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East Jerusalem Arab Schools Adopt Israeli Curriculum

Hamas and Palestinian Authority deeply angered by shift

By: Graham Sigurdson
Published: August 30th, 2013 in News » Israel
A Palestinian classroom

Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have expressed their outrage after five Arab schools in East Jerusalem switched to the Israeli curriculum this week.

According to Israel National News, Grade seven and eight students at the Abdullah Bin Al Hussein, Ibn Roshd, and Ibn Khaldoun schools began to use Israeli textbooks for this school year, while the Sour Baher boys and girls schools are teaching grades four to six with Israeli materials.

The change apparently came after the Jerusalem municipality offered a salary increase for the teachers and principals who implemented the shift in their schools. According to reports, the city would add an additional funding amount of 2,000 shekels per student using the Israeli curriculum.

A spokesperson told The Times of Israel stated that no such incentive was offered, saying "A decision was made to allow schools to introduce the Israeli bagrut (matriculation exam) alongside the tawjihi (the Palestinian matriculation exam). Four new schools have already begun preparing students for the bagrut,” and that the sum of 2,000 was part of a budget that encouraged special studies in the Israeli curriculum.

The announcement of the change has been met with anger by Palestinian Authority Arabs, with many believing that the curriculum is a "violation" that will strip any reference to Arab culture and history. Issues with the curriculum include one of the learning materials that contains a map of the State of Israel. On it, Judea and Samaria are included as a part of Israel, while areas of Palestinian authority are given Jewish Biblical names.

Other issues are chapters in history books about the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and references to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The textbooks also include sections about the First and Second Intifadas, and a supposed conversation between three Arab students wherein they praise Israel’s development of Arab cities, and decide to sing Israel’s national anthem. The Palestinian news agency Ma’an spoke out against this, writing that "The texts separately identify [Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel despite an international consensus that the city is occupied."

Samir Jibril, the head of education in Jerusalem at the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments - the body that funds a number of Arab East Jerusalem schools - told parents to remain "vigilant," telling Ma’an that "This move is dangerous and harms the identity of Jerusalem residents, removing them from their reality in order to better control them."

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics states that roughly 28% of students in Israel are taught in Arab, Bedouin, and Druze public school systems, and use textbooks published by Israel’s Education Ministry. This is not the case in East Jerusalem where, until 1967, schools located there, and in the West Bank, used a Jordanian school curriculum. Israel failed to institute a curriculum of its own after capturing the territories in the Six-Day War due to objections from parents, who instead sent their children to private schools. After the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, all schools in East Jerusalem (save for one), began using the Palestinian Authority curriculum.

It was not only the Palestine Authority that spoke out against the change. A statement was issued by Hamas condemning the use of "the Zionist enemy’s curriculum."

The statement read: "We consider this a dangerous act serving the agenda of the occupation in blurring Arab and Islamic identity, eliminating and distorting historic, religious, and geographic facts. The new Palestinian generation will be bound to the Zionist ideas and consciousness."

While Hamas is in power in the Gaza Strip, they are not part of the Palestinian Authority rule in the West Bank. They called on the schools to reconsider the switch, and on "those interested in the educational process in Palestine" to boycott the schools.

Amidst all this, the Israel Municipality stated that the "Palestinian" textbooks make no attempt to teach about peace and/or coexistence with Israel, all while rejecting Israel’s right to exist, and that war against Israel is an eternal Islamic religious conflict.

The Palestinian authority denied this claim saying "although its curriculum is not perfect, it teaches tolerance and mutual respect."

Related articles: Israel News, Education, Hamas, Palestine, Israeli Schools
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