Dear Senator Clinton,
I’m sure you remember that on 14 June 2001 you co-authored with your fellow Senator from the great state of New York, Charles Schumer, a letter to President Bush, praising him for his Administration’s attempts to arrange a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians but urging him to make clear that there could be no lasting peace until President Arafat put an end to the propagation of "hateful, anti-Israeli rhetoric" in PA official statements and school textbooks. You gave a very specific example of the kind of hate speech to which Palestinian school children are subjected in their required reading, noting that Our Country, Palestine, one of the textbooks introduced in 2000 as part of the new PA 6th grade curriculum contained the declaration, "There is no alternative to destroying Israel". You wondered rhetorically: "When Palestinian children are brought up to hate Israel, how can we ever expect a commitment to a lasting peace?"
From the example you chose, it is apparent that you got your information on the inflammatory nature of PA textbooks from an influential 2000 report - The New Palestinian Authority School Textbooks for Grades One and Six - by the "Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace" (CMIP). CMIP claimed that the PA’s recently-introduced new school books for 1st and 6th grades "do not teach the notions of peace and coexistence with Israel" but "plant the seeds of hate" in upcoming Palestinian generations through their "delegitimization of Israel’s existence", implicit "seeking of Israel’s destruction", "defamation of Israel", and "encouraging militarism and violence". One of CMIP’s most vivid examples of hate speech in Palestinian textbooks is the quote ("There is no alternative to destroying Israel") that you cited in your letter to the President, and which has since been widely used as proof of incitement in Palestinian schoolbooks by U.S. policy makers, right-wing commentators, and some of your fellow legislators (such as Congressman Steve Israel, who reproduced the same allegation as fact in a letter The New York Times, on 10 June 2001). Thanks in part to your collective efforts, the meme that Palestinian schoolbooks are a hotbed of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement is as widely known as other mischievous falsehoods we popularly hear about the Palestinians, like "they don't love their children like we do" and "we offered them everything, but they refused".
Are you aware that other parties with an interest in the content of PA textbooks - such as the European Union, Israeli journalists like Akiva Eldar, and independent researchers in education (like Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at George Washington University) were also horrified by the accusation that Palestinian children were being taught hatred and incitement against Israelis and Jews but, unlike yourself, decided to verify the truth of CMIP’s claims before repeating them as fact? If you had bothered to do this, you would have found very quickly that there is a problem with the example of anti-Israel hatred that you quoted in your letter to President Bush: namely, that it doesn't exist. That hateful citation - "There is no alternative to destroying Israel" - isn't actually found in any of the PA’s new 6th grade textbooks, as CMIP (and subsequently you) alleged. The aforementioned Professor Brown found  that Our Country Palestine was not in fact a PA publication at all, but a geographical guide to Palestine first published in Egypt in the early 1940’s. The book was subsequently used in Palestinian schools, but the supposed threat to destroy Israel doesn’t actually appear in editions of that book used by Palestinian schoolchildren (or, for that matter, in any edition of the book that Prof. Brown managed to track down).
Wouldn’t it have been better, Senator Clinton, if you have verified that this accusation was true before you gave it credence by disseminating it further? I appreciate that you don’t personally have time to do what Professor Brown did, and check out the actual textbooks for yourself, but if someone on your staff could have just done a quick internet search on CMIP, this should have been enough to set off a few alarm bells, warning you that you might not want to bet your reputation on the reliability of anything that CMIP has to say about the Palestinians.
Would you have been so quick to jump on CMIP's "PA schoolbooks are inflammatory" bandwagon if you had known, for example, that CMIP is a highly partisan lobby group, that specializes specifically in preparing materials that can be used to attack the Palestinian Authority? And that it is led by an associate of former Likud PM Bejamin Netanyahu and West Bank settler named Itamar Marcus, who, in the words of veteran Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar, makes his living by translating and disseminating defamatory communications against Israel, extracted by his staff from Palestinian publications... Marcus's center routinely feeds the media with excerpts from "Palestinian" textbooks that call for Israel's annihilation. He doesn't bother to point out that the texts quoted in fact come from Egypt and Jordan.
