The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry has criticized Hamas’ new school curriculum, with the Authority’s officials say Hamas is deepening the years-long political divide between Israel by introducing new militaristic textbooks to middle schools under its control in the Gaza Strip. Paradoxically, the Palestinian Authority seems to take little issue with the concepts and language in the curriculum — including Jihad and armed resistance — and more with the bureaucracy of the curriculum’s development and implementation.
Hamas’s Education Ministry is an independent body based in Ramallah. It changed a subject called patriotic education taught in grades 8-10 at the start of the 2013 school year and introduced new school books highlighting the Palestinian armed struggle with Israel, writes Elhanan Miller of Times of Israel.
Professor Jamal Abu-Hashem, head of the committee that wrote the new school books, said patriotic education is designed to develop the patriotic tendencies in the hearts of the students and make them prouder to belong to their nation.
The PA’s problem with Hamas’s textbooks is not the use of terms such as “jihad” or “resistance,” Jihad Zakarneh, director general of the Education Ministry, told Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera. School curricula, he noted, were meant to “defend the people’s right.” Rather, he stressed, the PA took issue with Hamas acting unilaterally in altering the curriculum taught in Gaza’s governmental school.
“No change should be made in one part of the nation unless it’s through a professional committee that can judge the curriculum needs professionally and objectively,” Zakarneh said.
The new textbooks, authored by Abu-Hashem and his team, include chapters about all Palestinian factions including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The new books highlight Palestinian resistance through recent events in Gaza’s history such as Operation Pillar of Defense of November 2012.
In an eighth-grade book, a chapter titled “The Palestinian Liberation Project” includes among its objectives the strengthening of faith and love of resistance as a means to regain rights and uniting efforts to liberate all of Palestine. The books also include images of armed masked Hamas operatives and locally manufactured rockets.
“Enriching the curriculum with material relating to the Palestinian principles increases the pupils’ awareness to the regional danger posed by the Zionist project. It credits the role of the Palestinian people and its leaders in resistance and liberation,” Abu-Hashem told Hamas’s Education Ministry website in September.
The curriculum changes were made as a result of a new education law drafted in April. According to Article 5 of the law, the role of Gaza’s education system is to “prepare students to develop a patriotic personality and adhere to the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic culture. [The education system] will foster in the student faith in God and pride in his religion and his homeland Palestine, within its historic borders.”
The law prohibits private schools and internationally run schools from receiving donations or aid aimed at normalization with what it sees as ‘Zionist occupation’ or ‘propagating any Zionist activity.’
The curriculum change had nothing to do with the political divide between Gaza and the West Bank, and everything to do with asserting the Palestinians’ right to their land, according to Mutasim Al-Binawi, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza.
The only reason textbooks in the PA are not amended, he added, is that they are subjected to Israeli censorship. “We know there are enormous pressures placed on our brothers in the West Bank by the Israeli occupation regarding changes in curricula unlike Gaza which enjoys more freedom in this regard,” Al-Binawi told Al-Jazeera.