Bipartisan Bill to Counter Palestinian Textbooks That ‘Demonize Israel’ Introduced in Congress
Members of Congress have brought forward a bipartisan bill to review textbooks and other materials used in Palestinian schools that have been accused of promoting extremism.
The Palestinian Authority Educational Curriculum Transparency Act — introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday by Rep. David Young (R-Iowa) — calls on the US State Department to annually verify whether educational resources employed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United Nations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continue to encourage “violence or intolerance toward other nations or ethnic groups.”
Despite being reformed in 2016 and 2017, Palestinian curriculums for grades 1 through 11 “fail to meet the international standards of peace and tolerance in educational materials established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,” the bill notes.
Textbooks used by the PA and the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) likewise “demonize Israel, encourage war, and teach children that Palestinian statehood can be achieved through violence,” it warns.
UNRWA — which has in the past asserted that its textbooks have been rigorously reviewed to ensure they are in line with UN standards — maintains 349 schools in the Palestinian territories, with 240,400 students in Gaza and 50,000 students in the West Bank.
If passed, the State Department will be required to inform Congress whether any US foreign aid was used to fund the inciting materials, and of any steps the PA and UNRWA have taken to address the situation.
“If the report finds that the hate has not been removed, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will not tolerate US funds being used to teach the curriculum in UNWRA and PA schools,” said Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), which was involved in drafting the legislation.
In such a scenario, “sanctions will necessarily be applied,” he told The Algemeiner.
A review carried out by IMPACT-se last year found that PA textbooks “groom young Palestinians to sacrifice themselves to martyrdom,” promote the idea of a mass “return” to Israel, and “feature a radical Islamist, and occasionally, a Salafi worldview.”
The findings were used to encourage European Union lawmakers to approve amendments in April to prevent aid to the PA from financing educational materials considered discriminatory or intolerant.
“American and European lawmakers’ growing awareness about PA incitement in schools comes with a crucial understanding of how large an impediment to peace and tolerance the PA curriculum really is,” Sheff said. “The PA’s donor nations are in the best position to demand change from PA leaders.”
Washington was the leading donor to UNRWA in 2017, which provides food aid, healthcare, and other social services to more than five million Palestinians across the Middle East. Its $364 million contribution was more than double that of the EU, the second largest funder. The US pledged early this year to withhold aid to UNRWA until it undergoes reforms, ultimately cutting some $305 million in assistance, the agency’s chief said in April.
Rep. Young’s bill — co-sponsored by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) — has been submitted to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for review.
It comes three months after Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, which cuts US aid to the PA until Ramallah stops paying salaries to convicted Palestinian terrorists and their families. The legislation was named after a US Army veteran and Vanderbilt University graduate student killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack while visiting Israel in 2016.