In the latest opinion sampling on the vexed issue of teaching Israeli history, more than 64 percent of respondents said Israeli schools should teach the “Palestinian narrative,” The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
Not suprisingly, opinion parallels the broad ideological schism in Israeli society, with respondents on the Center and Left heavily in favor — 70.9% and 89.6%, respectively; whereas those on the political Right were themselves divided, with 53% supporting teaching the Palestinian interpretation of history.
The poll was conducted between December 19 and 21, before the recent series of terrorist attacks and Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip. It surveyed the opinions of 502 randomly selected Israeli Jews, a representative sample of that population, according to Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University. The margin of error was 3%.
Bar-Tal argues that the results reflected a bias on both sides.
“Both sides present [their] own narrative, and it’s not surprising in many respects,” he said. “You don’t expect that Palestinians will present the Jewish narratives, and you don’t expect that Israeli schoolbooks will present the Palestinian narratives… Each of them is focusing mostly on the negative side that the ‘other’ did to us.”
However, Yosef Kuperwasser, director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, didn’t go along with such even-handedness. Being informed about the Palestinian narrative is reasonable, he said, as long as you “know that it has a very limited relationship with history.”
“History tells us that most elements of the Palestinian narratives are very problematic. And the way that some people want to teach the Palestinian narrative is very questionable,” said Kuperwasser, who has been critical of Palestinian curricula in the past.
He called for reciprocity on the Palestinian side. “I don’t believe that the other side, the Palestinians, is anywhere close to learning the Israeli Jewish narrative,” Kuperwasser said.
A similar dispute swirls around cultural curricula. While 85.7% of respondents on the Left were for teaching Palestinian customs and culture in a positive way, 70.2% on the Right disagreed. Among respondents in the Center, 65.8% agreed.
Dr. Arnon Groiss — a prominent figure in the textbook debate who decries Palestinian textbooks that delegitimize Jews and Israel — said there is room for improvement in Israeli textbooks too.
“Regarding that Israelis are not exposed to Palestinian lives and habits, well this is partly true, because Israelis are exposed in civic textbooks to Palestinians who live in Israel,” Groiss said. “It is true that they are not exposed to Palestinians [who live] in Yehudah and Shomron or Gaza.”
Respondents across the political spectrum agreed overwhelmingly that the PA’s education system “incites and educates violence” against Jews and Israel. Nine out of 10 respondents agreed with the statement.