You could become ‘another Goldstone’ — friendly warning to Yale prof whose study cleared Palestinian textbooks of demonization charge

Israel/Palestine
on 32 Comments

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.

And once the Israelis trashed the study, even the Americans associated with it seem to have backed away. In particular notice the weaseling by the Reform Jewish leadership:
The U.S. State Department, which fully funded the study, has refused to comment on it. And the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which sent out a press release February 5 announcing that it would host a Washington rollout for the study, has now called that release’s distribution an accident.

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.

Today on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show, Wexler said he was “shocked” by the response to the study. I am sure that Richard Goldstone was also shocked. Goldstone, an eminent former South African judge, issued a UN Human Rights Council report in 2009 saying Israel had deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza and then disavowed much of the report after the South African Jewish community ran him through the gauntlet a few times.
 
Wexler seems to be just as upstanding as Goldstone. Here is something about his background, from Zeveloff:

“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.

32 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    February 8, 2013, 1:55 pm

    Hillary Clinton was spouting off about these textbooks a year or two ago. Now that the Palestinians have been “cleared” I’m sure she will weigh in with her approval, but I won’t hold my breath.

    I now await the State Department’s investigation into Israeli textbooks.

  2. BillM
    February 8, 2013, 2:03 pm

    The response in coming on two levels. The first, of course, is to demonize Wexler and attack the study. The second response is simply to bury it. As an example, the Christian Science Monitor looked at the study and concluded it said:

    link to csmonitor.com

    Palestinian textbooks fall short where they are most needed – introducing ‘the other’

    This generation of Palestinian schoolchildren is the first to use an entirely Palestinian curriculum and also one of the first to have little to no interaction with Israelis – not even in their textbooks.

    The story is about how awful Palestinian textbooks are. It takes 12 paragraphs to mention that Israeli textbooks have the same problem, then immediately returns to its theme that the textbooks prove Palestinians are not a partner for peace.

    • a blah chick
      February 8, 2013, 3:14 pm

      I find the idea that these Palestinian kids have NO interaction with Israelis hard to believe. My guess is that they meet Israelis all the time, just not the nicest ones. And they more than likely have more interactions with the other than their Jewish counterparts.

    • pabelmont
      February 8, 2013, 3:29 pm

      The CSM used to be a good (that is, decent, fair, and accurate) newpaper. Economics, I suppose, got to it, or maybe it hired Zionists. What a shame. Of course, NYT got there first.

      Burying the fact that Israeli school books (also) don’t mention the other is classic propaganda: the reader stops reading, but the newpaper can claim even-handedness. One might ask why — given the parallels — CSM did not mention the Israeli deficiency FIRST.

  3. Avi_G.
    February 8, 2013, 2:37 pm

    No doubt, there will be those who will rush to portray Bruce Wexler as a martyr. Anyway, the study has some serious shortcomings. For example, it ignores the fact that Palestinians live under occupation. In doing so, Wexler attempts to create parity between the two sides, Palestinians and Israelis.

    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.

    Exactly.

    As Nurit Peled Elhanan showed through her book, Israeli textbooks not only vilify and dehumanize Palestinians, they erase the Palestinians’ existence as an historical nation in the land of Palestine.

    These are some of the inconvenient truths and shortcomings of the study. It’s not entirely Goldstoned, it’s a sort of Goldstone-preempted.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      February 8, 2013, 4:52 pm

      Yup. The ‘can’t we just get along?’ narrative, which presents the occupation as two (equal) peoples with a bit of a land dispute going on, is extremely damaging to the Palestinian cause. That’s one of the great things about BDS: it takes the debate away from the ‘two sides’ nonsense and presents it for what it is – racial oppression of a native people by a racist, colonial government. And that is why Israel is so terrified of it.

    • Inanna
      February 9, 2013, 5:33 am

      Thanks Avi_G those are good points. As far as I know, the PA’s textbooks are vetted by Israeli authorities so I’m not sure why half a million dollars needs to be spent on a study to show that there’s not vilification of Jews/Israelis in those texts.

