THE AUSTRALIAN: Row over curriculum in East Jerusalem schools 4Sep13 September 4, 2013

by John Lyons      -      The Australian      -      3 September 2013

309235-palestinian-educationAS the school year begins in Jerusalem, a new controversy typifies the intractability of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. At least four large Arab schools in East Jerusalem will offer students the Israeli curriculum for the first time. Previously, students at these schools could only take lessons approved by Palestinian authorities.

Israeli officials say they are responding to demands from parents and students who believe this will boost their opportunities at Israeli universities and workplaces.

Palestinian officials say the curriculum has been imposed by “an occupying power”.

Israel took control of Arab-dominated East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it – an annexation not recognised by the international community. Most countries, including Australia and the US, refuse to have embassies in Jerusalem until the status of the city is clarified in a peace agreement. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital, so it is a delicate issue.

The two sides cannot even agree on how many schools it affects – the Israelis say four, the Palestinians say five. The office of Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat told The Australian: “Due to the repeated requests of residents, community leaders and education administrators from schools in East Jerusalem, the municipality has partnered with four local schools to offer the Israeli Bagrut matriculation exam, in conjunction with the Palestinian matriculation exam.

“These four schools will join six schools (that) already (are) providing students this opportunity.”

The office said each student could choose to matriculate in the Israeli system and schools that requested to participate in the Israeli system would receive “assistance, guidance and additional classroom hours from the education officers in the municipality”.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has issued a list of features from the Israeli curriculum he says are inappropriate for Palestinians – including maps showing the West Bank as part of Israel, the use of Hebrew names for Palestinian cities and references to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “although this is not recognised by any country”.

His list included one textbook depicting Arab students praising a development Israel brought to a Palestinian city and concluding with the students singing Israel’s national anthem “in gratitude for all Israel has done for them”.

Asked by The Australian why parents should not be able to choose the Israeli curriculum if they thought it was best for their children, a spokesman for Mr Erekat, Xavier Abu Eid, said: “Would you impose the French curriculum on schools in Germany?

“We have different schools in Palestine – government, Christian, Islamic. We do have a choice for Palestinian parents but there is a big difference between the right to choose and an occupying power imposing a curriculum. They want to rewrite our history, they want our kids to thank Israel for what they have being doing to us.”

A study of 118 Palestinian Authority textbooks found Grade 10 students were taught that martyrdom was a noble death and that “hearing (weapons) clash is pleasant to my ear and the flow of blood gladdens my soul”. Grade 7 students were taught “the rank of shahid (martyr) stands above all ranks”, while Grade 12 students heard that “if the jihad fighter is killed in sublime God’s cause he is granted martyrdom and God forgives him his sins … and lets him enter paradise”.

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