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Hezbollah censors private school textbook

This week, Beirut’s International College (IC), one of Lebanon’s most renowned private schools agreed to plaster opaque stickers over pages of a middle school textbook that has irked the opposition, in particular Hezbollah.

MP Mohammed Fneish, a Hezbollah party member and the minister of labor in the outgoing cabinet, took issue with a US textbook called Modern World History that is taught at IC as a part of the middle school curriculum and last Sunday, according to Associated Press, called for the ministry of education to remove the book from the school.

Imad al-Ashkar, head of private education for the ministry of education, believes Fneish was encouraged to take action after a recent broadcast by Hezbollah-run television station, Al-Manar.

“Manar television spoke about it and showed the part of the book that contains some information [stating] that Hezbollah and Hamas and Islamic Jihad are terrorist organizations,” said Ashkar. 

Ashkar said that the ministry of education responded by calling an urgent meeting on Monday with the school’s president, John Johnson, who arrived with members of the International College staff and a copy of the controversial book in hand.

Although the pages with which Al-Manar, and subsequently Fneish, took issue were not removed, as has been reported, Johnson did agree to have the section covered with stickers.

“The part [of the book] talking about what I told you is hidden totally… so no one can read anything under it. If you try to remove the sticker to read the text, it would take apart the page,” said Ashkar.

The International College administration has refused to comment further on the subject.  According to the secretary to the school’s Vice President of Alumni Affairs and Public Relations, queries on this subject should instead be redirected to the ministry of education.
                               
“The book [has been used] in IC from 2003, so why now?” asked Ashkar. This thought has been echoed by many across the country who see the move as a below-the-belt attack on Education Minister Bahia Hariri.

While there is no clear-cut answer why the book has only now become a problem for Hezbollah, controversy over history lessons is certainly not a new phenomenon in the country. As those educated in Lebanese schools know, and the international press has noted, the country’s modern history is seldom taught in classrooms. Due to deep sectarian divisions and continual disagreements between political factions over the tumultuous series of events that have characterized Lebanon’s more recent history, a unified historical narrative that goes past the beginning of the civil war has never materialized.

The country’s modern history is not taught as a part of the national curriculum and it is equally overlooked in private schools, which tend to follow other international curricula, despite the fact that government-approved textbooks with varying spins on Lebanon’s past exist for use in private schools. 

As noted by BBC in an October, many such academic institutions avoid teaching the subject altogether so as to deter sectarian and political tension which, as this week’s controversy over the history book used at the International College demonstrates, are easily incited.

In place of learning the country’s history together in a classroom, school children are more than likely to learn about Lebanese history from their parents – a practice that reinforces the individual narratives of each of the divided country’s communities and in turn serves to further perpetuate sectarian divisions.

“It’s a real problem,” Ohaness Goktchian, professor of political science at the American University in Beirut, said to BBC. “We are raising another generation of children who identify themselves with their communities and not their nation… history is what unities people. Without history we can’t have unity.”

Since this article was published it has come to the attention of NOW Lebanon that this textbook may have been censored since it began being used by the International College in 2003. Recent objections to the book came after several uncensored textbooks were found in circulation this year. At the time of publication, the International College refused to speak to NOW on this issue, stating that questions should be re-directed to the Ministry of Education, which made no mention of earlier censorship of the textbook when speaking to NOW.

  • Cedars

    It's not a shame to be syrian, I have good friends from Syria, they don't accept assad and his regime!!! But why don't you answer the numerous questions below? Are you Syrian or not? If yes, go ahead and say long live syria, but if you're Lebanese, we suggest for you to say long live Lebanon first...that's all... Concerning May 7th, Jumblat people took care of you, they were waiting I understand…Beirut was not so lucky, because .........obviously had more weapon…the Hizeb's weapon that was suppose to be use against the ENEMY!!! Don’t shoot us please…....good luck, your friend from March 14 "Cedars".

