Palestinian Education and the Debate Over Textbooks

Publication Date: April 2005

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Education


Coverage: Palestine


Palestinian education reform is seen to be a key element in the PalestinianIsraeli peace process. Many observers frequently have expressed concern that the Palestinian Authority (PA) education curriculum incites a younger generation of Palestinians to reject Israel, Judaism, and the achievement of peace in the region. Furthermore, some analysts and policymakers maintain that Palestinian education reform is not only important for Israeli-Palestinian peace, but also for broader U.S. interests in the region. From their perspective, a diverse, balanced curriculum may serve as a benchmark towards greater peace, democratization, and the development of a vibrant civil society in the Palestinian Territories.

Concerns over PA textbooks often cite examples of anti-Jewish education materials and a lack of reference to or positive acknowledgment of the state of Israel. Overall, some analysts allege that PA textbooks spread a culture of violence, which prizes martyrdom and jihad (or struggle) over peace and recognition of Israel. Others contend that, although far from perfect, PA textbooks represent a step forward in the evolution and design of a school curriculum for Palestinians that is essential to the development of a national identity. These commentors assert that PA textbooks do not incite Palestinians towards anti-Jewish violence or constitute a "war curriculum."

Palestinian curriculum reform is an important element in the broader U.S. policy of promoting Middle East democracy and governance reforms. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. government programs, such as the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), help to fund education reform in the West Bank and Gaza. Also, U.S. contributions to the U.N.'s Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) help develop curriculum design programs for Palestinians. It remains unclear what lasting impact curriculum reform will have in the Palestinian Territories and peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinian curriculum development, however, is relevant to congressional concerns about the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, levels of U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, U.N. reforms in the Palestinian Territories, and the broader U.S. promotion of democracy in the Middle East.

This report will be updated as events warrant. For additional information, see CRS Report IB92052, Palestinians and Middle East Peace: Issues for the United States, by Clyde Mark.