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May 17, 2023 1:41 pm

‘Ending Incitement’: Bill Addressing Antisemitism in Palestinian Textbooks to Be Reintroduced in Congress


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Illustrative U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) leads the U.S. House of Representatives, June 24, 2022. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

A bill calling for yearly assessments and reporting on antisemitic and violent themes in educational materials provided to K-12 Palestinian students will soon be reintroduced in Congress.

Proposed by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), the “Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act” would require the US Secretary of State to annually audit textbooks and other content provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Palestinian Authority (PA) to determine whether they contain antisemitic themes and if their doing so is being aided by US foreign assistance.

“The United States and the American people have been the top donor to the Palestinian people, including to the Palestinian Authority UNRWA — but this is not a blank check,” Sherman said on Friday in a press release. “American dollars must be spent in a way that reflects American values of tolerance and peacebuilding. Ending incitement and violence in the curriculum taught to Palestinian schoolchildren isn’t only a matter of Israel’s security — it’s an obligation that the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA owe their beneficiaries, children who deserve quality education that nurtures their future instead of manipulating them to cut that future short by engaging in senseless violence.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Congressmen Brian Mast (R-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), David Trone (D-MD), as well as Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and was previously approved twice by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It has never, however, reached the floor of either chamber of Congress for a vote.

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The announcement of the bill’s reintroduction follows the European Union Parliament’s passing a resolution demanding a suspension of aid to the Palestinian education system until antisemitic and violent themes are removed from its textbooks.

The resolution, passed with 421 yes votes with 577 members of parliament participating, “deplores the problematic and hateful material in Palestinian school textbooks and study cards which has still not been removed” and noted that the content is influencing a rise in terrorist activity among Palestinian teenagers.

Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic have continuously called on the Palestinian Authority to reform its education system, but according to several reports by Israeli education Impact-se, the changes requested were never made. Instead, numerous examples of examples of antisemitic material provided to children are regularly identified in the Impact-se’s reports, including study cards for eleventh graders accusing Jews of being “in control of global events through financial power,” assignments instructing seventh graders to describe Israeli soldiers as “Satan’s aides,” and a textbook chapter imploring Muslims to “liberate” the Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to Israeli education watchdog Impact-se.

Exposing Palestinian youth to violent imagery and themes has inspired real-world bloodshed. In May 2022, it was revealed that a 17-year-old who was shot dead after attempting invade an Israeli family’s home in the West Bank while armed with a knife attended a school that taught students to murder Israelis. The twelfth grader attended A-Zeer Boys High School in the Bethlehem Governorate, which used textbooks promoting “Jihad and martyrdom” and described Jews as “dangerous” and “perverted in nature.”

UNRWA received over $511.5 million in funding from the European Union and United States in 2021. In May, the EU announced that it would contribute $266 million to the agency through 2024.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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