A United Arab Emirates school textbook, published just two weeks after the announcement of the country’s peace deal with Israel, praises the peace initiative.
In a new report by IMPACT-se, an Israeli organisation which analyses textbooks and school curricula all over the Arab world, the UAE is shown to be streets ahead of some of its neighbours in its attitude to Israel and what its young people are being taught.
In its 2020 Islamic Studies textbook, there is praise for the peace deal and an emphasis that co-operation and peace are not just fundamental Islamic values, but also “UAE national characteristics”.
Separately, a social studies textbook mentions Judaism and says it belongs in the Arab region. And, unusually, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are shown on a topological map of the Arab world.
The new version of the Islamic Studies textbook, aimed at 11-12 year-olds, includes a passage showing the backing of the Fatwa Council. Dr Muhammad Matar Al Kaabi, head of the UAE General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, is quoted in the textbook as saying that this “historic” initiative “stems from the values of our true Islamic religion” which strive towards “building bridges of co-operation”.
Students are asked to create a presentation on the importance of peace treaties and the UAE’s role in achieving peace. The new section of the textbook also states that the UAE supports efforts towards reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians.
Marcus Sheff, the UK-born chief executive of IMPACT-se, said: “It is remarkable that a textbook that teaches about the UAE-Israel treaty was on the desks of schoolchildren in the Emirates just two weeks after the announcement of the agreement.
“The treaty is not just presented as a fact in the textbook. Students are presented with the religious, ethical and national reasons to support the agreement and employ critical thinking in completing an exercise about the importance of peace-making.
Emirati children have been receiving a systematic peace education for several years, through the Moral Education curriculum. Clearly, the citizens of a country that teaches peace-making, conflict resolution and the acceptance of ‘the other’ at school, will be more likely to embrace peace treaties signed by their leaders.