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Despite EU vow to end incitement, Palestinian textbooks remain unaltered — report

Terrorists are still hailed as heroic resistance fighters and Zionism is deemed racism; PA leaders defend curricula as authentic expression of ‘narrative and national identity’

Palestinian students affiliated with UNRWA wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on November 25, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian students affiliated with UNRWA wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on November 25, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority textbooks have remained largely unchanged and still contain incitement to violence and hatred despite European Union pledges to work with the PA to revise them, a study by the Israeli nonprofit IMPACT-se found last week.

Following an in-depth study of Palestinian textbooks conducted in 2021, a European Union spokesperson had said that while most PA educational materials were in line with international standards, some promoted “antagonism towards Israel.”

“We have agreed to work with the Palestinian Authority to this end… with the express purpose of promoting and facilitating change,” she said. “The European Union has absolutely no tolerance for hatred and violence as a means to achieve political goals.”

According to the IMPACT-se report, however, many of the same problematic curricula remain in use in Palestinian Authority schools several months later.

The report brings numerous examples of what the organization calls incitement to violent terrorism. Dalal Mughrabi, notorious in Israel for her role in a brutal 1978 terror attack, is hailed in the textbooks as a heroic resistance fighter. Violence is described as a “legitimate right” for Palestinians seeking to “resist occupation.”

In one Islamic Education textbook, Palestinian fifth-graders are told that their “duty to Al-Aqsa Mosque” — Islam’s third-holiest site — includes “jihad and martyrdom in pursuit of its liberation.” The nonprofit notes that Israeli rule is frequently described as “murderous and oppressive.”

Students sit in a classroom on the first day of the new school year at the United Nations-run Elementary School at the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, August 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The textbooks also say Zionism is a “racist ideology” based on “false premises” such as that Jews belong to “a single national group.”

Palestinians reject the argument that their textbooks constitute incitement. In a speech to the United Nations last year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas defended the curriculum as merely expressing their national narrative.

“We are made to explain and justify what appears in our educational materials, even though it explains our narrative and our national identity. Meanwhile, no one demands to review Israeli curricula and media, so the world can see the true incitement by Israeli institutions,” Abbas said.

The European Union, the PA’s largest single donor, has occasionally raised concerns about Palestinian incitement. Between 2008 and 2020, Brussels donated around $2.5 billion in direct budget support to the PA.

Some European Union parliamentarians have advocated tighter restrictions on aid to Ramallah until the latter revises its textbooks’ content. A measure pitched last year to condition EU funding on such revisions was ultimately scrapped.

“The Palestinian Authority seems to have gone to a great deal of effort to hoodwink its donors. Faced with a clear call by the EU for them to create new textbooks free of hate and antisemitism, the PA simply reprinted the old ones,” IMPACT-SE head Marcus Sheff said in a statement.

In at least one case, however, a poem used in Palestinian textbooks appears to have been revised to remove hateful content. In the poem “O Jerusalem,” by famed Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, a line blaming Jews for the death of Jesus was cut out.

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