I've blogged on two previous occasions about the Israeli Army's use of ambulances for military purposes (When Is An Ambulance Not An Ambulance, Why Ha'aretz Is A Piece Of Crap). Specifically, about how ironic it is that one of the more popular Israeli smears against the Palestinians is that they abuse ambulances for military purposes when, as far as I could tell, the most reliable reports of such activities involve not the Palestinians but the Israelis themselves.
Since blogging about that, I read Norman Finkelstein's comments on the misuse of ambulances for military purposes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it seems my impression was correct:
"A November 2002 Physicians For Human Rights-Israel study concluded: "Israel has provided evidence of such abuse in one single case" . Even this one single instance lacks certainty. Referring to that same "one, widely-publicized occasion when, on 27 March 2002, a suicide belt was found on an ambulance," Amnesty International wrote:There are several suspicious circumstances about it. The ambulance passed through four checkpoints on the way to Jerusalem without being searched (which is abnormal) and then was delayed for more than an hour before being searched to allow TV cameras to arrive (which suggests that the IDF had, at the least, prior knowledge of something hidden there) .Apart from the alleged March 2002 incident, the only documented misuses of an ambulance were committed by Israel. For example, "soldiers were crammed into a bullet-proof ambulance in order to get as quickly as possible" to the house of a wanted Palestinian; "IDF soldiers in Nablus forced several ambulance drivers to stop, get out of their ambulances, and stand between the soldiers and stone throwers"; "soldiers took control of an ambulance and used it to block entry to the hospital in Tulkarm." B'Tselem comments on these incidents and Israeli allegations:The IDF's uses of ambulances for military purposes is especially disturbing in light of the repeated claims made by the IDF that Palestinians use ambulances to transport weapons and explosives... It should be noted that, with the exception of one case, and despite repeated requests by Physicians for Human Rights and the International Red Cross, the IDF has not presented any evidence to support this contention, not even in response to petitions filed in the Supreme Court.And again: "Official [Israeli] sources repeatedly state the claim that Palestinians use ambulances to transport weapons and explosives without providing proof of this claim" ."
-- Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah (Univ of California Press, 2005), pp. 129-130. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Legacy of Injustice, pp. 61-63, 73-74.
 Amnesty International, Shielded From Scrutiny, p. 35n12.
 Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Legacy of Injustice, pp. 61; B'Tselem, Harm to Medical Personnel, pp. 20-21, 23-24.
I also blogged a couple of months ago about the fact that Israel was trying to explain away the large numbers of civilians it had killed in Lebanon by accusing Hizbullah of using them as human shields (Hiding Behind Civilians; also here). This too struck me as ironic, seeing as there is only one armed group in the region that has a documented, indisputable, long-standing and ongoing record of forcing civilians to act a human shields for military purposes - even in defiance of a ruling by its own Supreme Court - and that happens to be the Israeli Army.
And this week a new example of Israeli projection was in the news, to go with the sagas of the human shields and the ambulances: this time it's The Case of The Hateful Schoolbooks.
You may remember that at the beginning of the second intifada an Israeli advocacy group called the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) issued a "report" (link is to Word document) - The New Palestinian Authority School Textbooks for Grades One and Six - claiming that the PA’s new schoolbooks, designed to provide a Palestinian curriculum for the first time in a school system that had previously been run by Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis "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" (Israel's name does not appear on any map!), and implicit "seeking of Israel’s destruction". The report was picked up enthusiastically by the usual suspects in the U.S. - including Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton of the great state of New York who wrote an open letter to President Bush about it on 14 June 2001 - as a useful club for beating those hateful Palestinians. Thanks to the Friends of Israel echo chamber, the fact that Palestinians "teach their kids to hate" through incitement in their schoolbooks, became one of those "facts" that everyone knows about the Arab-Israeli conflict, despite the fact that virtually none of us have ever set eyes on a Palestinian textbook for ourselves.
Subsequently, when less partisan groups - education professionals [footnote 1], the EU , academics [3, 4], independent researchers  - studied the new textbooks for themselves, they found that CMIP's claims were not quite what they were cracked up to be. And it was Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar who highlighted the real absurdity of CMIP's whole "Palestinian textbooks incite hatred and de-legitimize Israel" campaign, when he pointed out that CMIP is a highly partisan lobby group, led by Itamar Marcus, a West Bank settler and associate of former Likud PM Bejamin Netanyahu, who "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". That was the real irony of the whole affair: in those cases where CMIP's examples were actually found to exist, they were found not in the new PA schoolbooks, but in the old schoolbooks left over from the days of Egyptian and Jordanian rule, that the PA was phasing out in favour of the new books. If outdated and offensive materials were being used in Palestinian schools, it was because Israel had inherited them from Jordan and Egypt when it took over the Occupied Territories in 1967, and left them in use until it passed on to the PA responsibility for Palestinian schools in 1994. So apparently Israel didn't find the books offensive or delegitimizing enough to replace them for all those 27 years when it was responsible for Palestinian education, but they suddenly became offensive enough to be used to attack the PA when the second intifada broke out....
