Entering Professor Mohammad Dajani’s office / library at Al Quds University is like being transported to Ohio – Oberlin, to be exact, where the professor takes a class each year. He is the head of the American Studies department, and his office and the halls around represent the good, the bad and the tacky of U.S. culture. Posters of bad movies compete for space with copies of the Constitution and newspaper reports of Kennedy’s assassination. The library has a wealth of books discussing the American scene, with it appears no topic omitted.
Professor Dajani is equally uncensored. He is the founder of Wasatia, a group encouraging moderation in Palestinian Muslim religious views, societal approaches, and political outlooks. In our conversation, he was quite critical of certain aspects of religious teaching – both in Palestine and in the broader Arab Muslim world. He cited the teaching of a Hadith that says that on Judgement Day Muslims will be called to kill Jews. This Hadith both contradicts the Qur’an and is one of thousands of Hadith – so why is it being taught, he challenges. He also gave the example of teaching verses that state that say only the followers of Islam are saved, good, etc. Why interpret this as meaning formal Muslims, when it can mean “those who submit to God”?
The evening of the day I visited Prof. Dajani it was the turn of Israeli textbooks – in this case history, geography and civics, not religion. Professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan has just published a book on bias in these texts, and some examples are startling. Also, unfortunately, they are not getting better. She noted that for a while in the ’90s the books did discuss the massacres of Palestinians during the 1948 war, though with a great deal of justification. Now they may not. Arabs (rarely is the word Palestinian used) are portrayed as backward and irrational. Maps do not show the green line, the wall, and show few Palestinian place names.
I’ll be interested to read more about both Israeli and Palestinian textbooks – I know that texts in the Arab world usually omit Israel, for example, and I’ve been hearing about the combination of nationalism and religious teaching in the Israeli curriculum.
Nurit Peled-Elchanan is a radical leftist who’s in bed with the folks from the Durban conferences (the ones which have the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on sale). See the following two articles from Maariv for more:
Thank you for those links. I have not read Peled-Elhanan yet, nor much about her, and I will seek more information and consider the source. I must say that the primary source information she presented from the textbooks did seem persuasive and disturbing. It also dovetails with other studies I have read (Daniel Bar-Tal, Majid Al-Haj, Ismael Abu-Saad). Still, I don’t read Hebrew or Arabic and have only an initial understanding of either Israeli or Palestinian textbooks, so I could be getting a distorted view. I’ll keep reading and talking with folks!
I found your blog searching for reactions to the Pinker event, which I also attended.
You seem like a good guy, and I respect the effort you’re making to get both sides of the story. But it seems that instead of hearing the Israeli side you’re hanging out with fringe leftist elements of that society; Ir Amim isn’t going to give you a different perspective than the Palestinian one, for example. If you want to listen to both sides, you shouldn’t look for ours in our equivalent of Noam Chomsky or Ward Churchill.
If you want to understand mainstream Israeli society and understand its internal debates, I suggest exchanging Haaretz for the Jerusalem Post. The latter is a centrist paper with a truly full spectrum of views in its op-ed pages; the former prints one radical leftist after another. That’s fine if that’s what you want to read, but then you should bear in mind that it doesn’t represent a significant part of Israeli society.
An excellent in-depth journal is the quarterly Azure, which is published by the Shalem Center — the organization that hosted the Pinker event. Check out their website at http://www.azure.org.il
I didn’t come to boss you around; you should do what you see fit, of course. But I hope you’ll be open to these observations/suggestions.
Thank you. I have been looking at jpost some, but I will up my intake. I’ll also check out Azure. And no worries – I’m not hearing you as “bossing.” After all, I’m making claims in public – I should expect them to be challenged!
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