    November 15, 2009

  • Sami

    We all were Syrians prior to 1922.Your grandfather was a Syrian then.This is not a shame to be called a Syrian or even an Egyptian,where is the insult?I do not see it. I am an Arab from Lebanon.A Syrian is an Arab from Syria,hence we are all brothers.If you choose not to be a fellow Arab brother then that is just fine with us.But do not deny me that right.And most of all do not fight me because of my nationality (Syrian or not) or because of my sect.I have a feeling that this will not sit well with your lot;you want to bomb Syria as some of your leaders suggested.Good luck bombing it as long as you do not attack us again and look for another May 7.

    November 13, 2009

  • alex

    a party who attacks his own citizens. is obviously terrorist. a party who invites israel to destry lebanon in defence of other countries like syria and iran, is obviously a terrorist organization.

    November 13, 2009

  • Dahia

    Mr. Sami, Long Live Lebanon. Lebanon FIRST my Friend, unless you are syrian?

    November 11, 2009

  • Cedars / Arzeh

    Lila, Sami est ..... et il ne sait pas l'améliorer.

    November 11, 2009

  • Cedars

    Thanks Lila..... Sami, her it is for you in english my friend. "I am not very shocked by this action, because I was convinced that the newspaper of Anne Franck was forbidden in Lebanon... "

    November 11, 2009

  • Lila

    je ne suis pas très choquée par cette action, parce que j'étais convaincue que le journal d'Anne Franck était interdit au Liban...

    November 11, 2009

  • Sami

    Cedars,long live Syria.

    November 10, 2009

  • Cedars

    Ya sami syrian lover, concerning your statement "I told you" what else are you going to shoot me? Your terrorists days are over, the illegal weapons will be surrender to the Lebanese government. You March 8 lost, and there is nothing they can do about it....

    November 9, 2009

  • Danielle Bacha

    Il ne leur suffisait pas d’interdire les représentations de Gad El Maleh l’été dernier, il a fallu aussi qu’ils s’attaquent à Anne Franck et la littérature. Bientôt tomberont d’autres verdicts à l’encontre de tel film, tel cinéaste ou tel peintre. Nous nous dirigeons inexorablement vers un scénario à la Taliban et devons, rapidement, lancer les commandes de nos burqas. N’avez-vous pas le sentiment désagréable que, peu à peu et au fil des censures et des tabous, une main occulte est en train de parfaire son lent processus de sape ? N’éprouvez-vous pas une nausée profonde à chaque nouvel interdit ? Ne pensez-vous pas que tous ces procédés sont destinés à nous pousser à l’exil ? Les croyez-vous encore lorsqu’ils prétendent prôner la liberté d’expression, le respect des opinions et la coexistence ? Ne les entendez-vous pas dénigrer et insulter nos institutions ? Ne voyez-vous pas que malgré l’issue des élections, ce sont eux qui font la pluie et le beau temps ?

    November 8, 2009

  • Sami

    I told you that you can not refrain from using "pathetic" in your Einsteinian response.But I like your response to the amazing Rafik's video.Is he also a "loser"?

    November 6, 2009

  • Cedars

    Sami ya March 8 memeber "loser" Look at all the replies to you in every artical you open your mouth my friend, and you'll know who's the "pathetic"

    November 5, 2009

  • Sami

    Cedar,join Hassan in watching the sites I gave him,watch Rafik, he tells it the way it is,even better than I do and I was under the impression that I was the best.Nice hearing from you,but try to avoid the word "pathetic" if you can.I do not think you can.

    November 5, 2009

  • Cedars

    Very soon every book in the world will be talking about this Hezbollah terrorist organization. Killing people in the middle of Beirut (not long ago) is a terrorist act from Hezbollah; let's not forget all the previous acts like the embassies they bombed, the US marines headquarter, etc....and by the way, it doesn't matter if the Hizeb has this loser aounn on their side. Bottom, line March 8 LOST and LOSES every day....Thank God for March 14 ya SAMI.....I miss you man....It's been a while!!!!

    November 4, 2009

  • Mark

    While I do appreciate the article, i would advise that you at least ask students about it before publishing this. In 2003, when we first studied from the book, the ministry had us tear out the pages that related to HA. So the whole bulk of questioning 'why now?' doesn't really apply, the pages have always been removed. No one would have noticed probably because, if they were to buy the book used, the pages would already have been removed.

