, attend summer camps, and partake in military training that voyeuristically shows violence being inflicted against Palestinians, this is not considered violence by the collective West. Instead, acts of resistance by Palestinians against occupying forces are deemed violent and irrational. The term violence must be situated in a historical, geopolitical context. Otherwise, Yemen’s recent acts in the Red Sea would be considered irrational terrorism, while the genocide and mass displacement in Gaza is a form of liberation.

Essam Abdelrasul Bubaker Elkorghli is a Libyan PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, researching Libya’s modern political history and contemporary imperialism in education. He is a local labor organizer with the graduate workers union at his university and is a member of the Global Pan-African Movement.

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