The Rocky Road toward Peace: Beliefs on Conflict in Israeli Textbooks

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Bar-Tal, Daniel (1998) The Rocky Road toward Peace: Beliefs on Conflict in Israeli Textbooks , Journal of Peace Research 35(6): 723–742.

Since the late 1970s, the Israeli-Arab conflict has become less intractable and in recent years the Middle East has changed beyond recognition. The present research attempts to discover whether the changes in the nature of Israeli-Arab relations are followed by complementary changes in the conflict's ethos of Israeli society as reflected in school textbooks. One hundred and twenty-four textbooks on Hebrew language and literature (readers), history, geography and civic studies, approved for use in the school system (elementary, junior-high, and high schools in the secular and religious sectors) by the Ministry of Education in March 1994, were content analyzed. The analysis examined the extent to which the textbooks presented societal beliefs reflecting ethos of conflict: societal beliefs of security, positive self-image, victimization, delegitimization of the opponent, unity, and peace. The findings do not reveal a unified picture. Textbooks, subject matters, level of schools and sectors differ in their emphasis on the investigated societal beliefs. The analysis shows that societal beliefs of security received most emphasis; subsequently, the societal beliefs of positive self-image and Jews victimization appeared. Societal beliefs of unity and of peace appeared infrequently. Finally, the analysis shows a very rare delegitimization of Arabs, but the majority of books stereotype Arabs negatively. These findings are discussed in the framework of the required changes in the societal ethos that must accompany the peace process which has dramatically altered the nature of Israeli-Arab relations