Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli academic, mother and political radical, summons up an image of rows of Jewish schoolchildren, bent over their books, learning about their neighbours, the Palestinians. But, she says, they are never referred to as Palestinians unless the context is terrorism.One of the constant themes in attacks on Hamas and the Palestinian authority is fury over textbooks that tell the story of the creation Of Israel from the Palestinian point of view and for undeniable examples of anti-semitism. It appears dehumanizing propoganda as 'education' can be found on both sides of the seperation fence.
They are called Arabs. "The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don't pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don't want to develop," she says. "The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer."
Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism– but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service.
Perhaps not surprisingly for someone of such radical views, Peled-Elhanan is deeply pessimistic about her country's future. Change, she says, will only come "when the Americans stop providing us with $1m a day to maintain this regime of occupation and racism and supremacy".
She said that within Israel, "I only see the path to fascism. You have 5.5 million Palestinians controlled by Israel who live in a horrible apartheid with no civil and no human rights. And you have the other half who are Jews who are also losing their rights by the minute," she says, in reference to a series of attempts to restrict Israelis' right to protest and criticise their government.
She dismisses the Israeli left as always small and timid, but especially now. "There has never been a real left in this country." She believes that the education system helps to perpetuate an unjust, undemocratic and unsustainable state.