If you didn’t know that fact when you lent your good name to Mr. Itamar’s "research", the kindest thing I can say is well, perhaps you should have. For, as Professor Brown’s study points out, CMIP’s extreme partisanship is no secret:
[W]here do persistent reports of incitement in Palestinian textbooks come from? Virtually all can be traced back to the work of a single organization, the "Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace." The Center claims that its purpose is "to encourage the development and fostering of peaceful relations between peoples and nations, by establishing a climate of tolerance and mutual respect founded on the rejection of violence as a means to resolving conflicts". Critics charge that the Center’s real purpose is to launch attacks on the Palestinian National Authority, and it would be difficult to contest such a conclusion... The Center’s own reports suggest such suspicions are well-founded.
Professor Brown notes that in preparing its accusations against Palestinian school books, CMIP maintains plausible deniability by not exactly making stuff up. Instead, it cherry-picks individual passages which, when taken in isolation from the rest of the book and out of historical context, can be twisted to present the PNA in the worst possible light. He concludes:
[T]he purpose is clearly to indict the textbooks and the PNA rather than analyze and understand the content of the books. Were the Center to take a similar approach in other countries, including Israel, it could easily find comparable material.
You might be interested to know that there is a classic example of this modus operandi in the CMIP report that you apparently read, and from which you extracted the example of incitement that you included in your letter to the President. Perhaps you remember that as evidence of anti-Semitism in the Palestinian curriculum, CMIP provided the example of a textbook illustration that purports to promote tolerance, but does so by picturing a Muslim shaking hands with a Christian. CMIP complains that the picture is hateful because it excludes Jews: Palestinian children are therefore being taught that Muslims should show tolerance toward Christians, but not to Jews.
Well OK, you could interpret it that way, or you could do what Professor Ruth Firer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem did, and actually look at the picture in its original context. There is indeed an illustration of Muslim and Christian shaking hands in the offending textbook and, true enough, there isn’t a Jew to be seen. But that’s not so surprising if you take into account the fact that the picture actually illustrates a chapter about intra-communal relations between the two dominant traditions within Palestinian society. It is intended to convey to Palestinian children that being Palestinian is not a sectarian issue, but is an identity that belongs to Muslims and Christians alike, and that there should therefore be tolerance between the two. Hence the illustration of a Muslim child shaking hands with a Christian. There’s no Jew in the picture for the same reason that there is no Hindu or Buddhist in the picture: the chapter is about relations between Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims and nothing to do with relations with Israel, or Jews in general, or anyone else.
Professor Firer therefore rejects the accusation of anti-Jewish hatred that CMIP tries to attach to the illustration, concluding:
There is nothing unusual about this chapter; most of the world's school textbooks take a similar approach. It shows that the CMIP has no teaching experience and that its report was motivated by purely political considerations, designed to show that there can be no peace with the Palestinians.
-- Who Teaches What History? Le Monde Diplomatique, 11 July 2001.
Living as we do in the U.S. – where every story and news item about Palestine has to be reported with a “balancing” Israeli perspective – it can be easy to forget that some aspects of Palestinian life simply don’t have a relevant Israeli perspective. I know it's hard to believe, Senator Clinton, but not every single issue in Palestinian society is about Jews or Israel. Sometimes – as in the case of the textbook that Prof. Firer investigated - Palestinians talk about themselves not in relation to anyone else, but just about themselves. And when they talk about themselves in ways that promote tolerance and discourage sectarianism among their children, they deserve better than to be branded anti-Semites by Likudnik pressure groups and kneejerk U.S. senators, don’t they?
If I were more diplomatic, I might have worded that more generously, as Debra DeLee (President of Americans for Peace Now) managed to do when she summarized the danger of relying on Israeli pressure groups like CMIP for objective information on partisan issues:
No one is questioning the need to address legitimate cases of incitement to violence and anti-Semitism when they occur. There definitely have been instances of ugly incitement directed against Israel and Jews that have appeared in the Arab media and elsewhere that deserve strong condemnation. But the serious need to address such cases is only undermined by misrepresentation of the facts. People should think about the motivations and accuracy of those who try to use this issue as a bludgeon against the peace process.
Perhaps next time, Senator Clinton, you will have the decency to do just that before you leap wholeheartedly aboard the next bash-a-Palestinian-today bandwagon that comes along, no matter how well you feel the latest meme will resonate with your electoral base.
[End of Part One; continue to Part Two]
 In his exhaustive report for the Adam Institute, Democracy, History and the Contest over the Palestinian Curriculum, Nov 2001. (Link is to PDF file).