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The New Arab Staff

Distribution of 'misleading pro-Israel' textbooks paused in UK

The textbooks 'softened' references to Jewish or Israeli violence [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 April, 2021

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The GCSE textbooks were 'dangerously misleading', a report found.
A British publishing company has paused distribution of two school textbooks after a report found they had been "overwhelmingly" altered to reflect pro-Israel sentiments.

The GCSE-level textbooks produced by Pearson were changed last year after a review demanded by the UK Lawyers for Israel group and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

A new report by Professors John Chalcraft and James Dickins, both Middle East specialists, found "hundreds" of alterations had been made.

"Overwhelmingly, the changes which have been made to these texts add or substitute statements, information and interpretations which favour an Israeli narrative, and remove or replace those that support Palestinian narratives," Chalcraft was quoted as saying by The Independent.

"The overall effect is to make these books dangerously misleading," he said.

The eight-page report found that instances of Palestinian violence were "systematically added or intensified", while references to Jewish or Israeli violence were softened or removed.

While the original textbooks had 10 references to terrorism by Jewish groups and 32 by Palestinian organisations, the altered texts contained just four references to terrorism by Jewish groups and 61 by Palestinian ones.

Last year's alterations also make references to international law more ambigious, the report found.

For example, the original text said that "international law states that a country cannot annex or indefinitely occupy territory gained by force".


The altered textbook replaced that with: "Some argue that international law states that a country cannot annex or indefinitely occupy territory gained by force."

The report also found that a reference to Israeli forces breaking the fingers and arms of Palestinian children during the first Intifada was removed.

Similarly, a first-hand account by an Israeli reservist criticising the military's tactics in the first Intifada was removed. It was replaced with an extract from an Israeli newspaper stating Israeli forces were justified in their response to Palestinian violence.

The effect of similar revisions throughout the textbooks is to "make Israeli violence look more justifiable and rational, and Palestinian violence look less justifiable and more irrational," the report found.

The revisions also give way to pro-Israel interpretations of the displacement of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and 1967, the report found. 

Responding to the claims, Pearson said it was dedicated to supporting "the teaching of this important period in Middle East history in a fair, neutral and balanced way".

"We commissioned an independent review of these books last year and the changes made were based on the outcome of that review," the publishing group said. 

"We stand by our texts but had already taken the decision to pause further distribution while we discuss further with stakeholders."

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