  4. piotr
    February 8, 2013, 2:39 pm

    “… there’s no equity in the victim department here.”

    This point is regularly rebutted. Ami Kaufman (in 972mag) reported this exchange, which is how 10 year old children from Sderot who took a course designed by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs answer question (they learned to say it in English, but an Israeli newspaper translated into Hebrew and Ami back to English so perhaps some nuance was lost:

    How will you explain harming innocent children in Gaza?

    Noa: Unfortunately, in wars there are casualties for both sides. We all pay an equal price because of the conflict.
    Christopher: In Sderot and towns outside the Gaza Strip there are children who are suffering from anxiety.

    Very nice answers! And the children look adorable, unlike certain professors from Harvard. What genuinely surprised me was how people whim Ami calls “pathetic Hasbara trolls” were defending them. Basically, their claim was that children from schools in Gaza and Syria would not say anything better. Which suggests that either the trolls are stupid or they really do not believe in that stuff. At least two of them use clever arguments at occasion, so I think that no, they do not believe it.

    Actually, there is a fairly standard rejoinder raised by trolls to the argument that victimhood is so lopsided “so to make you happy one would need to kill more Jews?!” but if did not fit here. It sounds kind of mean and children have to stay adorable.

  5. Woody Tanaka
    February 8, 2013, 2:42 pm

    “I warned [Wexler] all along, ‘You don’t want to become another Goldstone,’” Richter said.

    It’s amusing that now they come right out and admit that Goldstone told the truth and then was blackballed and blackmailed into “recanting.” Back then, when Goldstone was doing his little mummer’s farce of “recanting,” they were so insistent that this was all on the merits of the facts. Laughable.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      February 8, 2013, 4:54 pm

      Plus, Goldstone’s ‘recantation’ was actually very mild and very partial, if you actually read what he had to say instead of the exaggerated headlines. And it was amazing to see how he was transformed from the ‘hanging judge’ of the Apartheid era (because we know Zionists have always condemned Apartheid, lol) to a reasonable and just man just as soon as he caved into months of despicable bullying.

    • Sin Nombre
      February 8, 2013, 8:06 pm

      I saw that quote from Richter too, Woody, and think you’ve got it wrong. By it’s very terms (“all along”), Richter is affirming that he was essentially trying to threaten Wexler in *coming* to his conclusions.

      And I thus nominate Richter for being the current holder of the David Duke Best Jewish Attempted Validator Of Historic Anti-Semetic Tropes Award for his blatant and heroic effort to persuade everyone that indeed no jew can be trusted saying anything about jewry or Israel due to likely attempted tribal threats/blackmail/suasion or etc. directed against them.

      Can anyone imagine the disgust that Wexler must feel? Geezus.

    • Inanna
      February 9, 2013, 5:35 am

      What’s even more amusing is that they are using the power of the threat of being shunned by the tribe to influence the outcome of an supposedly academic study. Chalk up another win for academic freedom!

      • Woody Tanaka
        February 9, 2013, 10:16 am

        “What’s even more amusing is that they are using the power of the threat of being shunned by the tribe to influence the outcome of an supposedly academic study. Chalk up another win for academic freedom!”

        Not only that, but the blackmail of Goldstone and the threat by Richter to blackmail Wexler might lead some to insist that any future examination of israel must exclude any and all Jews, so as to prevent any such threats of “excommunication.” (N.B.: This is not to suggest that I would approvie of such exclusion. I don’t because it is bigotry. However, someone might conclude that such bigotry is reasonably necessary.)

  6. Jeff Klein
    February 8, 2013, 3:29 pm

    IS IT GOOD FOR THE JEWS?

    Times of Israel headline:
    Northeast Jews brace for ‘historic’ blizzard
    link to timesofisrael.com

    • Woody Tanaka
      February 9, 2013, 8:26 am

      The casual racism of those people is really a sight to behold at times. Is there no one in israel that these people could hire to write a non-racist headline? (But at least they have the shame to have changed it (although the URL demonstrates what it used to be…)

  7. pabelmont
    February 8, 2013, 3:32 pm

    “the Ministry of Education attacked the very concept of examining both sides’ textbooks in tandem.” UNLIKE Dov Hikind and TheDersh ™ who demanded that folks at Brooklyn College examine BDS and (some sort of its opposite, I suppose) in tandem.

