Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New York Times On Whitewash Of Anti-Israel Palestinian Textbooks Gets It Wrong

It is all very well for the New York Times to claims that it publishes "all the news that's fit to print," but maybe it's time for them to clarify the agenda they use to make that determination.

For example, The New York Times reports that Academic Study Weakens Israeli Claim That Palestinian School Texts Teach Hate:
An academic study of the contents of Israeli and Palestinian Authority textbooks, to be published Monday, 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.”
While there is mention of the controversy over the report, it is reduced to a collection of claims without looking into what is behind the dispute.

So is that study really that conclusive?

Ben-Dror Yemin, writing in the Times of Israel, does the job The New York Times should have done -- investigating the biases of the report on Palestinian textbooks and what was left out:
I obtained memos written by two members of the study’s Scientific Advisory Panel, Professors Amnon Groiss and Elihu Richter. While the research was still ongoing, these two scholars highlighted substantial methodological flaws and the “omission of more than forty significant texts” that appear in Palestinian school books. To be clear, the omitted texts are precisely those that contain the highest degrees of incitement (“invading snakes”; “the enemies that split open women’s bellies” etc. etc.) The demand that these texts be included was turned down with the excuse that it was not clear that the words referred to Israelis or Jews. Really, how could we not have realized that the Palestinians were referring to the Swedes? You see the response and can’t believe your eyes.
The failure of the report to differentiate between negative textbook examples on one hand and biased textbook examples on the other results in rather absurd conclusions:
When discussing negative portrayals of the “Other,” the study includes the mere mention in Israeli textbooks of the Farhud – the 1941 pogrom against Iraqi Jews – and the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics as examples of negative portrayals of the Arab side. What exactly are the study’s authors trying to say? That it is forbidden to mention these events? Or perhaps the books should be rewritten to state that “Muslim freedom fighters succeeded in striking Jewish criminals in Baghdad and Munich”? According to this logic, perhaps it should be forbidden to learn about the Nazis, since this creates a negative image of the Germans.
Left unmentioned by the report is a comparison of the objectivity demonstrated by -- or lacking in --the textbooks of the two side:
The Israeli textbooks, as the study notes, do mention the 1948 massacre by the Irgun militia at the Arab village of Deir Yassin (but not the majority of the pogroms that were carried out against Jews in Arab lands). In contrast, there is not a single instance of self-criticism on the Palestinian side. Not even of the Mufti Amin al-Husseini’s support for the Nazis. There is also no mention of the fact that when the Palestinian texts refer to bringing an end to the occupation, they mean, almost without exception, the occupation of ‘Greater Palestine’ from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Or to put it even more clearly: bringing an end to the State of Israel. [emphasis added].
More importantly, the report fails to note the humanity expressed in the Israeli textbooks, an element one might assume to be essential in a text that is intended to teach children and not just merely brainwash them:
In the Israeli texts one finds humanizing descriptions of Islam and of Muslims, and a yearning for peace. The Palestinian texts are free of any such sentiments. Yet the report covers up and glosses over the complete contrast between the two educational systems. The report also adds excuses for the troubling biases displayed by the Palestinian side. They, as everyone knows, are the weaker party. Therefore, all is permitted to them. In reality, the connection should be seen as operating in the opposite direction: Because the Palestinians are mired in incitement, self-delusion, and education for the negation of the other, they remain weak and rejectionist. But Bar-Tal turns things on their head.
Read the whole thing.

The lopsided findings of the report are the natural result of the prejudices of some of those who conducted the study -- as Yemin outlines.

The fact that The New York Times blindly accepts the report -- and regurgitates its conclusions -- is a testimony to its well-known biases.

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