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May 15, 2019 9:00 am

European Union to Review Palestinian Textbooks for Incitement to Hatred, Violence

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avatar by Shiri Moshe

A view of a school in Bethlehem, Aug. 30, 2018. Photo: Miriam Alster / Flash90.

The European Union will review whether Palestinian Authority textbooks promote hatred and violence, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said late last month.

The “comprehensive” academic study will “be carried out by an independent and internationally recognised research institute,” with plans to begin at an unspecified date this spring, Federica Mogherini announced in an April 24 statement.

Its Terms of Reference were “currently being prepared with a view to identifying possible incitement to hatred and violence and any possible lack of compliance” with peace and tolerance standards laid out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), she added. “Necessary funds have been reserved in the 2019 budget.”

“Incitement to violence is fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-state solution and is greatly exacerbating mistrust between the communities,” Mogherini noted.

The PA has faced continued criticism over its educational curriculum, with the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), a Jerusalem-based watchdog, campaigning on the issue among European lawmakers. A 2018 report by the group found that grade 1-12 PA textbooks routinely describe Israel as the “Zionist Occupation,” refer to UN-recognized Israeli territory as Palestinian, and in some cases praise acts of Palestinian violence against civilians.

Mogherini’s statement, issued in response to an inquiry by EU lawmaker Marijana Petir, was published about a year after the EU parliament approved an amendment committing the bloc’s funds to be “spent in line with UNESCO-derived standards of peace and tolerance in education.”

The parliament’s budgetary committee voted months later to withhold more than 15 million Euros from the EU’s yearly contributions to the PA, pointing to textbooks that feature “numerous examples of violent depictions, hate speech — in particular against Israel — and glorifications of jihad and martyrdom.” The amendment supporting the funding freeze was ultimately not adopted, but may be reintroduced this year.

“The [EU] is by far the largest donor to the Palestinian Ministry of Education,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said in a statement. “But EU taxpayer money and goodwill have been abused for years while whole generations of young Palestinians are systematically radicalized.”

“The PA takes hundreds of millions of Euros and in return, teaches violence, hate and the sacrificing of young lives,” Sheff added. “We hope this study will help put an end to the abuse and finally allow young Palestinians to receive meaningful peace education.”

Speaking to The Algemeiner on Tuesday, Sheff emphasized that the methodology and scope of the EU study would be “really important,” urging its authors not to “cherry pick, but look at all the curriculum, all 173 books, line by line.”

“That is the only way that you can get a real idea of the curriculum, and understand the strategy of people writing it,” he said. “You can’t skip physics, for instance, as you won’t see that Newton’s second law is being used to teach young children to sacrifice themselves when confronting Israeli soldiers.”

Several European governments, including those of Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom, have already committed to reviewing Palestinian textbooks following IMPACT-se’s reports.

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