Even when times are very bad, we take solace, irrespective of creed, in the hope symbolized by the Christmas story of birth and renewal. We indulge children and proclaim a season of peace and goodwill. Alas, this Christmas is darkened by a Bethlehem story that is not about peace, but about killing; not about how children may fufill their promise, but about how they should glory in their own extinction. There are no wise men on this horizon.
The Bethlehem that the New Testament tells us is the birthplace of Jesus is also the center of Palestinian culture and the headquarters of the Governorate of the Palestinian Authority. The Bush administration believed and hoped that the PA chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, cared enough about his people to make a decent peace with Israel, leading to a new, independent state of Palestine. Abbas has shattered those hopes. Worse, he and his associates are ensuring that the next generation of Palestinians will be incapable of making peace. They will be paralyzed by the hate and fear that they have been taught in their schoolrooms and by the national television controlled by the PA.
The extent of this corruption of children's minds was vividly exposed last week by the investigative journalist Gerald Posner, who produced a Web documentary (hosted by thedailybeast.com) based on videos culled from television by Palestinian Media Watch. It is deeply shocking to observe children being programmed for terrorism through the exaltation of suicide bombers as heroes. "Martyrdom is bliss," a child hostess says, referring to a 14-year-old suicide killer. The clips show incessant indoctrination that Islam wants the death of adults and children for Allah and will reward those who achieve Shahada, which Palestinian Media Watch equates with death for Allah. "I have let my land drink my blood, and I have loved the way of Shahada," intones a young boy.
False history. Children being taught murder by rote is child abuse, a mental deformation more damaging than physical injury. Equally disgusting is the demonization of Jews based on a phony history of the Holocaust. Remember the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed 6 million Jews? Well, take a look at the scene from a PA Fatah "educational video" in which children acting and singing about history recite: "They [Israel] are the ones who did the Holocaust, their knife cuts to the length and width of our flesh. They opened the ovens for us to bake human beings. ... When an oven stops burning, they light 100 [more]." A body called the National Committee for Defense of Children from the Holocaust organized an exhibit, one feature of which, according to al-Ayyam, one of the largest Palestinian newspapers, is "an oven and inside it small [Palestinian] children are being burned. The picture speaks for itself."
This endlessly fraudulent education has had devastating effects on the prospects for peace. The world may have been appalled this year when students studying in a Jerusalem library were shot to death by a Palestinian terrorist, but the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research reports that 84 percent of Palestinians approved.
Wars routinely produce competitive ecstasies of hate. Is Israel any better? The answer is yes. In the early days of the state, the historical narrative of a nation under siege did prejudice the teaching. There were omissions, bias, and distorted stereotypes of Arabs--but not outright incitements to murder. And all that was cleaned up in three successive periods of revision, according to a major study by Prof. Elie Podeh that tracked the evolution of enlightened education in an Israel impelled by democratic values. Israeli schoolbooks no longer seek to impose a single narrative. Podeh concludes: "In historical and national terms, the Palestinians are currently in the same position that Israel was in 50 years ago. If Palestinian textbooks must go through the long, exhausting process undergone by Israeli textbooks, the prospects of a genuine and lasting Israeli-Palestinian conciliation may lie far in the future."