After several generations of Palestinian children were raised on textbooks that were no more than antisemitic incitement, the US government is turning its attention to this problem. And other governments are following suit.
The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act was reintroduced to the US Congress on Friday night. If passed into law, the bill would require the State Department to oversee and report on educational material produced by the Palestinian Authority in conjunction with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The bill stated that the measure was necessary due to “their continued inclusion of violence, incitement, and antisemitism.”
The bill, introduced by Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-32), is expected to garner bipartisan support.
“For decades, the United States and the American people have been the top donor to the Palestinian people, including to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA – but this is not a blank check, ” he said on his website. “American dollars must be spent in a way that reflects American values of tolerance and peacebuilding. Unfortunately, instead of envisioning a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the current Palestinian curriculum erases Israel from maps, refers to Israel only as ‘the enemy,’ and asks children to sacrifice their lives to ‘liberate’ all of the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. 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 a quality education that nurtures their future instead of manipulating them to cut that future short by engaging in senseless violence.”
“Children aren’t born wanting to become terrorists. But tragically that’s what they’re taught in the PA/UNRWA curriculum, like in 5th-grade textbooks praising Dalal Mughrabi-a convicted terrorist who perpetrated a massacre that killed 38 civilian #Israelis – including 13 children, he tweeted. “Our bill will create much-needed oversight on the curriculum taught to #Palestinian youth and is vital to finally ending the horrific practice of teaching children to believe in hate, terrorism and #anti semitism.”
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 in both the 117th and 116th Congress, reaching 46 bipartisan cosponsors in Congress’s previous session. It has never, however, reached the floor of either chamber of Congress for a vote.
The report from the State Department will require the following:
-A determination of whether content and passages encouraging violence or intolerance toward other nations or ethnic groups have been removed from such curriculum;
-An assessment of the steps the Palestinian Authority is taking to reform such curriculum at schools to conform with standards of peace and tolerance in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (adopted November 16, 1995);
-A determination of whether United States foreign assistance is used, directly or indirectly, to fund the dissemination of such curriculum by the Palestinian Authority;
-A detailed report on how US assistance is being used to address curriculum that encourages violence or intolerance toward other nations or ethnic groups;
-A detailed report about United States diplomatic efforts in the last 5 years to encourage accountability in Palestinian education;
-If any projects in the last 5 years were stopped by the Secretary of State, why they were stopped?
Between the start of UNRWA operations in 1950 and 2018, the US contributed well over $6 billion to the organization. But in 2018, the Trump administration cut off funding. Very soon after taking office, President Biden restored funding to the UNRWA.
Similarly, the European Union passed a resolution last week condemning the Palestinian Authority over the “hateful” content of its textbooks and conditioning future funding for education on the removal of antisemitic material. This is the fourth consecutive year this resolution has been passed however the wording of the recent resolution was “noticeably more critical of the PA” compared to previous resolutions, according to a statement from the Israeli Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se). Previous resolutions mentioned incitement to violence but did not directly demand the removal of antisemitic content, according to IMPACT-se. This is also the first time the EU has acknowledged that UNRWA textbooks contain antisemitic and also the first time funding has been linked to the antisemitic material.
Joseph Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said in a meeting in Sweden on Saturday that he would not let this measure translate into action.
“The Palestinian Authority is in a difficult situation and it risks bankruptcy if financing from the EU is blocked. As High Representative, I will not allow it,” Borrell said. “This matter has already been dealt with by the European External Action Service with the Palestinian Authority. We don’t need a new study or anything that would delay the payment of the financial aid that the Palestinian Authority needs. The payment of European aid faced delays two years ago, and it meant that people missed out on necessary help.”
Borell has a history of pro-Palestinan positions and has been openly hostile to Israel.
He added, “There is no discussion about looking for excuses about blocking this financial aid. On this point I’m firm.”