I wish to thank Bruce for the distribution of my points among you all and for the prompt answers given by the research team. I made my letter to Bruce as short as possible and it seems to me now that I had to elaborate more in order to make myself understood better. I will do it right here, because this is, in my opinion, a tremendously important debate that may have an impact on our project's overall quality.
1. I agree that holy scriptures should be left out in our research, except when a scriptural text is used as an anchor for a non-scriptural statement that is relevant within the research's scope. I would have ignored that particular Hadith had it not been followed by the assertion that "…This Prophetic Saying [Hadith] is one of the Prophet's evident miracles. It is a prophesy of a concealed matter, which to take place at the End of Days. It is certain good news for this nation that victory will be its ally and that its trial with the Jews is bound to end in victory over them…" This non-scriptural mobilization of the scriptures in support of a non-peaceful solution to the conflict should be included in the study.
As regards the book itself, it is true that when we started the project it was in use in some dozen schools operated by the PA Ministry of the Endowments and Religious Affairs. Beginning in the school year of 2011/12, however, grades 11 and 12 of these schools have been incorporated into the PA general system as a special Shar'i trend with their books now being printed by the Ministry of Education. The said Hadith is found there too.
2. I am glad I was able to help. I understand that the said chart is going to be added to the quotes accompanied by an explanatory remark. Isn't it?
3. This is not a map, but a text-box saying: "…The Levant [Bilad al-Sham] presently comprises the following states: Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria." Since I used as reference the 2009 edition, this piece may be found in your edition on another page.
4. The documentation should include this particular item as well because it expresses denial, not just "absence of information".
5. Again, this is not a map, but rather a text-box below the map which, indeed, defines the Green Line as a line separating two different occupied territories from each other. By that, it proves to be not just an ordinary definition of a geographic term but rather a reference to an alarming position, namely, that pre-1967 Israel in its entirety is also an occupied territory, with the implied notion that this territory too should be liberated.
6. The piece was written by the Egyptian writer Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti (died 1924) with no declared particular enemy, and it was widely believed that he wrote it against the Italian invasion of Ottoman Libya in 1911. The piece was later used against the British during the Iraqi uprising of 1919 and on other different occasions as well. In other words, it is an easy-to-use piece against any enemy. Consequently, its inclusion in a PA textbook of our time has, in my opinion, a potential for incitement.
7. I agree, but the implied meaning here is that peaceful solution to the conflict is not encouraged. As such, should it not be included?
8. Our project does not exclusively deal with the attitude to the rival "other". As far as I remember, it also deals with the attitude to violence, peace, war, etc. This poem well fits in with this latter category and that is why I mentioned it. It does not need to refer to Jews or Israelis. And if the research team's remark here means that the research assistants were indeed directed not to include belligerent or otherwise violence-oriented statements in the quotes as long as they do not explicitly mention the adversary in that context, then we seem to be in quite a problem.
9. The problem is indeed clear and Math books may be out of our scope of interest. Yet, it is a clear – and rare – indication of the notion of the exact boundaries of the Palestinian state in the future, as reflected in the accompanying question: "The independence of the State of Palestine was declared [in Algiers] in 1988. How many years have passed since the declaration of independence?"
11. It is true that the verse mentions neither Israel nor the Jews, but it hints to Jews (not Israel) in its latter part which mentions the word dhimmah – protection, guarantee, and also the traditional Islamic covenant of protection granted to non-Muslim minorities in Muslim lands. The meaning of the whole verse would then be "How come that snakes invade us while we still observe the protection covenant…" I am glad you have decided to include that in the quotes. By the way, limiting the research assistants to explicit references only may harm the professional validity of the study, as schoolbooks within societies in conflict sometimes tend to include implicit messages, to be elaborated in class by the teachers.
12. I agree, but such an explicit definition should be included as well. It has much more weight than the others.
13-16, 18. Holy Koran and its Studies is not holy scriptures in itself. It is a textbook that includes scriptural texts alongside other, non-scriptural, ones. As such it certainly deserves to be studied. All the references mentioned in my comments include non-scriptural texts only and leaving them out might blur the overall picture and bring about misleading conclusions.
17. OK, but this example needs to be included as well, especially when the whole research is built on statistical parameters, where every piece counts (both figuratively and literally).
