Schools being operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency are teaching Palestinian children as young as 6 to hate, kill and martyr themselves, according to a recently-completed study by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
The study reproduces fifteen examples taken directly from Palestinian school textbooks currently used in UNRWA schools in which hatred and violence are extolled as virtues.
First graders learn grammar by reference to the concepts of martyrdom and physical conflict.
Third graders recite a poem calling for “sacrificing blood” to remove the enemy from the land by “eliminating the usurper” and to “annihilate the remnants of the foreigners.”
Fourth graders are taught arithmetic by counting the number of “martyrs” in Palestinian uprisings.
Fifth graders studying Arabic are taught to glorify and emulate terrorists as role models, including Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, which killed 38 Israelis including 13 children. Terrorist attacks, such as the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games, are justified as a legitimate tool of “Palestinian resistance”.
‘Arabic Language’ text for fifth graders which extols convicted child-murderer Dalal al-Mughrabi: “Her struggle portrays challenge and heroism, making her memory immortal in our hearts and minds.”
The curriculum is openly anti-Semitic, teaching children that the Jews control the world and are corrupt. In Islamic Studies in fifth grade, children are taught an antisemitic myth that “the Jews” attempted to kill the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. This is largely rejected in mainstream Islam and it doesn’t appear in the Quran. The textbook refers to Jews generically as “enemies of Islam.”
In a chapter for fifth-graders named “Hooray for the Heroes,” well-known anti-Semites are held up as role models, including Khalil al-Sakakini who supported the Nazi regime and endorsed terrorist attacks against Jewish civilians.
In a social studies chapter teaching Grade 8 students about family life, gender roles, and procreation, it is claimed that in the case of “families in which boys grow up without a mother or father, they [the boys] have educational problems and mental state problems”, suggesting that single parenthood and LGBTIQ parenthood lead to problems in children’s mental state and education.
The possibility of peace with Israel is comprehensively rejected. Legitimacy of any historical Jewish presence in what is today Israel, or of the current Jewish presence in Israel, is entirely absent from the curriculum.
IMPACT-SE is an international group of educators, linguists and lawyers who research, translate and expose the inculcation of extremism and intolerance in school textbooks in each of the countries of the Middle East and other parts of the world.
A recent draft study conducted by the German Georg Eckert Institute, which appeared to clear the Palestinian textbooks, has been widely dismissed, with the head of the study admitting that the wrong books had been used for the study. The Institute mistakenly analysed books used to teach Arab students in East Jerusalem, which are paid for and provided by the State of Israel.
All 223 textbooks used in the Palestinian school curriculum are produced and published by the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Education, and are under the responsibility of the PA Minister of Education, Marwan Awartani, and ultimately PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
UNRWA pays the teachers who teach the PA curriculum in schools in the West Bank and Gaza, where 450,000 out of the 1.3 million Palestinian students study. UNRWA also provides the school buildings, facilities and infrastructure for the schools.
The study notes that the examples it analyses are in direct violation of educational standards prescribed in UNESCO’s Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and its Integrated Framework for Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy.
It’s a case of one UN agency, UNRWA, spending tens of millions of dollars from donor States to undermine the work of another, namely UNESCO.
UNRWA could, if it wished, with-hold funding and services to the PA until it changes its curriculum and complies with UNESCO standards. However, as UNRWA is dominated by Palestinian activists, this is unlikely.
The contents of the Palestinian textbooks highlight the large areas of overlap between ostensible “criticism of Israel” and anti-Semitism. They also indicate that proposals for a one-State solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, in which Jews and Arabs would supposedly share power peacefully in one State, are out of touch with reality.
Since April 2018, the European parliament has passed legislation seeking to prevent aid to the Palestinians from their main donors in the EU from being used to inculcate extremism, hatred and violence in Palestinian school children.
In May 2020, a 60% majority in the parliament condemned the PA’s “continued failure to act effectively against hate speech and violence in Palestinian textbooks” insisting that “salaries of teachers and education sector civil servants that are financed from Union funds…be used for drafting and teaching curricula which reflects UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence.”
In its 2020 Budget figures the Australian government estimated Official Development Assistance to UNRWA for the 2020-2021 year would be reduced to $10 million, half of the previous year’s figure.
UNRWA is now doing far more to perpetuate conflict between Israel and the Palestinians than to prepare the Palestinians for peace and statehood. It is time for Australia to look for new, more constructive partners through which to channel its assistance.
Peter Wertheim is co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
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