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State Dept. funding study of Israeli, Palestinian incitement in textbooks

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department is funding a $500,000 study to examine incitement in Israeli and Palestinian textbooks.

The study is analyzing textbooks used by Israeli and Palestinian schoolchildren to see how they characterize the other side and topics like religion and history, the Forward reported. It was commissioned by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, a Jerusalem-based organization of Islamic, Jewish and Christian religious leaders.

According to the newspaper, a team of six bilingual researchers — three Israeli Jews and three Palestinians — are examining the poems, narrative descriptions, maps, stories, photographs and illustrations in 141 Palestinian and 486 Israeli textbooks used from grades 1 to 12. The researchers log their findings into a computer system, with half of the books analyzed twice by both an Israeli and a Palestinian and the other half split evenly between both sides and analyzed once to counter possible bias.

The study’s designer, Yale University psychiatry professor Bruce Wexler, told the Forward that the study’s methodologies have never been used for textbook analysis. 

"We borrowed techniques in other areas of research to create a more objective, quantitative analysis," Wexler told the paper.

The State Department’s grant for the study comes from a $4 million fund appropriated by Congress for work pertaining to religious freedom.

The study’s final results are expected to come either at the end of 2011 or early next year, and the findings will be used to make educational reform recommendations to the Palestinian and Israeli governments, Wexler said.

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