Teaching History of an Enmity: Israel in Lebanese Schoolbooks, Lebanon in Israeli Schoolbooks: A Comparative Perspective (1948-2016)

By Matthieu Cimino
Submitted to Session P4902 (Reconsidering Israeli-Lebanese Relations, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Israel; Lebanon;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Since the creation of Israel in 1948, bilateral relations between Lebanon and the Jewish state have been essentially defined by conflicting dynamics, particularly during the Israeli-Arab war (1948-49), Operation Litani (1978), Peace in Galilee (1982), and most recently the '33-Day War’ (2006). However, while the two countries have never engaged in any process of recognition (Brecher, 2017), the fact remains that their truly common history is part of an historical framework the meaning and significance of which are being taught within their respective school systems.

This communication, which results from successive fieldwork sessions conducted both in Lebanon and in Israel in 2016 and 2017, intends to examine the mechanisms of definition of otherness by the Lebanese and Israeli ministries of education, as well as their strategies for creating, teaching, and disseminating an official account of their bilateral relations. For this purpose, this study will essentially focus on history books aimed at middle- and high-school students: using a comparative perspective, we will question the mutual representations of an official enemy, explore their significance in terms of national construction of historical narrative, and provide a reflection on the processes of framing of respective nationhoods in school textbooks published during this period.

Furthermore, this article intends to provide new prospects on Israeli-Lebanese relations. How are the key or controversial moments of this mutual history understood by the actors involved in the process of history-making? How are they taught – if they are taught – and what does this mean in terms of nationalist ideas and ideologies? What is the significance for these competing nation-building processes? More broadly, this communication will aim to revisit the history of the relations between Tel Aviv and Beirut and to understand its profound significance for the two nations, as well as provide a global reflection on educational processes in a conflicted Middle East.