This week, that whole controversy about Palestinian schoolbooks delegitimizing Israel's right to exist moved beyond "irony" to "absolute total insanity" with the news that Israel's Minister of Education, Yuli Tamir, has set off a political shitstorm in Israel by daring to suggest that Israeli schoolbooks should be modified to show the Green Line, the boundary between Israel and the Occupied Territories, which till now has been omitted from Israeli textbooks. How about that: all the time that Israel and its supporters have been swooning over a manufactured controversy about Palestinian textbooks and their non-recognition of Israel, the Israelis' schoolbooks have been teaching a generation of their own kids that there are no Palestinian Territories, that there is no Occupation (for how can you have an Occupation if there are no Occupied Territories?), that there is no historical boundary between Israeli and Palestinian areas that awaits final resolution in the form of an agreed border, but simply that everywhere an Israeli soldier conquers is now and always has been "Israel". And for daring to point out that it is illogical to demand that others teach respect for Israel's 1967 borders while the Israeli education system itself has erased them, Tamir is now accused of "heresy" by religious opponents who warn that she is asking for the same fate as befell Ariel Sharon, and of "extreme leftist ideology" by her political opponents in the Knesset who have responded by tabling a motion of no-confidence in the government...
Even taking into account the considerable role of propaganda in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this kind of behaviour strikes me as very strange. There is something decidedly odd about repeatedly attributing reprehensible behaviours to your enemies, insisting self-righteously to the world that such behaviours illustrate their essential and unchanging hatefulness, while knowing all the time that the behaviours you are describing are actually your own. To be able to convince yourself that your behaviour is always morally correct, while the same behaviour in others is a sign of their utter debasement, is simply so irrational that when confronted with it you can't help wondering whether Israeli leftist Haim Hanegbi was onto something when he observed that if you live long enough with the cognitive dissonances of Zionism, it simply ends up driving you insane .
 "Time and again, independently of each other, researchers find no incitement to hatred in the Palestinian textbooks.... If, as part of its policy of reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, the White House is looking for a modern education founded in positive Islamic values and which promotes peace and conflict resolution, it should look at Palestinian textbooks for a model. The first editions are not perfect: There are gaps in the presentation of both Palestinian and Israeli history, but they are a good starting point nonetheless". -- Palestinian textbooks: Where is all that 'incitement'?, by Roger Avenstrup; International Herald Tribune, 18 Dec 2004.
 "The new textbooks, though not perfect, are free of inciteful content and improve the previous textbooks, constituting a valuable contribution to the education of young Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education has accepted the need for ongoing review, revision and improvement. Therefore, all allegations against the new textbooks funded by EU members have proven unfounded". -- Palestinian Schoolbooks (PDF file), General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, 15 May 2002.
 "[V]irtually every discussion in English on Palestinian education repeats the charge that Palestinian textbooks incite students against Jews and Israel. It may therefore come as a surprise to readers that the books authored under the PNA are largely innocent of these charges. What is more remarkable than any statements they make on the subject is their silence — the PNA-authored books often stubbornly avoid treating anything controversial regarding Palestinian national identity, forcing them into awkward omissions and gaps....[T]he Palestinian curriculum is not a war curriculum; while highly nationalistic, it does not incite hatred, violence and anti-Semitism. It cannot be described as a peace curriculum either, but the charges against it are often wildly exaggerated or inaccurate.” -- Democracy, History and the Contest over the Palestinian Curriculum (PDF file), Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, Nov 2001.
 "We were surprised to find how moderate the anger directed toward Israelis in the Palestinian textbooks is, compared to the Palestinian predicament and suffering. This surprise is doubled when you compare the Palestinian books to Israeli ones from the 1950s and 1960s, which mentioned gentiles [only] in the context of pogroms and the Holocaust." -- Dr. Ruth Firer, the head of a research team at the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; cited by Akiva Eldar, What did you study in school today, Palestinian Child?” Ha’aretz, 2 Jan 2001.
 "The overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful despite the harsh and violent realities on the ground. It does not openly incite against Israel and the Jews. It does not openly incite hatred and violence. Religious and political tolerance is emphasized in a good number of textbooks and in multiple contexts.” and "[T]he textbooks promote an environment of open-mindedness, rational thinking, modernization, critical reflection and dialogue.... All references that could be perceived as negative (e.g., ‘Zionist ambitions,’ ‘Israeli occupation,’ ‘Zionist settlements,’ and the like) are all made either within their historical contexts or reflect historically accurate and factual information from the point of view of the Palestinian collective narrative." -- Reviewing Palestinian Textbooks and Tolerance Education, report to the U.S. Congress by The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, part 1 submitted to the U.S. Consulate in March 2003, part 2 in June 2004. (via CNI).
 "I am not a psychologist, but I think that everyone who lives with the contradictions of Zionism condemns himself to protracted madness. It's impossible to live like this. It's impossible to live with such a tremendous wrong. It's impossible to live with such conflicting moral criteria. When I see not only the settlements and the occupation and the suppression, but now also the insane wall that the Israelis are trying to hide behind, I have to conclude that there is something very deep here in our attitude to the indigenous people of this land that drives us out of our minds". -- Haim Hanegbi, Cry, the beloved two-state solution; Ha’aretz, 10 Aug 2003.
Row erupts over Israeli textbooks; BBC News, 5 Dec 2006.
Meet the Green Line by Akiva Eldar; Ha'aretz, 5 Dec 2006.
PM Olmert backs Tamir proposal to add Green Line to textbooks by Akiva Eldar; Ha'aretz, 5 Dec 2006.
Olmert backs Tamir's proposal to include Green Line in textbook maps by Or Kashti, Gideon Alon and Nadav Shragai; Ha'aretz, 6 December 2006.
Putting back the Green Line - once we find it by Akiva Eldar; Ha'aretz, 7 Dec 2006.
The photo of a demonstrator at the protest against the attacks on the Palestinian people and Lebanon, in New York City on 28 July 2006, is via al-Awda (The Right to Return Coalition).