    On Tuesday and Fridays there is “no moral equivalency”, but on Mondays, Wednesdays, and so on, equivalency is demanded!

    (Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.)

  8. Stephen Shenfield
    February 8, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Please tell us where we can find the text of Wexler’s report. If it is unpublished, perhaps he can be persuaded to release it for publication on Mondoweiss.

  9. Kathleen
    February 8, 2013, 5:35 pm

    A US State Dept Study that has determined that Palestinian textbooks do not “demonize” Jews. And then those who requested the study are backing away from it or not even mentioning it. Thanks Phil. Have always wondered when this line about Palestinian textbooks being full of hate for Jews is repeated whether there was any substance to it. Sure makes you wonder about the many claims of anti semitism being thrown around over the decades. So many false claims repeated over and over again in our media. By the Bill Kristols, John Boltons of the world

    “encouraged to leave” Have never heard the violence that Palestinians either directly experienced when they were pushed out of their villages, homes or those who left because they knew what was coming described that way. “encouraged” How about “terrorized”

  10. DICKERSON3870
    February 8, 2013, 5:52 pm

    RE: 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. ~ Naomi Zeveloff and Nathan Jeffay

    MY COMMENT: The Minister of Education in Israel is Gideon Sa’ar.

    REGARDING GIDEON SA’AR, SEE: “School reprimanded by Education Min. for trip to human rights march”, By Yossi Gurvitz, 972 Magazine, 12/31/11
    The Ministry of Education reprimands a school for sending its pupils to the Human Rights March

    [EXCERPTS] The Ministry of Education sent a reprimand (Hebrew) to the principal of the ‘Ar’ara high school, which sent its pupils to the Human Rights March held earlier this month. The letter sent by the ministry complained, inter alia, that “the pupils were carrying signs against racism, house demolitions, etc., which is contrary to the Director of the Ministry’s communiqué.” The ministry further promised an investigation.
    In the school’s reply, the teachers quoted Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar’s communiqué on the International Human Rights Day: “It is your duty as educators, who lead the pupils, to educate them that aside from the protection and defense of human rights, they are expected to show personal, social, civil and national involvement and responsibility. . .
    . . . The ‘Ar’ara teachers, alas, suffer from terminal naiveté. They should have known what Jesus knew about hypocrites like Gideon Sa’ar: That they should be judged according to the rule “Do as they say, not as they do.” Sa’ar’s actions – this reprimand – exhibit his real intentions much more than an official saccharine communiqué.
    Furthermore, when the teacher says that her pupils shouted “Arabs and Jews love each other” – Doesn’t she realizes this is precisely what scares people like Sa’ar? Gideon Sa’ar does a masterful job at selling himself to the public as a relatively liberal education minister, and it must be said that unlike the previous Likud minister, Limor “the slapper” Livnat, he did not spend his youth in rioting in theaters which showed plays he did not like.
    But Sa’ar, it must be remembered, is first and foremost Im Tirzu’s education minister; he spoke at their convention last year, decrying the description of “values education” as indoctrination and promising much more of it. He is the minister under whom the ministry disqualified a book for pupils about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it contains two articles the ministry, and the minister, can’t live with: The right of every person to convert to another religion and the right of every person to emigrate to another country.
    At the same time, Sa’ar ratcheted up the indoctrination of pupils (oh, sorry, I meant “values education”) to a whole new level: He now forces secular students to study Masechet Avot, that concentrated volume of Jewish ignorance and credulity, which contains such pearls as “he who has many wives, will also have plenty of witchcraft,” and “Don’t speak too often with a woman; This is meant at a man’s wife, and even more so at his friend’s wife; And hence the sages have said: ‘Anyone who speaks too often with a woman, does evil to himself, and abandons the study of the Torah, and will end up in hell.’” No doubt this will help Israel’s female pupils – a marginal minority of 51% – feel better about their place in society. Sa’ar is also the minister who made it a duty for every pupil to visit Hebron. And we’re not talking about some Breaking the Silence tour: No, this is an attempt at indoctrinating (err, sorry, “providing values education”) the pupils into believing that Israel must continue to rule Hebron. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to 972mag.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 8, 2013, 6:21 pm

