Syr­ian school­books un­der As­sad preach ji­had and ha­tred of Is­rael, US

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By ELIANA SCHREIBER

A new re­port an­a­lyz­ing Syr­ian school books found many ref­er­ences of ha­tred of other na­tions, and of Is­rael in par­tic­u­lar.

The study of more than 50 chil­dren’s text­books in the As­sad-con­trolled regime found pas­sages preach­ing ji­had (holy war) to twelfth graders and pro­claimed it­self as a na­tional leader of the Pales­tinian cause.

“The Syr­ian cur­ricu­lum in­cludes good el­e­ments – mainly sec­u­lar­ism, multi-cul­tural her­itage, equal­ity for women and en­cour­age­ment of in­de­pen­dent think­ing and dialogue,” said co-au­thor El­dad Pardo. “How­ever, hate is wide­spread through­out the cur­ricu­lum when it comes to rad­i­cal pan-Arab na­tion­al­ism, which con­sid­ers the erad­i­ca­tion of Is­rael an ide­o­log­i­cal main­stay.”

Syria’s great­est pro­claimed en­emy is Is­rael, which is not men­tioned by name in any of the text­books, only re­ferred to as “The Zion­ist En­tity.” Is­raeli ter­ri­tory is la­beled as “Pales­tine” or “Oc­cu­pied Pales­tine” and is in­cluded in Syria’s de­pic­tion of the greater “Arab Home­land.”

The re­port, re­leased ear­lier this week by the In­sti­tute for Mon­i­tor­ing Peace and Cul­tural Tol­er­ance in School Ed­u­ca­tion (IM­PACT-se) – a re­search in­sti­tute that an­a­lyzes school books in re­la­tion to UNESCO-de­fined stan­dards – is the first to an­a­lyze cur­ricu­lum un­der As­sad’s rule.

Vi­o­lence and mar­tyr­dom are jus­ti­fied in chil­dren’s text­books, and en­cour­aged as part of the fight and resistance against the “oc­cu­pied” Golan Heights.

“The rhetoric re­mains un­changed: Is­rael is a ter­ror­ist state and there­fore all means are le­git­i­mate in the war against it, in­clud­ing ter­ror and sui­cide at­tacks. In fact, even while the coun­try fights a bat­tle of life and death in front of the na­tion’s chil­dren, an­tag­o­nism to Is­rael re­mains a cen­tral tenet of the Syr­ian cur­ricu­lum,” IM­PACT-se CEO Mar­cus Sh­eff said.

The cur­ricu­lum re­mains hos­tile to Is­rael and the West in gen­eral, with neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes to­ward colo­nial­ism and im­pe­ri­al­ism.

Through­out the text­books, Ju­daism is pre­sented with stereo­types and prej­u­dices, such as the Jewish car­i­ca­ture of Shy­lock from Shake­speare’s play The Mer­chant of Venice. The books state that “trea­son and de­cep­tion are part of the Jew’s at­tributes” and blame the “Zion­ist En­tity” for con­trol of global me­dia and reli­gious and eth­nic racism. The Holo­caust is not men­tioned.

Aside from this, reli­gious tol­er­ance as a gen­eral prin­ci­ple is pro­moted, although only one form of gov­ern­ment – char­tered Sunni-Is­lam – is pro­moted – re­li­gions other than Chris­tian­ity are ig­nored. DE­SPITE THE civil war that has spanned seven years in Syria, war is largely ig­nored in the 50 text­books from the 2017-2018 cur­ricu­lum ex­am­ined in the study.

“While Syria’s chil­dren see with their own eyes the civil war rage around them, any ex­pla­na­tion of the war is ig­nored in their school­books,” Sh­eff said.

Coun­tries that sup­port the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment are por­trayed in a pos­i­tive light, par­tic­u­larly Russia, Iran, Le­banon and Egypt, as well as the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah.

The books showed an in­creased affin­ity for Russia and Rus­sian cul­ture; more and more Syr­ian students are tak­ing Rus­sian as a sec­ond lan­guage. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, more than 10,000 students in 100 schools are par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Much of the Syr­ian ed­u­ca­tional cur­ricu­lum is based on the idea of sec­u­lar pan-Ara­bism, a uni­fi­ca­tion of Arab na­tions with an em­pha­sis on Syr­ian in­de­pen­dence. But even as Iran is fight­ing along­side the Syr­ian regime, it is still seen as a com­peti­tor and an ob­sta­cle to a shared Arab home­land.

The United States is pre­sented as the po­lar op­po­site of Russia — a self­ish, colo­nial­ist na­tion which in­ter­feres in Arab coun­tries “as a means to ex­pand their con­trol over the world, ly­ing to jus­tify their ac­tions.”

The Syr­ian ide­ol­ogy re­jects the sta­tus quo and doesn’t rec­og­nize bor­ders in the area as any­thing more than ar­ti­fi­cial ones con­structed by Euro­pean colo­nial­ism, with hopes for a greater “Arab Home­land” to in­clude Syria, Jor­dan, Is­rael, the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity and Le­banon as part of “Greater Syria.”

Un­der As­sad, Syria is com­mit­ted to sec­u­lar na­tion­al­ism and bases na­tional iden­tity on the strug­gle to unite the Arab world.

Based on their anal­y­sis of the cur­ricu­lum in th­ese books, Pardo and fel­low IM­PACT-se re­searcher Maya Ja­cobi found that de­spite some redeem­ing qual­i­ties, the Syr­ian cur­ricu­lum does not meet UNESCO’s stan­dards on peace and tol­er­ance.

“The Syr­ian tragedy is ev­i­dence that the di­choto­mous choices of­fered by the cur­ricu­lum to students – that of love, pro­gres­sive think­ing, and a vol­un­teer spirit as op­posed to ha­tred and a mar­tial at­ti­tude to­ward the Other – may only be con­tribut­ing to the tu­mult that is mod­ern Syria,” Pardo said.


A CAR­I­CA­TURE of Shy­lock, the Jewish mon­eylend­ing an­tag­o­nist of Shake­speare’s ‘The Mer­chant of Venice,’ is de­picted in the grade-nine Syr­ian text­book, ‘Ara­bic Lan­guage, Vol. 1.’

(Is­rael Po­lice)


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