London (In Palestine Today)- The international publisher Pearson has paused further distribution of two textbooks used by UK high schools after a group of academics said in a report that they distorted the historical record and failed to offer pupils a balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The report found that alterations had been made to text, timelines, maps and photographs, as well as to sample student essays and questions.
The books, “Conflict in the Middle East” and “The Middle East: Conflict, Crisis and Change,” were subject to significant revisions last year after complaints from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
But an investigation by two British academics, Prof. John Chalcraft and Prof. James Dickins, members of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, found that the revisions “overwhelmingly … favor an Israeli narrative, and remove or replace (information) that supports Palestinian narratives”, and oncluded that “school children should not be supplied with propaganda under the guise of education” and called for their immediate withdrawal.
They found an average of three changes per page, with incidents of Arab or Palestinian violence “systematically added or intensified,” while incidents of Israeli violence had been toned down or removed from the text completely.
The original work had contained 10 examples of Jewish Israeli terrorist acts, compared to 32 references to Palestinian terrorism.
The executive of the National Education Union (NEU), the UK’s main teaching union, has expressed its concern about the findings outlined in the report, as well as the editorial process which led to the changes.
The NEU has said it will be contacting the publishers for clarification.
The report noted that despite the scale of the changes the books carry no notice that they have been revised.
The report highlights multiple examples of changes to the original text. In one example the original version says that “international law states that a country cannot annex or indefinitely occupy territory gained by force”. This is the overwhelming international legal consensus.
The revised version replaces this with: “Some argue that international law states that a country cannot annex or indefinitely occupy territory gained by force”.
In another case, the original edition includes the statement that during the first intifada of 1987-93 “the arms and fingers of [Palestinian] child stone throwers were broken [by Israeli soldiers]”. This fact is well documented. In the revised edition it has been removed.
The Deir Yassin massacre (in which Israeli forces killed at least 107 Palestinian civilians) is described in the original version of the International GCSE textbook as “one of the worst atrocities of the  war”. In the revised edition the word “atrocities” has been replaced by “acts”.
With regard to Palestinian suffering under Israeli military occupation, the original version states: “To make money, many Palestinians had to work in Israel, where they did unskilled jobs even if they were well educated.”
The revised version reads: “While some Palestinians benefited from higher wages from working in Israel, they often did less skilled jobs even if they were well educated.” The report states that the “revised text thus unjustifiably removes the element of compulsion”.
Leading experts on the Middle East have raised serious concerns over the alterations. Eugene Rogan FBA, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Oxford said: “Given Britain’s historical responsibility, it is particularly important that the subject be taught in a way that is impartial and objective. It is a betrayal of such objectivity to allow Israel advocates the opportunity to edit teaching materials without giving Palestine advocates an equal opportunity to provide input. The result can only undermine confidence in the impartiality of the teaching of an intensely complex and sensitive issue.”
Neve Gordon, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Through their rigorous analysis of two GCSE text books, Professors John Chalcraft and James Dickins uncover how hundreds of revisions have been inserted in order to modify and distort historical and political facts relating to Israel/Palestine. Their report suggests that when accredited publishing houses allow lobbying groups to help develop high-school curriculum, knowledge is replaced by indoctrination and our children are encouraged to adopt biased thinking.”