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April 14, 2017 11:21 am

Palestinian Authority Suspends Ties With UNRWA Over Curriculum Changes

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Palestinian boys raising their hands during a class at a UNRWA school in Gaza, September 2011. Photo: UN Photo / Shareef Sarhan. – The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced Thursday that it will suspend ties with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) over changes that make the agency’s school curriculum more sympathetic to Israel.

The PA’s Education Ministry called the changes an “affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles,” and vowed the suspension will not change until UNRWA reverses the changes.

UNRWA schools serve more than 312,000 Palestinian refugee children, including 262,000 students in Gaza as well as 50,000 in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

While UNRWA has not listed any changes to its curriculum, the Times of Israel — citing Arab media — reported that the changes include “revisions to maps of Palestine to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities, a practice that numerous studies of Palestinian textbooks have labeled as ‘incitement.’ Other changes were reportedly planned to tone down praise for Palestinian prisoners and improve Israel’s image.”

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement that the agency’s policy is “to review, and where appropriate enrich the official PA textbooks, curricula and other learning materials used in UNRWA schools to ensure compliance with UN values and principles.”

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