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July 5, 2018 5:10 pm

UK Lawmakers Denounce Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks as Government Plans Inquiry

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MP Joan Ryan holding a Palestinian textbook during a House of Commons debate on July 4, 2018. Photo: Screengrab.

British parliamentarians raised concerns on Wednesday about the Palestinian Authority’s possible use of aid money to fund an educational curriculum that has been accused of glorifying terrorism, which an international development minister pledged to probe.

In a House of Commons debate, MP Joan Ryan — a member of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) — referenced a report published last year by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) on the PA’s recently-reformed curriculum for grades 1 through 11.

The review found that PA textbooks exert “pressure over young Palestinians to acts of violence,” provide “a rationale for war” with Israel, and encourage “Palestinian children to sacrifice themselves to martyrdom” — elements that Ryan said represent “a significant step backwards.”

“Children of 13 are taught Newton’s second law through the image of a boy with a slingshot targeting soldiers,” she noted. “Children of 10 are asked to calculate the number of martyrs in Palestinian uprisings in a maths textbook.”

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Other lessons glorify Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian terrorist who took part in a 1978 massacre of 38 Israelis, including 13 children.

“This is, as Hillary Clinton once suggested, a form of child abuse: teaching children to hate, to kill and to sacrifice their own lives,” the lawmaker said. “Palestinian children deserve so much better than to be taught that the best they can aspire to in life is death.

Ryan — who in May received a letter from Middle East Minister Alistair Burt noting that the British government will carry out a review of PA textbooks — nonetheless criticized the government’s response to this issue since she and several colleagues initially raised it last September.

“They first dismissed the objectivity of the IMPACT-se report,” she said. “They then claimed that IMPACT-se was, in part, basing its view of the curriculum on a report published three years before the new curriculum was introduced.”

While the government ultimately announced that it would conduct its own review of the Palestinian curriculum — with Burt specifying on Wednesday that it will likely be undertaken jointly with other donor countries, and completed by September 2019 — “the net result is that Palestinian children have been served up this diet of hate for another year,” Ryan said.

“In the time that the government has been stalling,” she observed, European Union lawmakers approved amendments to prevent aid to the PA from financing educational materials considered discriminatory or intolerant.

Ryan urged the UK government to “suspend all aid to the PA that directly or indirectly finances those teaching and implementing this curriculum until the PA commit to wholesale and urgent revisions of it.”

She also called for London to divert 14 percent of its annual aid to the PA — “double the percentage of the PA budget that is used to pay terrorist salaries” — and invest it in “a Palestinian peace fund” that supports “education projects in Palestine not tarnished by the PA’s anti-Semitism.”

The lawmaker — whose concerns were supported by a number of colleagues, including Dame Louise Ellman and Ian Austin of the Labour Party, John Howell of the ruling Conservative Party, and Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist Party — also referenced a bipartisan bill introduced in June by members of the US Congress, which calls on the US State Department to annually verify whether Palestinian educational resources encourage “violence or intolerance toward other nations or ethnic groups.”

Ryan called on the UK secretary of state for international development to likewise confirm each year “that she is satisfied that the content in the PA curriculum does not encourage or incite violence, that it conforms with standards for peace and tolerance derived from the UNESCO declarations, and that no UK aid is being used directly or indirectly to fund educational materials that do not meet those standards.”

Burt responded by acknowledging that alleged incitement in PA textbooks has drawn “considerable concern right across the House,” and noted that he raised the issue with the PA’s minister of education “in a meeting about the UK’s future support.”

“Our continued support will come with a continued strong challenge to the Palestinian Authority on education-sector incitement,” he added. “We are in the final stages of discussions to take forward a textbook review jointly with other donors.”

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