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Displacing Palestinian memory in schools

According to Dr Saeb Erekat, Israel is seeking to further the displacement of Palestinian memory by forcing Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem to alter the curriculum in a manner consistent with Israel’s hegemonic narrative. While the majority of schools have demonstrated resistance against the tactic, five Palestinian schools Sur Baher Boys School, Sur Baher Girls School, Ibn Khaldoun School, Ibn Rashid School and Abdullah bin Al Hussein School are expected to incorporate these changes at the commencement of academic year 2013-2014.


 

“Israel has been trying to change the status quo of Jerusalem since its occupation in 1967… by imposing its educational curriculum on schools in Occupied East Jerusalem,” said the senior Palestinian negotiator. “Israel shows that it has no intention of ending its 46-year old occupation, but rather seeks to consolidate the illegal annexation of Palestinian land.”

The manipulation of history and memory through education manifested itself in Chile in early 2012, when the education ministry proposed the elimination of all references to Pinochet’s military dictatorship in primary school textbooks in order to avoid an inherited collective memory of atrocities and ensure the oblivion of future generations. The move was described by historian Alberto Harambour as an attempt to destroy the ability to think within a historical framework.

Zionist obliteration of Palestinian memory is deeply entrenched within the narrative of occupation, a necessity to sustain a blatant illegality which the world fails to address and dismantle. Decades of Palestinian resistance have always proved to be a challenge to the Zionist narrative despite the latter’s domination, a reminder that the legitimacy of the Jewish state depends upon recognition from the oppressed, besides the international legitimacy granted to Israel by the UN and its allies. Teaching the Israeli curriculum in Palestinian schools will have repercussions for Palestinian national identity, possibly creating a conflict between generations who have moulded their lives upon perfecting resistance, and younger children immersed within the contradiction of assimilating to the dominant narrative while observing and experiencing continuous human rights violations.

The Israeli curriculum has purportedly included various misrepresentations of the occupation: Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the apartheid wall defined as a ‘security fence’ and other indoctrination material, such as a description of Israel as a ‘bastion of human rights and democracy’, despite the persistent violations of international law. The forced veneration of Israel’s illegalities is also manifested through a dialogue in one of the textbooks in which Arab students praise Israeli development in Palestinians cities, completely distorting the annihilation of Palestinian culture through Israel’s illegal settlement expansion. The objective of portraying the occupation as a natural process of development built upon the usurpation of Palestinian land and identity justifies the dominant narrative while seeking to force an interpretation of history upon younger generations whose memory processes would be fragmented in various frameworks: the inheritance of memory from older generations, the narrative of the occupation prior to enforced changes of the curriculum, the actual experience of human rights violations and various fluctuations of perception, as well as the struggle of the subaltern against an infiltrating Zionist narrative.

Israel has accused Palestinians of incorporating violence within school textbooks in an attempt to undermine the foundations of the self-appointed Jewish state, a claim rejected by analysts specialising in education. The imposition of Zionist ideology upon Palestinian children and educators reflects a subtle form of political violence; the creation of submission to the occupier as an attempt to quell future resistance and create a sustainable division between Palestinians to rupture the collective memory of a nation involved in a vicious struggle to reclaim its land.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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