A controversial in-depth study that clears Palestinian Authority school textbooks of the charge that they demonize Jews and Israelis has become an orphan, virtually upon its release.
Since Yale University psychiatry professor Bruce Wexler, Bethlehem University professor Sami Adwan and Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University rolled out their study’s results February 4, the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which commissioned the project, has disavowed the study.
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate — one of the council’s four constituent members — has, too. The U.S. State Department, which fully funded the study, has refused to comment on it. And the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which sent out a press release February 5 announcing that it would host a Washington rollout for the study, has now called that release’s distribution an accident.
According to Wexler, the fury over the report is a recent development. Last May, he said, the study received unanimous support from its 17-member scientific advisory panel, an international group of education experts, who drafted and signed a document approving both the methodology and the findings. But now, three members of the panel have publicly denounced the project.
Those involved in the project attribute much of the response to it to Israeli government officials, who have led the charge against the report, denouncing it as “misleading,” “highly distorted” and ”biased, unprofessional and significantly lacking in objectivity.”
The study, which looked at textbooks used by both Israelis and Palestinians, found that, with some exceptions on both sides, neither side’s books dehumanize the other as a group. But the study also found that books used in schools on both sides distort history and use facts selectively to favor their own respective narratives, at a significant cost to building peace.
The Palestinians’ alleged demonization of Jews and Israel in school textbooks has been a long-standing grievance for pro-Israel advocates. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the Palestinians have voiced satisfaction with the study’s findings. But on the Israeli and Jewish side, protests reached a fever pitch.