    October 29, 2009

  • Sami

    Hassan,I am giving you 3 sites to watch on YOU Tube.1-Rafik Nasrallah.2-Erslan secret tapes.3-Hizballah enters jabal.They say "one picture is more believable than a thousand words."The Junblaties surrendered their positions to Erslan who in turn gave them to the Army.If the Junblaties had won anything then we would have seen them entering da7yeh.(...) While you are at it and in the same site watch Rafik nasrallah responds to those who claim that they helped the Shiaa in 2006. Finally,the Shiaa in Lebanon elected ALL the HA/Amal representatives to the parliament;if that does not tell you that they are one and the same,what does?

    October 29, 2009

  • Sami

    كلام جونسون جاء في أعقاب استدعاء وزيرة التربية في حكومة تصريف الاعمال بهية الحريري التي أكدت ان الحق بمقاومة الاحتلال هو من الثوابت الوطنية، وعبّرت عن ارتياحها للتوضيح الذي قدمته إدارة المدرسة موضحة أن مراقبة الكتب المستوردة لا تقع تحت مسؤولية وزارة التربية بل تحت مسؤولية الامن العام وان الكتب المذكورة معتمدة منذ سنوات. انتهى كلام الحريري وجونسون ولكن لقناة المنار كلام آخر فالمصادر الموثوقة التي زودت المنار بنسخة كانت تُدرس دون المادة اللاصقة تؤكد انه تم وضعها بعدما كشفت المنار لمضمون الصفحة، كما أن إثارة المنار للموضوع جاءت بعد عدة اتصالات وردت من قبل ذوي الطلاب تستنكر وجود هكذا نوع من الكتب.

    October 28, 2009

  • John

    sami you should play cicket you would be the best spin bowler in the world

    October 28, 2009

  • Dr Hassan

    sami sorry but I won't try to make you get what you are unequipped to get. Your overwhelming ja7afel of Hezballah (Shiites and Hezballah are not synonyms, have some respect to a noble sect) fighters was actualy a massacre with your ja7afel cut down to pieces by the people of the Jabal, Jumblatiehs and Arslaniehs alike you did not know that because you were listening to Hezballah's media. I bet you still think that Akram Cheyeb is dead, killed by Hezballah's ja7afel as reported by their media, and that the light haired balding fellow walking around with Jumblat is a lookalike. As for the power of the Shiia the noble Shiias of south and Eastern Lebanon well we all saw it in 2006 being applied to propel them north, away from the murderous Israeli bombs into the welcoming arms of their fellow Lebanese Christians and Muslims who only saw in them brothers in need of shelter, alas the samahet al sayyed was too busy trying to save himself and his PHD's to care about their fate or security.

    October 27, 2009

  • foreigner

    to Sami : THE NAME IS SAMIR GEAGEA. HARDLY DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU TO TRY HIM AGAIN. DO NOT AWAKEN A SLEEPING LION. YOU, LEBANESE, CAN'T LIVE IN PEACE ... YOU LOVE WAR....GOD HELP YOUR LAND - YOU DON'T DESERVE IT !!!

    October 27, 2009

  • Sami

    Hassan,either you are confused or I just do not get the connect between YouTube,Shakira,Britney and HA.The "invasion" of Beirut produced two civilian casualties;a daughter and her mother caught in the cross fire.Can you name others?The Jabal resisted and thus was overwhelmed by the ja7afel of the Shiaa. With or without PHDs,the Shiaa are the only power in Lebanon and there is no stopping them.Can you name other powers?I advise you as did samahet al sayyed,do not try us again.

    October 27, 2009

  • Dr.Hassan

    Sami how many YouTube credits does it take to get one Hezballah PHD and how do Shakira and Britney Spears figure in their final thesis. That seem to be the way you get your information. The names of the civilian victims of Hezballah and it's ...... allies bloody invasion of Beirut and the Chouf have been reported in the press look it up, or I tell you what wait for the Oliver Stone version of the "real" events you'll probably find it on YouTube, you can at the same time start on your PHD.

