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PA denies backing textbook with Zionist narrative

Oct. 11, 2010 5:26 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 29, 2010 1:01 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education official denied on Monday approving a textbook which teaches schoolchildren the Zionist and Palestinian narrative.

A member of the PA ministry's curriculum committee Thwarwat Zaid rebuffed a report in Israeli daily Haaretz that the textbook had been approved and said the committee neither knew of the book nor read it.

"Learning the Historical Narrative of the Other" was the joint initiative of a Swedish group and Israeli and Palestinian professors to promote coexistence, and was banned by the Israeli Education Ministry in September, the daily wrote on Monday, adding that the textbook would be taught in two schools in Jericho.

Bethlehem University professor Sami Edwan, who participated in the writing of the textbook, said it compiled narratives from both Palestinians and Israelis from 1900 until 2000.

He said the aim of the textbook was to show the contrasting narratives and an attempt at documenting them rather than refuting them.

The book has been translated into English, Arabic and Hebrew.

An Israeli official quoted in Haaretz said "Ramallah approved the project only after PA officials read the textbook, while in Israel the book was banned even though officials in Jerusalem did not even check its contents. From the Palestinian standpoint, this is a breakthrough because they are ready to teach the Israeli narrative. On the other hand, in Israel they are hunkering down in old positions."

A school principal from Sderot in southern Israel was summoned by Israel's Education Ministry for permitting students to study the book, the newspaper said. Israeli officials quoted in the report described the situation as "highly embarrassing," and said the book was banned before anyone from the ministry had actually read it.

The education received by Palestinian school children is a controversial subject. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Israel's Ambassador to the US Michael Oren explained "We have a great number of problems with the things that Palestinians do. They teach their kids in their textbooks not to recognize our right to exist."

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