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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Qatar school removes textbook calling Palestinians terrorists


International School of Choueifat Doha
International School of Choueifat Doha

Updated with a statement from the school

A private school in Doha has withdrawn a textbook after parents complained it said Palestinians are practicing terrorism in the Middle East.

The International School of Choueifat (ISC) in Onaiza removed all copies of the book on Sunday (Oct 2) and reimbursed students for its cost, it said in a statement.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education visited the school yesterday, and issued a statement on Twitter.

The ministry responded after photographs of a page from the unnamed English-language book were posted on Twitter.

The school confirmed to Doha News that the book was a Grade 9 history text titled Technology, War and Independence, by Oxford University Press.


Translation: We demand careful revision of all the books at Choueifat after finding this paragraph describing Palestinians as terrorists of the Middle East.


One page of the book defines terrorism and gives several examples of it, including the hijacking of several planes in 1970 by Palestinians.

It also described Palestinians as being “well known” for suicide bombings.

A paragraph under the page’s headline “what is terrorism?” states:

“Palestinian terrorists took over several airlines in 1970, including two American, one Swiss and one British. They targeted American planes because they felt the USA always helped out Israel, a country that occupies land that the Palestinians claim is their own. They wanted their own country – Palestine – and wanted land that Israel occupies. Terrorist acts continue to this day in the Middle East.”

The text is superimposed over a photograph of a burning plane.

There is also a section describing different methods of terrorism called “How do terrorists attack?”

It details techniques that have been used by a number of organizations, including the IRA, an Irish nationalist group.

Describing suicide bombs, the book stated:

“Explosives are attached to the bomber’s body. They approach their target and explode the bomb. Palestinian terrorists are well-known for this.”

Ministry response

In a series of tweets published yesterday afternoon, Qatar’s education ministry said it sent a team to the school to investigate after hearing complaints on social media.

For illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The ministry said the book’s content was found to be contrary to Qatar’s foreign policy.

The school said it had already removed the book and reimbursed the students for the cost of the text.

It was warned that any books must have prior approval from the authorities, the ministry added.

Qatar does not currently have diplomatic relations with Israel and has publicly called for the end of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, which includes Jerusalem.

Translation: In response to what was shared on social media regarding the Choueifat School teaching a textbook that contains violations, a team from the specialized department was dispatched to the school.

Translation: After the book was indeed found to carry content that conflicted with Qatar’s foreign policy, the school was issued a firm warning, copies of the book were withdrawn from the school and students were refunded fees paid for this book. The school was also instructed that it’s imperative that the ministry’s approval be obtained before any book could be taught.

In a statement to Doha News, the school described the book as an “oversight” and said it was withdrawn from the school last week “immediately upon identification of certain inappropriate content.”

Joseph Salameh, director of International School of Chouiefat – Doha continued:

“This was reported to the Ministry of Education representative who visited our school yesterday (Oct. 3) to inquire about this incident.

This oversight slipped through the net, in spite of our rigorous system of screening new books. Sabis will be scrutinizing its screening system in order to avoid such mistakes in the future.”

ISC-Doha is operated by the international education organization Sabis and there are more than 20 Chouiefat schools in countries throughout the Middle East and Africa, according to its website.

Sabis has its own series of around 1,800 educational books that are used in all year groups from kindergarten through high school and at all its schools, as a key part of its curriculum.


Other incidents

The withdrawal of the book in Qatar follows a similar incident this month at the Choueifat School in Bahrain, the country’s Al Watan newspaper reported.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Education also ordered the withdrawal of the same textbook, which the newspaper said was being used by Year 9 social studies pupils.

After the content was reportedly found to be contrary to the public policy of the state, the school was warned not to repeat the offense.

Some Qatar residents responded to the Doha incident on Twitter, and called for the Ministry of Education to be more vigilant over private schools in the country.

Translation: This (schools obtaining approval from the ministry before teaching certain books) should have been done before the start of the school year. Schools should have been directed and all curricula supervised beforehand. We discover a new problem with a school almost everyday now. It shouldn’t be like this.

Translation: Ok Ministry of Education, this is your reactionary policy, we know it full well by now. How about taking initiative before a problem actually happens? Do you have such a policy?

This is the second time in a week that a private school in Qatar has gotten into trouble over the Israel-Palestine issue.

Late last month, British school Doha College apologized to its community after the Israeli flag was included in bunting showing the world’s flags that had been put up on campus.

Following parent complaints, the Ministry of Education tweeted publicly about the incident. The school said it had removed the bunting immediately and apologized for the “error of judgment.”

Separately, cultural misunderstandings earlier this year landed a different school in hot water.

SEK library's copy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
SEK library\’s copy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

In January, the English-language SEK International School in Dafna was told to remove a copy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from its library. A parent had complained that the illustrations in it were indecent.

At the time, the principal apologized for causing offense and said measures had been put in place to ensure such incidents wouldn’t happen again.


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