Report: Syrian kids taught to hate

WASHINGTON, June 26 (JTA) — The United States hopes Syria will play a role in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Syrian children are getting a different kind of message in their schools. “There is neither excuse nor forgiveness for the one who refrains from Jihad for the cause of God, for the purification of Palestine of the Jews,” reads an excerpt from one of Syria’s Islamic education textbooks for sixth graders. Much has been made of Palestinian textbooks and how the “culture of hatred,” in the words of Jewish organizations, that is being instilled in Palestinian children destroys chances for peace in future generations. That culture is alive and well in Syria, B’nai B’rith International says, and people should recognize the importance of what public schools there are teaching. “They are raising one generation after another of haters,” Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said as he unveiled a new report on Syrian textbooks on Tuesday. “No matter what happens on the political and diplomatic levels, this will certainly never allow us to get to the point we’d like to reach, which is peace for Israel and its neighbors,” Mariaschin said. The report, entitled “Jihad, Jews and Anti-Semitism in Syrian School Texts,” details how schoolchildren are taught in different classes and at all grade levels to hate Zionism and Jews, view terrorist attacks as martyrdom, reject peace with Israel and even seek to destroy it. President Bush did not directly address the issue in his Mideast policy speech Monday, but Mariaschin believes Bush sent the right message about terror being based on hatred. Syria “must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations,” Bush said. He also said he envisioned peace between Israel and “a Syria that supports peace and fights terror.” Syrian President Bashar Assad so far has ignored warnings from Israel and the United States to stop aiding terrorists. The U.S. State Department still lists Syria as an active state sponsor of terrorism. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said that Syrian children are being brainwashed and indoctrinated with virulent anti-Semitism and rejection of peace and Israel’s right to exist. “The only way you can achieve peace is if you have a sea change in attitude,” he said at the news conference. Engel sponsored the “Syria Accountability Act” which would give the president tools to impose penalties on Syria if it does not change its ways. The Act, which has not been passed by the House of Representatives, also calls on Syria to stop harboring and supporting terrorist groups, developing weapons of mass destruction, accepting illegal shipments of Iraqi oil and occupying Lebanon. B’nai B’rith is sending a copy of its report to every member of Congress. The report, with research conducted by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, examined 68 textbooks used as part of Syria’s national school curriculum. Students in sixth and seventh grade are encouraged to become martyrs: “Let us make seeking martyrdom the highest value in society,” the books urge. In a textbook for fourth-graders the message is even more explicit: “Al-Aksa Mosque and the land of Palestine that surrounds it are a holy country that the Muslims should wage a Jihad, in order to recover it from the hands of the Jews.” An eighth-grade text calls for the liquidation of “Zionist imperialist-colonialist presence on Arab land.” A tenth-grade text says Zionism aims for the liquidation of Arabs and “the settlement of the Jews of the world in Arab Palestine.” The books also contain maps that show “Palestine” instead of Israel and illustrations of Israeli soldiers killing Arabs. One poem in a fifth grade reader, entitled “Our Country,” refers to places in Israel: “From Rafeh to Safed, a map of my country, I have drawn upon my liver and left it to my child, our glories are rejoicing, our country, our country.” B’nai B’rith’s previous report on Palestinian textbooks, along with meetings with European and U.N. officials, helped focus attention on what Palestinian children were being taught. The European Union “got the message” that funding should not go toward Palestinian textbooks that promote hatred, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is examining Palestinian and Israeli textbooks, Mariaschin said. B’nai B’rith hopes for similar results from the new report on Syria.

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