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Typical school day in Syria: Jews are our enemy

Charles Jacobs

Over 10 major Jewish organizations are lobbying for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. HIAS, known in the past as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society whose heroic work helped Jews fleeing from pogroms, is in the forefront of this effort.

HIAS says the “Syrian refugees are subjected to far more scrutiny than any other group entering the United States [including] multiple security screenings and detailed interviews by the Department of Homeland Security. HIAS assures us that “The process is effective in making sure that refugees who are admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program do not pose a security threat to the United States.” 

Yet HIAS, along with the other Jewish groups, seems to have missed a certain relevant factor: Syria’s state-run compulsory education system promotes an intense hatred of Jews. Two major studies of Syrian textbooks and curricula found that Syrian children are taught to hate Jews and Israel with “ferocity” from first grade onward. They are taught to believe that Jews are destined for “elimination” in this world, and hell in the next. From their earliest years, students learn that Israel’s existence is the cause of all problems in the Middle East and much of the world at large, and that destroying Israel is a matter of honor.  

A study by Dr. Arnon Groiss in 2001 concluded that “Syrian children are taught that since ancient times Jews have been the enemies of mankind and of Islam. The Jews are portrayed as enemies of the Arabs since antiquity, of Islam since its inception, of all mankind, of the prophets and of God himself. The hatred of the nations of the world towards them is justified.” 

Syrian textbooks actually teach that Jews were responsible for the Holocaust, that the Nazis persecuted them because “of their control and monopoly over currency exchange, banks and commercial financing, their treason toward their homeland, Germany.”  

Groiss says, “… Jews are portrayed as occupiers of land which belongs to Arab tribes and their descendants. In other lands Jews are parasites and colonizers who displace and persecute indigenous peoples.”   

Furthermore, a 2003 report by Joshua Landis at Brown University found that “There is not a single word in favor of the Jews to be found in the Syrian textbooks.” Landis quotes a textbook for 11th-graders: “Jews spare no effort in deceiving us, being hostile towards us, denying our noble Prophet, inciting against us and distorting the Divine Books … collaborat(ing) with pagans and atheists against the Muslims because they see that Islam unveils their cunning ways and evil nature.” 

In Syrian classrooms, peace with Israel equals surrender and treason. “We should believe that any hand extended for peace with the aggressors is a criminal hand that must be cut off, because that is an open treason against Islam and the Muslims,” reads one textbook.   

Fourth-graders read that “Al-Aksa Mosque and the land of Palestine that surrounds it are a holy country that the Muslims should wage a Jihad, in order to recover it from the hands of the Jews.”   

Students are encouraged to become martyrs: “Let us make seeking martyrdom the highest value in society,” a book for sixth- and seventh-graders urges. An eighth-grade text calls for the liquidation of “Zionist imperialist-colonialist presence on Arab land.”  

Tenth-graders learn that the goal of Zionism is the liquidation of Arabs and “the settlement of the Jews of the world in Arab Palestine.” Eleventh-graders learn that Zionism is the “new Nazism” and a “model of racist evil.”

By age 15, Syrian children are fully indoctrinated in the idea that Jews should be exterminated. “Co-existence with them or having them as neighbors, is an enormous danger that threatens Islamic and Arab existence with destruction and extinction,” reads one text. “Their criminal intention should be turned against them by way of their elimination.”

In addition to appearing in Syrian schools, media watch groups here say these ideas are reinforced in the nation’s media as well. 

No one, not even the Jewish organizations lobbying for Syrians to be placed here among us, seems to be vetting them for anti-Semitism. It remains to be seen what impact the potential immigration of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to the United States will have upon the safety and security of the American Jewish community. 

Charles Jacobs is co-founder and president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.