      P.S. ALSO REGARDING GIDEON SA’AR, SEE: “How the Israeli right conspired to shut down ‘lefty’ department at BGU”, By B.N.*, 972 Magazine, 1o/24/12
      The crackdown on Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Politics and Government may seem unprecedented, but a closer look reveals an ongoing campaign to challenge academic freedom in the university and beyond.

      [EXCERPTS] While the attacks on the Department of Politics and Government of Ben-Gurion University are being viewed by many as an unprecedented measure, infringements of academic freedom in Israeli-controlled areas are common. They are often part of the regime of military occupation in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza. . .
      . . . In Israel proper, “threats to students’ freedom to organize politically-oriented activities on university premises and attacks on faculty who voice their criticism of government policies” are a persistent problem.

      The Case of Ben Gurion University: The irregular international review process

      Infringements of academic freedom expanded recently when a committee of the government’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) threatened to close the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University. . .
      . . . The CHE is headed by Israel’s minister of education, Gideon Sa’ar
      , who supported Im Tirtzu and endorsed its campus activity in 2010. . .
      . . . In 2002, CHE authorized the department’s organization as an interdisciplinary unit. However, the report criticized this interdisciplinary focus and demanded that the department “corrects its current weaknesses in its core discipline of political science in terms of number of faculty, curriculum, and research.”
      Most authors of the report were also “concerned that the study of politics as a scientific discipline may be impeded by such strong emphasis on political activism.” However, a minority opinion by Professor Galia Golan questioned the unexplained linkage of disciplinary issues with the emphasis on political activism.
      The report emphasized the importance of ensuring “a balance of views in the curriculum and the classroom” so that “students can take a critical perspective” even though it stated that undergraduate students “seemed to be able to express different views” from those of faculty members, and that graduate students said that they “were encouraged to be critical even of the lecturers.” In her minority opinion, Golan wrote that she was “not certain who or how a ‘balance’ might be determined,” and that “such a demand runs directly counter to the principle of academic freedom, a basic principle of university education.” The committee’s criticism of faculty members’ political views undermines the standards of academic reviews and suggests that the committee’s agenda was at least partially tainted by irrelevant political concerns. . .

      The recommendation

      The report stated that if the department fails to introduce curricular changes and hire new faculty members in “core” areas of political science, then, “as a last resort, Ben Gurion University should consider closing the Department of Politics and Government.” . . .
      . . . Israel has fought calls for boycotting Israeli academic institutions by praising its own commitment to academic freedom. However, Israel’s education minister Gideon Saar (ex officio chair of the CHE) recently called for the dismissal of Professor Neve Gordon, a member of the department, because of Gordon’s op-ed that supported the boycott. Saar’s statement increases the impression that this affair has been politically motivated and has little to do with academic merit. Moreover, if the Israeli Council for Higher Education shuts the department down or alternately fires any of its members, this can only strengthen international calls for severing ties with Israel’s academic establishment.

      SOURCE – link to 972mag.com

      *The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a faculty member in one of Israel’s universities.

  11. justicewillprevail
    February 8, 2013, 6:18 pm

    Palestinian children don’t need textbooks to tell them about Israelis. The evidence is all around them – they are among the most traumatised children anywhere, whose fears are graphically illustrated in their artwork – being bombed, shot at, their fathers and brothers assaulted, imprisoned and humiliated. What are they being taught about their future with this climate of fear that Israel inflicts upon them, without the aid of any textbooks?

  12. Citizen
    February 8, 2013, 6:38 pm

    So the Jewish community does not need a pope to excommunicate one of their own. Shunning is used by all cults and a myriad of fundy communities.

