Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Role of Hate Education in Promoting Violent Conflict

Gerald Steinberg <> wrote:

---------- Forwarded message ----------

I would like to share my thoughts and concerns about the Text Book Study in the light of the recent exchanges between Arnon and the Research Team, and my own notes to you in the last few months, including last night. I apologize for the delay but I needed some time to sort out the substance in the exchanges from the confusion in the last few days.  First I was personally appalled by the unfortunate Ministry of Education statement attacking Daniel and stand by him. But there are major unresolved problems with the Project, as Arnon has made clear, so I cannot endorse the Report as written What I say below repeats the points I have made over the past several months in personal letters to Bruce. Many –in rougher form--were in my very first comments to the group on the eve of our meeting in the Meridian.

What are we committed to? We want educational environments and texts which promote the core values of life and respect for life of all, notably the other.  Incitement in all its forms undermines these values because it leads to terror, political violence, atrocity crimes and genocide.   If we can prevent incitement we may be able to prevent much of the above. Because incitement is man-made, it can be eradicated.  Therefore our immediate objective is the eradication of incitement and hate language. .Our long term goal is the promotion of positive measures of life and respect for life and dignity among Israelis and Palestinians, and yes the entire regton, where hate is endemic and violence and butchery are epidemic. 

Recommendation: Let’s keep our eye on the ball. We want texts which promote sanctification of life and let live, not death and martyrdom from  killing the other The researchers  “tried to reveal the narrative that Israeli and Palestinian school textbooks are transmitting to their children. This is a holistic approach that tries to uncover the big picture” (Bar Tal) latter ‘determine’” the former My position is that  Narratives which condone, excuse or apologize for   terror, political violence, atrocity crimes undermine these values and promote moral equivalence. To find out if they are doing so, the Project looked at both the forest and the trees.

What has the Textbook Project accomplished?  It has shown the feasibility of using    quantitative methods (sampling, a prori defined variables and categories) to find out if the content of texts promote or undermine these values.
The research has demonstrated substantial qualitative and quantitative differences between Israeli and Palestinian Texts.  The evidence indicates that many passages in Palestinian   texts condone, delegitimization, non recognition of the other and violence, Israel secular texts have made major strides towards promoting peace and recognition of the other. Both have to make advances.
What are the Limitations?:  Questions remain  concerning  definitions of the variables, how they are classified and measured and counted and what  materials are included and excluded. Arnon has shown there are biases and distortions associated with all of the above.  Are we not missing or mismeasuring incitement –as Pearson and Spearman missed and mismeasured IQ in English children . More fundamentally, Daniel’s statement about a holistic” study is erases the distinction between observations and interpretation, or worse, allowing the latter to distort the former. This is dangerous.  

What did the Study not examine? It did not examine the content of the overall formal educational environment of children—summer camps, youth movements, children’s educational TV, and in the case of the PA or Palestine, and the parallel to the Israeli ultra orthodox educational system. 

Recommendation: The executive summary should explicitly note these limitations and exclusions, commit to addressing them

Problem: What modifications are necessary before the Report can be endorsed?  Do its methods measure what they seek to measure? –Or in more technical language, what are the validity, reliability and sensitivity and specificity of the screening tools? Do they measure or mismeasure incitement?

The study uses the term delegitimize to lump together statements which dehumanize, demonize, defame and delegitimize—a term which conventionally means denying or ignoring the existence of the other. The first four are much worse. Does such lumping fail to “capture” the first four of the above? Does this use of a catch all term result in loss of both sensitivity and specificity? (Would Mein Kampf be classified as a bad case of delegitimization, --i.e. in the same cateogorywith leaving out X on the map?)

Recommendation: Reexamine text passages described as delegitimizing to see whether they contain elements of the first four D’s. This reexamination requires experts more senior than the coders--whom I wish to congratulate for their dedication. .

Challenge: How should the Study deal with statements taken from ancient texts, including the Bible and Koran?

Not scoring inflammatory statements taken from ancient texts (including the Bible and Koran) against “infidels” and so on is a fundamental omission. Teaching historical stories or legends –especially from theological sources--which incite or dehumanize, demonize or delegitimize, is a classic strategem for evading scrutiny.

Recommendation: The study should revisit these excerpts. It should determine whether presentations --including narratives in school texts are descriptive, normative or critical.  These texts should be critiqued in the light of core values of life, respect for life and dignity of the other.. This recommendation applies to how textbooks teach and contextualize genocidal passages in the Bible and Koran.

Challenge: Do the Textbooks cite classical texts which promote what is now called Positive Deviance?  Wasatia has collected many such examples.

Recommendation: Examine the ratio of positive to negative classical citations

Problem: Does the Textbook study detect motifs of demonization, defamation and incitement captured by “hands on” peer reviewed reviews?
A comparison of the Textbook Study with the hands-on Report by Gross suggests the answer to this question is No.

Recommendations: Do cross examination to assess agreement, disagreement and errors of omission and commission in the study and the Hands-on Review.
Require the study to include a structured critical review of p Brown’s and Gross’s works.  Discuss how this study confirms, refutes of modifies. Impressions gleaned from previous studies. See what is missing in the Textbook study which other studies capture and vice versa. Members of the SAP and others should do this peer review.

Problem: Is it valid to automatically classify as “negative” those actions of the other—especially violent acts--  even when these depictions  are true? . E.g. Hebron Massacre in 1929 and Deir Yassin in 1948.  Doing so is an example of sliding down the slippery slope to moral equivalence.   

Recommendation: Task an Israeli and Palestinian historian—along with philosophers/theologians with knowledge on Just War theory to review whether descriptions of “bad” events or actions—even if they are “narratives”- are true.

Problem: Lumping  Palestinian and UO as equally negative fails to capture a fundamental qualitative yes-no difference between the two concerning glorification and implicit imitation of those engaged in acts aimed at willfully killing civilians—those who attack wedding ceremonies, schools, busses, bar mitzvahs, pizza parlors as martyrs.
Many excerpts in Palestinian texts describe perpetrators of terror as shahids, i.e worthy of emulation.  Ultra-orthodox texts describe victims of terror as kadosh.  They do not describe the perpetrators as kadosh.  .

Recommendation: Scan the texts for use of the term martyrs and determine how and why they are presented as models for emulation.

Problem: Errors of omission: How does the Study address the central role of the Mufti in allying Palestinian society and the Arab world with the Nazis, EIchman and the goals of the Holocaust (6,000,000 killed)? Here the example of Israeli state texts on how they teach Deir Yassin, (109 killed, not including 25 captured soldiers who were executed) is an exemplary role model.  

Recommendation: The Commission should endorse the use of Professor Dajani’s textbook in Arabic on the Holocaust to rectify this omission—although the introductions by a European political scientist and by Asmi Bashara are very problematic.

Conclusion: There are already more than enough findings from the Study to mandate action to promote positive messages and get rid of the 5 D’s of incitement, and the big E-emulation. .There should be Zero Tolerance for all of the above, without allowances to the political correctness of moral equivalence. But my endorsement of the Study is conditional on its correcting  the major shortcomings Arnon and I have listed. The  study needs to correct these deficiencies. I have said to one and all that because Incitement and hate language --especially Jew hatred-are pandemic in the region .monitoring of incitement  need to  be extended to the entire educational environment far and wide throughout the region, from Tunisia to Pakistan.

Best wishes,  

Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH
Genocide Prevention Program
Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine

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