The Palestinian Authority's Education Ministry approved the use of a history textbook that offers the central narratives of both Palestinians and the Zionist movement, marking the first time that the accepted Israeli position is being presented to schoolchildren in the West Bank.
The textbook, which has been banned from use by the Israeli Education Ministry, is the result of a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Swedish collaboration to promote coexistence through education. It will be taught in two high schools near Jericho, the Palestinian Education Ministry said.
Next week, the Education Ministry is scheduled to summon the principal of a Sderot area high school for "clarification" after he had permitted the use of the textbook by students in a special supplementary educational course.
Aharon Rothstein, the head of the Sha'ar Hanegev high school, may be reprimanded for allowing students to reference a textbook entitled "Learning the Historical Narrative of the Other," a project initiated by Prof. Dan Bar-On of Ben-Gurion University and Prof. Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University.
"Unfortunately, the Palestinians are further along than the Israeli Education Ministry when it comes to acknowledging the other side of the conflict," said an official involved in administering the textbook in the Sha'ar Hanegev school. "While [the Palestinians] approved the project, here they are summoning the principal for clarifications. This is a highly embarrassing situation."
Israeli officials said that the Education Ministry's order to discontinue the use of the textbook was issued without any official vetting of the book's contents or the supplementary coursework. It was only after the project garnered media attention that the ministry's pedagogic secretariat, Zvi Zameret, asked to see the textbook.
The final edition of the textbook, which was published last year, offers both the Israeli and Palestinian historical narratives of the Middle East conflict while also allowing for students to note their thoughts on the material. The book covers the early stages of the Zionist movement all the way through to the past decade. It has been published in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.
Last August, a delegation of Swedish mayors visited Israel and the Palestinian territories. During the visit, the delegation signed a cooperation agreement with the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council and the Palestinian Authority's Education Ministry. As part of the project, a small group of students from each area would learn from the textbook while the teachers would exchange information and instruction methods.
Later this month, a delegation of Israeli and Palestinian teachers is scheduled to take part in a workshop in Sweden as part of the first stage of the joint project. In the second stage, 11th and 12th grade students from Israel, the PA, and Sweden are to meet in joint sessions to discuss the textbook.
"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," said one official. "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."