I believe in the sincerity of Abbas’ calls for peace. I believe that he is willing to reach a solution just as much as Netanyahu, which is with a handful of wishful thinking and very little room for negotiation. Even if this process is complicated and seemingly impossible, I believe that the Palestinian leader does want this conflict to end. But even when the leaders are willing, and so are the people on both sides of the fence, maintaining the peace is in the hands of the next generation, so that the one thing that determines the possibility of a long-lasting peace is the way children are being raised and educated.
In the mainstream Israeli educational system, students are being exposed to one certain read of history, which favors the Jewish side of the conflict. At school, I learned about our many wars against Arabs, which were all initiated by them. They were also presented as the ones to blame for the failure of the UN partition plan from 1947 when the General Assembly of the UN voted for the partition of what was once supposed to be named Palestine into two states- one for the Jews and one for the Arabs (Jews accepted this partition, while the Arabs declined.)
Nonetheless, while we learned only our side of the story, we were never taught to hate. Not once were the Arabs generalized as “the enemy” or “the devil,” and every story of a war ended with a reminder that today, both sides co-exist in many Israeli cities, and that the Palestinians are struggling for an independent state of their own. Hatred was only taught in certain homes, where prejudice and racism is a way of life.
A look at the Palestinian education system reveals a different story. From a very early age, young children are being taught by society the Jews are demons and that the “Zionist devil” must be destroyed. Later, at school, they are not only being exposed to one certain read of history like we do, but are also being taught to refuse any compromise and not rest until all of the land is theirs. Moreover, they are being raised to believe that killing Jews guarantees a place in heaven.
This is how an entire education system works. From infancy to adulthood, children are being taught to hate and kill. No complications, no hope, no willingness to compromise. Some grow up to think differently, especially after interacting with young Israelis who are also open minded. One can only hope they will be the ones to lead the next generation, but this picture perfect situation is less than realistic. Where hate is a guiding line, no peace can come. Haters will always exist, but co-existence depends on them remaining a minority. Telling history in a way suiting a certain side of the story is legitimate and occurs all over the world. The problem lies in the breaking point between a perspective of the past and an intention for the future.