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May 22, 2018 3:12 pm

How Palestinian Education and UNRWA Incitement Lead to Innocent Deaths

avatar by Emily Benedek

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Palestinian students raise their hands in a school run by UNRWA. Photo: UN Photo / Shareef Sarhan.

Teachers work hard to find real-life examples to help pique the interests of their skeptical students. Teachers in UNRWA schools face the same challenge. But to teach science to Palestinian students in Gaza, the West Bank, and parts of East Jerusalem, these teachers rely on textbooks that promote a program of incitement and violence against Jews.

A seventh-grade science textbook has an illustration of a boy with his head wrapped in a kiffeya, aiming a sling shot at Israeli soldiers.

The text reads:

During the first Palestinian uprising, Palestinian youths used slingshots to confront the soldiers of the Zionist Occupation and defend themselves from their treacherous bullets. What is the relationship between the elongation of the slingshot’s rubber and the tensile strength affecting it? What are the forces that influence the stone after its release from the slingshot?

The consequences of these teachings — and more like them throughout the curriculum — were tragically revealed in the horrific events at the Gaza border this week.

First, the lessons violate UNESCO’s standards of peace and tolerance and respect of “the other.” The drawing of the soldiers as children — smaller than the stone thrower, as if they were harmless — falsely encourages young children to face a deadly enemy without fear. The subliminal message is that the stone thrower has a fighting chance against the armed soldier.

No wonder, then, that Palestinian youth complied with Hamas’ orders to amass at the border fence for the “March of Return” this past week. It’s not just because financial incentives were offered (families were reportedly paid $100 to attend, the wounded were written checks depending on the severity of their injuries, and the families of the dead compensated for their sons’ martyrdom) —  but that the youth has been systematically indoctrinated to offer themselves as cannon fodder.

The texts given to Palestinian children teach them to hate Jews, glorify martyrdom, and believe that violence will lead their people to an illusory “right of return” to the homes their grandparents left in the 1948 War of Independence, a war that was initiated by the Arab states to destroy Israel.

A new Palestinian Authority (PA) curriculum adopted in 2017 was supposed to rectify previously-existing problems, and bring it in line with UNESCO standards.

But hundreds of textbooks intended for grades 1 through 12 have been translated and analyzed by two major groups, IMPACT-se and the Center for Near East Policy Research. Both groups submit that the new textbooks, rather than improving the quality of education, in fact are more radical than their predecessors.

The word “Israel” is almost never written in the texts; rather, it is substituted with “the Zionist occupation” or the “Occupation State.” When it appears, it is surrounded by parentheses (Israel).

“This change,” writes Arnon Groiss in the study published by the Center for Near East Policy Research, “seems to express intensification on the part of Palestinian educators of their non-recognition of the State of Israel, to the point of omitting its name from the books. It may also indicate a higher level of demonization: Instead of a conflict between two concrete entities, Israel and the Palestinians, the latter are now stuck in an existential struggle against an all-evil mythical power — world Zionism.”

According to the IMPACT-se study, “The curriculum utilizes a variety of tools to convince children — mostly boys — to risk their lives and die as martyrs.” They include the provocation of rage, humiliation, and a glorification of the importance of “honor” over self. Students learn that the Palestinian Authority compensates the families of those who die and are injured, or who become prisoners in confrontations with Israel. “The rewards of paradise are clearly elucidated, including a plethora of virgin brides. Those who pursue personal success and careers are portrayed as cowards,” according to the report.

The upshot is that “the PA curriculum educates for a long war of attrition against Israel, which stands out as the axis mundi of Palestinian identity, connecting its various dimensions into one ideology.” The curriculum’s focus, according to the study, has “expanded from demonization of Israel to providing a rationale for war.”

The Center for Near East Policy Research notes that these themes are inserted across the curriculum, from physics to chemistry, biology to vocational education. Even in a cooking class, students are “asked to prepare, with the help of the elderly persons in their families, a dish typical of their ‘original’ place of dwelling, that is, before 1948.”

A biology text presented a lesson on the human spine with an example of a boy who “was severely injured by an object left in the field following ‘the Zionist aggression against Gaza.’” In chemistry, the caption of a drawing of a prisoner reads: “Observe and think: Water and salt keep the Palestinian prisoners-of-war alive while conducting the empty-guts battle [i.e., hunger strike].”

The group also shows that since the production of new textbooks in 2017, the boundaries of “occupation” now firmly extend all the way to 1948 lines. Textbooks also mark the beginning of Zionism at 1856, and the entire presence of Jews in the Holy Land is characterized as a criminal act. A poem about liberation calls for annihilation of “the remnants of the foreigners,” after “eliminating the usurper.” Specific references are made to areas inside the 1967 borders as rightfully Palestinian.

A 9th grade Arabic language book describes a Molotov cocktail attack on an Israeli bus as a “barbecue party.” The text reads: “The neighbor: ‘The curfew does not include us in [the neighborhood of] Al-Sharafah. It is imposed on the Al-Natarish [neighborhood]. It seems that there is a barbecue party there with Molotov cocktails on one of the buses of the Psagot settlement…’”

Textual material emphasizes the phenomenon of Israel’s replacement by Palestine. In fact, the logos of six UNRWA schools intertwine the UN olive wreath logo with a map of Israel colored with a Palestinian flag, thereby endorsing — with UN iconography — the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian entity.

UNRWA schools are primarily underwritten by US and EU taxpayer dollars. The US contribution to UNRWA was $363,076,000 in 2017, about half the total UNRWA allocation. The US has provided $1 billion in the last four years, and $6 billion since UNWRA’s inception in 1950.

US Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has taken a leading role in demanding UNRWA transparency. “UNRWA must be held accountable for allowing their textbooks to perpetuate hatred towards Israel, denigrate the Jewish people, and also to praise terrorists for committing attacks against innocent Jews and Israelis,” he says. “This is an abuse of the generous hard-earned American tax dollars that we send to UNRWA. It is unacceptable that UNRWA teachers are using these textbooks to teach Palestinian children.”

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