I tried to relate directly to each of the points above, but having so doing, I found myself tackling with further questions related to some aspects of the project in general. I still need time for phrasing them more accurately on the basis of this present debate. I hope to convey to you my thoughts soon.
RESPOSNE FROM BRUCE WEXLER
1. Even if we included all 18 examples cited by Arnon, it would not change the findings of the study. That is because we analyzed almost 1,000 examples from the Palestinian books. Arnon's examples might add a few more to the negative and very negative depictions of the other; the report already shows that 84% of the depictions of Jews or Israel are negative or very negative in the PA books. The report already concludes that on average ratings of Israelis are more negative in the PA books than are depictions of Palestinians in Israeli State books.
2. Arnon's comments are a great confirmation of our study methods. Arnon has looked more carefully than any other person at the problematic statements in Palestinian books. When he reviews our study he finds nothing to change the study findings or conclusions.
3. On close scrutiny, a substantial number of Arnon's quotes might not be accurate or appropriate to characterize as he does; I.e., the number of valid ones is probably substantially lower even than 18. I will forward Mohanned Dajani's comments that validate a few of Arnon's quotes and challenge others. Mohammad, a professor at Al Quds, is a widely respected scholar and has written the only book in Arabic documenting the holocaust.
4. Multiple of Arnon's quotes are from texts that are scripture and commentary. We excluded holy scripture books and books that are scripture with commentary from the analysis from all schools. Problematic examples exist in these books from all communities.(When scripture was cited in as relevant to a topic in a regular school, book those passages were included in the study.)
5. Most of the quotes Arnon cites come from books that are used only in the very small number of Islamic Education schools. A total of 700-800 students attend those schools (as compared to over 500,000 Israeli children attending Ultra-Orthodox schools).
ANOTHER LETTER FROM ARNON
As promised in my previous letter to the research team I sent you yesterday, I would like to share with you my thoughts regarding the implications of this debate on the image of our project in general in my eyes. It is true that events have lately succeeded one another rather quickly, which might make my response to the research team a bit outdated. Yet, to me, it is the issues we discuss in this debate, rather than outside attacks and in-group mobilization, that relate to the core of our project. The results of this debate alone, and not others' views, comments and declarations, will eventually help in assessing the true scientific value of this long, systematic, comprehensive and, in many ways, innovative research, for which both Professors Adwanand Bar-Tal, as well as their qualified and diligent research assistants, deserve our applause.
I cannot accept the statement appearing in the Israeli Ministry of Education's press release that our research is "biased, unprofessional and significantly lacking in objectivity" for the simple reason that we, SAP members, were not involved in the actual daily research and have not seen the final product as compared to the whole body of evidence. I cannot as well claim the opposite. I simply do not know – until I am given the full and final report and read it thoroughly. This is what I told Bruce time and again.
Notwithstanding, I do appreciate Professors Adwan and Bar-Tal as long-time researchers and scholars, and even if I find myself eventually not supportive of the results of their work on this particular project, I will still hold them in great esteem. I strongly reject any attempt to degrade their professional status, whatever the source, as I do regarding myself (and I have encountered such attempts).
I would now like to return to our debate with some general comments, having already sent my detailed response to the research team (and to you).
One, when Bruce sent me the 520 or so Palestinian quotations, I first checked whether they were inclusive, using as a frame of reference the latest (2011) report on the PA schoolbooks issued by IMPACT-SE (without my participation). I found out that some forty significant items were missing. I wrote to Bruce about that and added 18 examples out of those 40, and Bruce conveyed to me the research team's answers to my points in a letter distributed to you all.
It is important to me that you understand that I wrote to Bruce in order to alert him, as project manager, to some shortcomings in the selection process of the raw material for the study, which – if not rectified – would surely feature in forthcoming criticism of our project, because these are really significant items that create the basis for the ongoing criticism of the PA curriculum.
Now, instead of quickly attending to the problem I raised, I got an answer which actually meant that that problem did not exist. Well, it does exist and I urge you to read my response and see for yourselves.
Two, the research team's answers to my points have given me some insights regarding their approach to the material gathered for our research, which I was not aware of before, and which looked alarming to me.
First, the repeating remarks that a certain piece is "a fairly typical quote in the national narrative" and another is "indeed part of the Palestinian national narrative" or that "we cite multiple [such] examples" – all insinuate that the team has skipped a number of quotes on the assumption that they had already gathered a sufficient number of similar ones that convey the same message. This might be a logical step in a research based on text analysis, but not in our kind of research that applies statistical measures in which every item counts, literally. Ignoring a certain number of quotes of a certain type is bound to distort the final statistical result.
