An important new study funded by the State Department that exonerates Palestinian textbooks of demonizing Jews has been rejected by Israel, because it contradicts a central propaganda point. And now the State Department and the Reform Jewish leadership seem to be walking away from the study!
According to a long report in the Forward by Naomi Zeveloff and Nathan Jeffay, the study is now an “orphan.” First the Israelis sandbagged the study:
The harshest criticism, however, has come from the Israeli government. In a press release issued before the study went public, the Ministry of Education attacked the very concept of examining both sides’ textbooks in tandem.
Then once the Israeli government attacked the report, the Israeli body that commissioned the study disavowed it–
it was the Israeli government’s fierce response that forced the Chief Rabbinate, a member of the council [of religious institutions that had commissioned the study], to walk away from the study.
Bruce Wexler is the Yale psychiatry professor who led the study–along with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. And Wexler, who is Jewish, has been warned that he could be excommunicated for his role in the study, just as Richard Goldstone was.
Wexler, meanwhile, rejected the notion that mutual effacement by either side of the other [which the study found was perpetrated in textbooks on both sides] … constitutes demonization. That, he said, occurs when one side uses a broad brush to negatively depict “the character of a people,” and not just “some bad action” by its government or citizens.
Dehumanization, Wexler said, “is very different from leaving [the enemy] off a map.”
Elihu Richter, executive director of the Genocide Prevention Program of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine, and one of the three dissenting members of the project’s advisory committee, thinks otherwise. “I warned [Wexler] all along, ‘You don’t want to become another Goldstone,’” Richter said.
“Having grown up as a Jew when the State of Israel was born, and reading about Israel in the newspaper, I felt that there were ideas in my book relevant to trying to address the difficulties Israel finds itself in now,” Wexler said.
Wexler started an NGO called A Different Future, which publicized the voices of moderate Palestinians and Israelis through speaking tours and media appearances. It was Wexler’s work with this group that brought him to the attention of the CRIHL.
Well aware of the contention surrounding the incitement issue, Wexler decided to approach the study as a scientist. Borrowing methods from the field of psychiatry, he seeks to document both emotions and the intensity with which they are expressed.
On his radio show today, Brian Lehrer stood up for the study as a peacemaking effort. He said that the study was an effort to change things on the ground, by softening hatred between two sides and getting them past the “endless skirmishing” over who was the bigger victim and who the bigger bad guy. This is a standard line from liberal Zionists; I would guess that Wexler himself shares it: if you can get the two sides to put away their resentments, you can move toward a solution. Whatever the degree of hatred on either side, the problem is that this is bad history; the two sides have vastly-unequal power, and the Palestinians have been repeatedly victimized. One side colonized the other’s land; violently expelled and/or encouraged to leave 750,000 people who were then not allowed to return to their property; and has continued to colonize the other’s land since 1967. No doubt the victim has resorted to violent terrorism on many occasions; but there’s no equity in the victim department here.