  13. Rudolph
    February 8, 2013, 7:27 pm

    It’s probably worth noting that several years ago Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, after a detailed study on The Palestinian Curriculum, wrote: “[T]he Palestinian curriculum is not a war curriculum; while highly nationalistic, it does not incite hatred, violence, and anti-Semitism.”
    Right-wing supporters of Israel, seeking reasons why Palestinians harbor resentment against Israel and Jews, often point to Palestinian textbooks that purportedly instill such hatred. Prof. Brown demonstrates that a better explanation is to be found in the harsh occupation administered by Israel. As Prof. Brown writes in his conclusion, “With the effects of conflict felt on a daily basis, what textbooks and teachers say is probably irrelevant in any case.” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  14. Les
    February 8, 2013, 8:28 pm

    I like this use of the word excommunicate. The next question is who has the power to do it.

  15. thankgodimatheist
    February 8, 2013, 8:38 pm

    The report also innocents Israeli textbooks of stirring hared of the Arab but in this Haaretz article “We − and only we − are on the map” Nurit Alhanan Peled (daughter of the general) exposes the ways schoolbooks in Israel do more than that. He/she is unequivocally described as a problem rather than a person never mind that they’re presented as camel riding too.

    “We − and only we − are on the map”
    “Palestinian refugees are presented as people who want to enter Israel and not as those who wish to return to their homeland; Israeli Arab citizens are depicted as the enemy within, a demographic threat and a minority that is inferior to the Jewish majority − individually, socially and economically. The Palestinians appear in the text only as representatives of the problems they constitute for Israel − backwardness and terrorism − or as part of the “refugee problem” that “has poisoned Israel’s relations with the Arab world and the international community for more than a generation,” according to Elie Barnavi and Eyal Naveh in their history textbook, “Modern Times 2” ‏(Sifrei Tel Aviv Press‏).”
    link to haaretz.com

  16. Erasmus
    February 9, 2013, 1:20 am

    And here are 2 weblinks for the study’s report.

    In particular, the research team deserves special acclaim for the painstaking efforts of a transparent and scientific research methodology – which adds considerable value to its findings and recommendations.
    Full report:
    link to d7hj1xx5r7f3h.cloudfront.net

    4-page summary:
    link to d7hj1xx5r7f3h.cloudfront.net

    • Stephen Shenfield
      February 9, 2013, 12:13 pm

      Another source (in Arabic and Hebrew as well as English) is:

      IsraeliPalestinianSchoolbooks.blogspot.com

    • Avi_G.
      February 9, 2013, 12:30 pm

      and scientific research methodology

      Not so fast.

      The research samples were too small to be objectively considered “scientific”.

      That’s another shortcoming of the study.

      We can do this all week long.

      Next?

  17. piotr
    February 9, 2013, 2:36 am

    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. “The attempt to create a parallel between the Israeli education system and the Palestinian education system is completely unfounded and lacks any basis in reality,” the document read.

    Everybody (not blinded by Jew-hatred) knows that Palestinian and Israeli schools do not operate in parallel universes but in orthogonal ones, thus creating paralles is absurd. It is really depressing what garbage passes for arguments and actually functions in the Zionist universe.

  18. talknic
    February 9, 2013, 10:15 am

    What Palestinians and Israelis might or might not have in their school books is:

    A) completely irrelevant to the actual legal status of Israel’s Internationally recognized sovereign extent

    B) completely irrelevant to the illegality of Israel’s actions outside of its legally recognized sovereign extent

    C) completely irrelevant to the Palestinians right to a state of their own on all the territory allocated for the Arab State per the UN resolution enshrined in the Declaration of the Establishment of the state of Israel.

    D) more ‘we made the desert bloom’ ziopoop!

  19. eGuard
    February 9, 2013, 7:14 pm

    Let’s not forget this brave hero: Elihu Richter, […] one of the three dissenting members [i.e., three who objected the outcome] of the project’s advisory committee, thinks otherwise. “I warned [Wexler] all along, ‘You don’t want to become another Goldstone,’” Richter said.

    Hebrew university can be proud of this member. By now Elihu Richter will have communicated Wrexler’s childrens school routines and their bar mitzva dates to his masters.

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