The Schools of Ba'athism
A Study of Syrian Textbooks
by Meyrav Wurmser
Washington: Middle East Media Research Institute, 2000. 122 pp.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Noting that "a long-lasting peace between Israel and Syria will require more than just a signed document," Wurmser surveys 40 recently published Syrian textbooks used between the 4th and 11th grades to see how they deal with subjects related to Israel. The results are not cheering. She finds a "bleak reality of institutionalized hatred not only against Zionism and Israel, but also against 'the Jews' in general." With sober specificity, she then documents these charges. Some of the points (such as the vilification of Israel and Jews) are drearily predictable; others (the Syrian state's promise to take care of the families of "martyrs", the near-total ignoring of the peace process) more unexpected.
Wurmser, executive director of MEMRI, correctly places this "integrated totalitarian ideology" in its larger context of justifying the Asad regime's domination of Syria. Put differently, she holds that jettisoning its "ferocious enmity" toward Israel would shake the rulers' legitimacy and ultimately their hold on power. "To abandon the perpetual state of conflict and Jihad would deny the regime its demand for sacrifice of society. It would deny the regime its excuse for Syria's economic hardships. It would deny the regime the foundations of martial law and state of emergency. And it would deny the regime the justification for the absolute control the Syrian state has over the private lives of even its children." In the end, then, the mendacious Ba`thist system leaves Syria tragically trapped in "a war it cannot afford and a peace its regime cannot survive."
Related Topics: Syria | Daniel Pipes | June 2000 MEQ
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