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Perhaps nothing distills more starkly just how this dynamic of mutual effacement works than the researchers’ findings regarding each side’s textbook maps.
According to the study, 58% of the post-1967 maps in the Palestinian schoolbooks show the polity “Palestine,” with its area incorporating everything between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including present-day Israel. There is no mention of Israel.
The Israeli books examined came off even worse. Seventy-six percent of the post-1967 maps in them show Israel as the area between the river and the sea, with no mention of the P.A. and no notation of the so-called Green Line that separates Israel from the West Bank and Gaza — the territories Israel conquered in the 1967 Six Day War and continues to occupy, but that it has never annexed.
“This type of education can create a lasting obstacle to peace,” Wexler said. “If you grow up seeing maps that seem to imply that the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is your homeland… and you are asked to give up some of that land to make two states, you would feel you are losing something that you never had to begin with.”
Many of the critics’ substantive arguments against the study have to do with the way that Wexler and his team categorized their findings. The study stressed the fact that Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks contain very few “extreme negative characterizations” that dehumanize or demonize the other.
One rare instance, in an Israeli book used in the state religious sector, refers in toto to the residents of a decimated Arab village — now the site of an Israeli settlement — as a “nest of murderers.” Another such example, from a Palestinian book, describes an Israeli interrogation room as a “slaughterhouse.”
But critics say that the narrative threaded throughout the P.A.’s books describes the Zionist movement and Israel’s founding as a central source of Palestinian problems — and argue that this itself is a form of dehumanization.