Serious Concerns as Lessons in Normalization Hit Lebanese Schools
Lebanese parents are left distraught after their kids are “spoon-fed” the Israeli rhetoric in their textbooks. Al Mayadeen English investigates the matter in depth.
A parent of a Lebanese student blew the whistle after what she discovered in her 16-year-old’s "History Geography" textbook. The textbook, published by Nathan Publishing House and used by French international schools in Lebanon, depicts a version of history that fits the Israeli narrative exclusively. Despite Lebanese law sanctioning such publications being circulated in the Lebanese curriculum, books containing such narratives continue to be used.
How to 'innocently' justify an ethnic cleansing
The school textbook mentioned above includes a whole chapter under the title “The creation of the state of Israel” and it is used by many high schools operating in Lebanon and using the French Baccalauréat system. The main problem lies in the complete and shocking absence of any mention of the existence of a Palestinian people on this land, or of the process of ethnic cleansing that was conducted gradually until it culminated in the 1948 war, i.e. the an-Nakba.
Zionism is described in the textbook as a mere "political movement" aimed at creating a "national home for the Jews in Palestine", without any mention of how it intended to do so or how it (the movement) actually proceeded to colonize the land and expel the natives. There is no counter to the "Israeli Declaration of Independence" arguments about the "right of Jewish people" to declare a sovereign state on the land of another existing people, neither does it point out the countless contradictions within the "declaration" itself.
Reports from Lebanese high schools
A secondary school supervisor who spoke on the condition of anonymity disclosed to Al Mayadeen English that the aforementioned chapter has been taught in the school unfiltered and with no consideration whatsoever to Lebanese laws or to the ideology of students who reject such narrative. Some students risk losing grades as they refuse to respond to any questions related to "Israel" during examinations.
Another school principal affirmed that since the institution is on Lebanese soil, it must abide by Lebanese legislation. However, the principal didn’t give a clear response on whether or not the aforementioned chapter is taught at his school.
On her part, Maria, a 16-year-old student, told Al Mayadeen English that she was obliged to complete the curriculum requirements, which include studying the aforementioned book and being examined on its content in order to obtain her French Baccalaureate (BF).
“My village was occupied by ‘Israel’ and my family still mourns our martyred relatives who were killed by Israeli airstrikes in the 2006 war; no textbook can change or alter my memories. This narrative should be banned from our textbooks,” she ardently declared.
One parent feared that such thoughts would influence students in educational institutions if teachers and parent committees failed to hastily address the issue.
Jad, a 16-year-old student, said, “I read the aforementioned chapter. I went home and had a talk about it with my dad whose narrative contradicted what I was being taught. I was confused. He explained the Nakba and the Naksa, detailing the atrocities 'Israel' committed against both Palestine and Lebanon. None of that was mentioned in the book.”
These experiences are not new to Lebanese families, who constantly feel the need to recall the oppression and sufferings inflicted on them by the Israeli occupation.
Many parents described what is happening as a reductive and suspicious contrivance.
“We are noticing that the minds of our kids are being infiltrated in many ways. As a Lebanese national whose country is still under Israeli occupation, I absolutely oppose and reject the inclusion of such misleading and hurtful information in my kids’ textbooks,” one parent said.
"My teacher explained the aforementioned chapter from a different perspective. The majority of the students in my classroom don't know the history of wars with 'Israel' and what really occurred. In my opinion, such critical historical information should be part of our curriculum. We can't resist our enemies without knowing the reasons behind our hatred," a student from a francophone school told Al Mayadeen English.
The role of teachers, as well as parents, seems to be critical in that regard.
Adding insult to injury
In 2017, a textbook had “Israel” and not Palestine on the map. Instantly, the Ministry of Education issued a decree preventing the use of textbooks that include “Israel” instead of Occupied Palestine.
Dr. Samah Idriss, a founding member of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of “Israel” in Lebanon (CBSI), spoke with Al Mayadeen English about the dangerous implications of the Israeli narrative in school textbooks, stressing that it doesn’t reflect the official Lebanese position, which considers “Israel” as an enemy.
“Lebanon condemns the Israeli occupation which violates universal principles and the right of people to self-governance," he said.
Idriss vilified the role of the Israeli lobby in France, which he described as firmly authoritative, affirming that it persistently updates the French curricula to meet the standards of the Zionist propaganda.
“The lobby controls the content of the textbooks and where they are distributed. The fact that such textbooks are taught in Lebanese schools is not a mere or innocent coincidence,” Idriss added.
In an exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen English, Idriss revealed that “the goal is to brainwash children, forcing them into accepting the Israeli narrative and becoming empathetic towards Zionism, paving the way for a future conceding generation with no intention of resistance."
“Our children and youth are being indoctrinated through school curricula and extra-curricular activities, such as video games, sports, movies, and books”, Idriss said.
In a recent development, a new edition of the History Gerophraphy textbook published by Belin Publishing House had a section with false information about the Beirut Blast.
The textbook included a section falsely stating that "Israel" helped Lebanon after the explosion.
Two ways to act
While several Lebanese teachers filed personal complaints against the Publishing House, the Lebanese Ministry of Education didn't take any official action.
Al Mayadeen English contacted the Ministry of Education to no avail.
On her account, a university professor and a member of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of 'Israel' in Lebanon, Dr. Rania al-Masri, stressed that “it is an atrocity to present the Israeli narrative in our school textbooks”, adding that “'Israel' never helped any country. It just killed our people."
Al-Masri detailed that there are two things that the Lebanese government should do. "Firstly, the Lebanese Boycott Law should be implemented, and secondly and most importantly, our enmity with 'Israel' needs to be asserted on all levels."
"Subsequent governments in Lebanon reassert our enmity with 'Israel', yet that enmity is not translated into action throughout our governmental institutions! It is not enough to liberate our land if our youth are not properly taught how the Zionist project is an existential threat to Lebanon."