    October 27, 2009

  • Sami

    Ziad,HA did not "attempt" to enter mount Lebanon;it entered to destroy the fifth column but they preferred to change(look up Junblat's speech and meeting with the SSNP).The fifth column in Beirut was disarmed and sent back to Akkar without one single casualty(look it up on Youtube).Also look up the definition of a terrorist.It applies to Israel,(1300 civilians killed).......Finally please note that 90% of HA's leadership is a PHD holders.Look up the definition of a PHD.

    October 27, 2009

  • Sami

    Shirin,in whose eyes?

    October 27, 2009

  • R.R

    ...knowing the sensitivity of the subject matter, consider what would happen if a textbook being taught in the US school system was to maintain that the forcible relocation of Japanese-Americans into camps during World War II was justified and not in violation of any rights, or if a school book inTaiwan--on the history of the region--would state the illegitimacy of the existance of the Republic of China? Examples can be found closer to home in Israel and Turkey. A school system is not the same as a forum for freedom of expression. That's why IC was right in blanking those pages out. As a side note, the US and New Zealand would have just swithced to a different textbook.

    October 26, 2009

  • Grateful Lebanese

    Bravo! Thank you Hezballah for protecting us and our children from subversive ideas. And thank you for your media's watchful eye on what we should see and what will damage our simple susceptible brains, Gad Elmaleh baaad! Also thank you for letting filter through only what is respectable, decent and wholesome so we can grow the next generation of "right thinking" citizens. What's next, removing any mention of .... from textbooks because it might offend a sensitive someone at the Al Manar's editorial board or maybe initiating weekly book burnings in downtown Beirut, hey we can even set up the biggest book burning bonfire to get ourselves into the Guinness Book of World Records next to our Kebbeh, Tabouleh and Hummos entries, I'll drink to that... or could I...

    October 26, 2009

  • ziad

    The positive thing is that someone from Hezbollah took the time to open a text book, that in itself is an accomplishment... lol but to be serious, calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization prior to 2000 was wrong, however after the Israeli withdraw from South Lebanon, it is accurate, especially after they occupied Beirut and attempted to go up to Mount Lebanon a crime that cost the lives of many innocent Lebanese in May 2008. No they don’t terrorize Israel, the only people they are able to terrorize are the Lebanese who want a sovereign and democratic Lebanon. The way they forced The International College’s administration to sensor the books is clearly an act of intimidation and terrorism. If they had disagreements with the text books they should have used the legal system, but then again their actions clearly show their disregard for the law. This is becoming a habit for them because Mr. Nasrallah and his supporters are under the false impression that only they represent justice. So

    October 26, 2009

  • Sami

    The ministry of interior covered this section of the book in question back in 2003 not Hizbollah today.This is disinformation.

    October 25, 2009

  • Ran

    what's wrong with those people?

    October 25, 2009

  • Sami

    The section that refers to Hizballah as a terrorist organization was covered since 2003.Some copies were circulating without the covered section which was brought to light.The books were brought to the meeting which was attended by Hariri and shown to the panel that ALL were covered since 2003 hence no problem with IC.Similarly,some books taught in Saudi Arabia that included the word Jihad and other similar jihadist phrases were removed upon the US demands. Books that questioned the existence of the holocaust were confiscated and their authors jailed in the West,Angela Davis a UCLA professor was fired for her communist remarks.No one forgot the Mac Artherian period in the USA.Lebanon is no better than any of those countries that "protect"its children from "subversive" ideas.

    October 25, 2009

  • Rami

    The International College, my Alma Matter, should not have offered any such concessions to any political organisation. Shielding students from varying view-points runs contrary to IC’s mission to educate and expose bright young minds to differing opinions and allow them to engage with the debate. This is not an attack on Hezbollah. This is a declaration that politics has no place in the education of our children and removing extracts from text books is a form of political propaganda. Students should be able to read what others think, understand why they think the way they do and then way the evidence and come to an educated conclusion. The fact that the US regards Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation is no secret even to a 15 year old so why not allow students to engage and challenge this notion based on academic evidence? If political parties interfere with our education system on something as obvious as the US stance on Hezbollah how far will our “politicians” go?

    October 25, 2009