For Palestinian kids, the lesson is hate

If you want to know what’s really at the heart of the Palestinian conflict with Israel, don’t ask politicians or diplomats. Go to Palestinian children.

Unlike the rest of the world, they’ve been paying close attention to what their leaders and educators have been teaching. And they are ready to practice what they’ve been taught.

For instance, children interviewed on Palestinian Authority TV last month state without reservation that Israel has no right to exist, and that the goal for which they’re willing to sacrifice their lives is Israel’s destruction.

“They [the Jews] came to take Palestine, that is, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Akko, Ramle. All these cities belong to Palestine,” one youth explains in a Dec. 25 broadcast, echoing years of standard Palestinian Authority indoctrination.

And because he is convinced that Israel has no right to exist: “We hope, hope, hope and I emphasize these things, that the Arab countries and the foreign countries — all the countries of the world — will support the Palestinians and will expel the Israelis.

“We must expel all Israelis from Palestine. Because Israel — there is nothing called ‘Israel’ in the world. The Israelis [came] from Holland, America, Iran.”

The children are seen promising they will keep fighting, generation after generation, until they liberate Palestine.

Furthermore, they say they don’t fear death in the struggle because it is shahada — death for Allah. “Even if all the Palestinian children, Palestinian youth, Palestinian women and Palestinian men die, we will not surrender!”

None of this is surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to what goes on in the Palestinian Authority educational system. Israel is erased from Palestinian maps and schoolbooks, historians deny Israel’s right to exist, and educators at all levels teach that Israel is a foreign colonial implant.

Despite Palestinian Authority claims to the contrary, its textbooks continue to delegitimize Israel and dismiss it as a foreign occupier: “Palestine faced the British occupation after the First World War in 1917, and the Israeli occupation in 1948.”

Children are taught that all of Israel is part of Palestine. For example, “Among the famous rocks of southern Palestine are the rocks of Beersheva and the Negev …”

About Palestine’s water sources, children are taught: “The most important is the Sea of Galilee.”

Such messages of delegitimization have been affirmed by Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia. He is on record as rejecting the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. “President Bush said that Israel is a Jewish state, which is a cause for our concern. This should not have been said,” he told Arab newspapers on June 15.

Palestinian Authority-affiliated historians appear on educational TV to reinforce this message. On Dec. 28, Isam Sisalem reiterated what he has said on numerous broadcasts. Jews “have no history or connection to this land” and are nothing but a “cancer” planted by Britain to control the Middle East.

In the same educational broadcast last week, another historian resurrected “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, citing it as one of the foundations of the First Zionist Congress in 1897.

“The Zionist movement began at the Basel Congress to plan the exploitation of the powers’ struggle, and the struggle of Europe over the Middle East,” said Riad Al-Astal, a history lecturer at al-Azhar University in Gaza.

Consequently, when we view children on Palestinian Authority TV who say they want to destroy Israel, to liberate Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Akko and Ramle, and to expel the Jews, we are seeing children who are accurately regurgitating the sentiments inculcated and reinforced throughout Palestinian society.

Indeed, years of anti-Israel indoctrination have been alarmingly effective in teaching Palestinian youth that the Jews have no link to Israel, that Israel has no right to exist and that the overriding goal of the next generation — even at the cost of their lives — should be to eliminate Israel.

The essence of the conflict is Israel’s very right to exist — not the question of borders or refugees. Peace negotiations that do not address the Palestinian Authority’s system of indoctrination will be short-term paper agreements doomed to failure.

Palestinian children have already figured this out. Perhaps the rest of us need to stay after school.

Itamar Marcus is founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch. Barbara Crook is PMW’s North American representative. This column previously appeared in The Jerusalem Post.