Second, if there was an initial intention to gather but a limited number of quotes, why the most meaningful ones were left out while less significant ones were let in? (Please see, for example, point # 4 in my response to the team).
Third, if, as the research team says, "the Research Assistants were trained to limit references and focus on clear statements" when encountering expressions of hate and violence, as said in point # 11 in reference to a de-humanizing piece, then the researchers may miss a cardinal point here, which might distort the final results of the study completely. Under such rules, no verbal attack against the adversary, whatever fierce or crude, should be taken as evidence so long as it does not mention that adversary by name. Thus, implied hate messages that are found in schoolbooks (especially those one financed or otherwise controlled by the international community) will go unnoticed, in spite of the fact that these very messages are further developed, with the intended names and titles added, by the teacher in class. No one really believes that when a text about the (Dhimmi) invading snakes or the enemies who kill children and split open women's bellies is read in classthe children think of the Mongols.
More generally, a "flat" survey of the quotes, without any reference to their deeper significance, will not do(for example, looking at the said demonizing text with no specific enemy as if it were a "neutral" literary piece). Also, evaluating them one-by-one without making any connection between them to convey an accumulated message is not a serious research either (this would be the case, for example, if a recurrent mentioning of the need to liberate Palestine is separated from a similarly recurring theme presenting Israel within its pre-1967 boundaries as "occupied Palestine", which would mean that the liberation of Palestine is actually identical to the liquidation of Israel). Nor does a serious research ignore what is missing from the textbooks (an often mentioned such case is the absence of open discussion of the possibility of peace with Israel). I hope none of these deficiencies will find its way into our research.
Fourth, not all religious texts are "Holy Scriptures". Most of them are very recently written commentaries. Textbook specifically are such works. Hence, they may be freely studied and criticized. I therefore reject the notion that since a certain textbook deals with the Koran, it should not be touched. It should. We have included the textbooks issued by the PA Ministry of the Endowments and Religious Affairs because they are part and parcel of the PA school system, as we have done regarding theIsraeli Ultra-Orthodox private educational stream which is not part of the official state school system (and see my remark in my previous letter regarding the accommodation of the higher grades of the PA religious schools in the general PA school system). I much regret that after we had decided to put them in, the research team refrained from looking at them, or did it very rarely. Such an approach may contradict the great emphasis put in (what we know of) the project's final results on the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox books and, thus, making the whole research unbalanced.
Moreover, even scriptural texts should, in my opinion, beincluded in the research if they are utilized in the textbooks for the promotion of a certain goal relevant to our study. Are we not allowed to present such texts when they encourage a peaceful approach towards, or friendship with the "other"? Why, then, not to do the same when they are used for the advocacy of the opposite? The avoidance of such a move, as expressed by the research team in points Nos. 1, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18 sounds strange to me. In any case, not the holy text itself is the subject but rather its utilization in the framework of the conflict.
Fifth, I also have some reservations regarding the research team's perception of Jihad and martyrdom, as revealed from their answer, because they restrict both to be part of the Palestinian national narrative, without drawing the necessary conclusions as to their impact on the attitude to the issues of peace and war. In my opinion a differentiation should be made between Jihad and martyrdom as part of the traditional heritage, namely, in the context of past events, on the one hand, and between their presentation as applicable to the current conflict, on the other hand (I admit that I myself failed to differentiate between these two categories of Jihad and martyrdom in my own studies and learned about this necessity from my later research of Tunisian schoolbooks). Obviously, quotes about Jihad and martyrdom of the second category should be included in our research as far as the attitude to peace and war in the context of the present conflict is concerned, no matter whether the adversary is mentioned there or not.
Three, we have already started to feel the first manifestations of criticism against our research. This criticism may increase if we do not stand on guard, not by airing fiery statements against this side or that, but byour insistence on presenting to the world a high standard scientific study that no one will be able to dub as one that "certainly does not reliably reflect reality", or that is "offering assessments with highly selective quotes as support".
I am looking forward to hearing from you all. We do not have much time, you know, and I hope that this projectof ours, of which I have been part for over three years,will prove to be a piece that I will be able to be proud of.