Reprinted from Ha'aretz of August 3, 1998
The 'fifth withdrawal' is the Palestinian dream of return to the towns and villages inside the little Israel of the pre-1967 borders. Most Israelis do not believe the fifth withdrawal is at all possible, but it's not waiting its turn for the second and third withdrawal and the final settlement agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The dream of the fifth withdrawal is being woven by Palestinians today in speeches, articles, manifestos, and especially in the educational system in schools, summer camps and schoolbooks aimed at the children that the Oslo agreement foresaw as the region's hope and future. Only last week there was a kite-flying event for children in Gaza. It was called "kites without borders," and each and every kite bore the name of a village that was destroyed in 1948. In summer camps run by the Palestinian Authority, children were divided into groups like Haifa, Acre, Safed, Jaffa, Tiberias, or Deir Yassin.
Their counselors told them that "the executive for political and national direction has decided to explain to the participants that Palestine, with all its towns and villages, belongs to us and we belong to it." Maps of Palestine presented at the camps and on the children's T-shirts did not differentiate between "Palestine" and the state of Israel, whose name did not appear at all.
In one of the dozens of TV programs made about the camps, one girl was asked: "Where are you from?" "Be'er Sheva," she answered, and the narrator then added: "Be'er Sheva is one of the Palestinian cities which is now occupied." In another program girls are seen dancing and singing: "I love my country. My house is in Gaza but I come from Haifa." A clip shown many times in recent months shows the entire country as Palestine, and the Israelis as those who took it in 1948. A girl bursts into a background shot of hills where children plant trees and build houses and asks her friends if they knew what happened in 1948. She then answers: "They took everything; they burnt the forests and changed the names. But it is still my country - my country, Palestine."
The summer camps have a violent and militaristic orientation. The children sing songs whose refrains are violent messages of hatred toward Israel: "We'll throw them into the sea," "Revolution Until Victory," or "My children - in the suicide squads." The visual effects are even stronger. In one particularly disturbing picture, boys and girls are standing in lines of three before soldiers singing the Palestinian national anthem. In the background there is a huge mural of the Temple Mount covered with blood and strewn with skulls, and Arab horses prancing over them. Another picture glorifies children who yell "commando" and then jump through a ring of fire. Jihad has an important place in the theme of these summer camps, as do visits to "cities in occupied Palestine."
The Palestinian educational system is still dedicated to the 'step-by-step approach' - ostensibly dropped after the Oslo agreements - that calls for pushing Israel step after step until its elimination. This can be seen in the Palestinian Authority's schoolbooks. The Palestinian Media Watch, which translates and distributes material from the Palestinian news media, recently examined over 100 schoolbooks for the US-based Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace. It compared sections of the Palestinian Covenant, which were ostensibly changed, to the schoolbooks distributed by the authority. The match is nearly perfect. Anybody who studies this material will find it hard to claim that the famous covenant is a theoretical text not relevant to real life.
Thus, for example, Section 9 of the covenant states that "armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine." The source book and textbook for eighth-grade students says on page 131 (as in other textbooks) that "without blood not one centimeter will be free." Sections 19 and 20 of the covenant include the statements: "the division of Palestine in 1947 and the creation of the state of Israel are annulled," and that the Balfour declaration and the British mandate should also be considered as such, and each has its exact parallel in the schoolbooks. Volume 2 of the New Arab History and its Modern Problems says on page 84 that "the colonial states saw in the Zionist movement a means to realize their colonialist greed." Chapter 22 of the covenant includes the statement that Israel is "a human and geographic basis for world colonialism." The covenant says "the claims of a historical or spiritual connection between the Jew and Palestine do not conform with the truths of history." In the Palestinian Authority's schoolbooks these are described as "false historical and spiritual claims." And so the matching goes between covenant and schoolbook.
Tayyeb Abdel Rahim, the Palestinian Authority's secretary general, said last week that "what was taken from us we must retrieve, hand-span after hand-span, and our options are open, either through negotiations or through resistance." Abdel Rahim said it out loud: The Palestinians have not given up on anything. Oslo is a tactical means, not the target. The real target is the fifth withdrawal, the return.
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