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Professor Nathan Brown of George Washington University, another member of the advisory panel who has himself extensively studied Palestinian textbooks, said that he backs the project’s findings: “I don’t think that this study would surprise any scholar who has actually read the books,” he said.
Nevertheless, Brown questions whether the study should have ever been launched — albeit for reasons much different than those of Israeli government officials. The “logic of the report,” he said, assumes that textbooks generate political attitudes in its readers.
“It often goes the other way around,” he said. “Political cause creates textbooks.”
Like Sperber, he suggested that the timing of the study’s release — and indeed, the study itself — might have been off, but again, for somewhat different reasons.
In the midst of bitter conflicts, Brown observed, battling factions are unlikely to back away from their depictions of the enemy. Asking Israelis and Palestinians to revise their views on the other, while they remain locked in conflict, would be akin to pushing for schoolbook reform in the United States or China during the Cold War.
“This is not a post-conflict situation,” Brown said. “To come up with post-conflict techniques in a conflict still being fought is, to me, premature.”
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