The European Parliament, one of three legislative branches of the European Union, advanced an amendment on Tuesday that would condition more than $23 million in European funding for the United Nation agency for Palestinian refugees on changes to Palestinian Authority textbooks, which have often been accused of incitement to violence.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets passed an amendment to its 2022 budget to withhold the funds unless revisions are made to the PA curriculum. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) uses the official textbooks of the government under which it operates, meaning it uses PA textbooks in the West Bank and Gaza.
Brussels is the PA’s largest single donor — paying the salaries of its civil servants, including those who design PA curricula — and sent over $157 million in aid to UNRWA in 2021.
The amendment obligates UNRWA to utilize textbooks that “promote coexistence and tolerance with the Jewish-Israeli ‘other’ and peace education with Israel in alignment with the goals of the two-state solution.”
If such changes aren’t made by the start of the 2022 Palestinian school year, the appropriations in reserve will be used to fund Palestinian NGOs “with a proven track record of promoting coexistence with Israel,” the amendment stated.
Having passed Brussels’ budget committee, the amendment is scheduled to be subject to a plenary vote along with the rest of the 2022 budget package in the coming days.
European Parliament resolutions from recent years have stated that “hate speech, antisemitism and incitement to violence” have not been removed from PA and UNRWA textbooks, despite extensive criticism.
“The [European Parliament] decisions insisted that EU funded salaries of education civil servants who draft Palestinian textbooks must be made conditional on material reflecting values of peaces, tolerance, coexistence,” the amendment added in its justification.
At the same time, the EU budget for 2022 — although it has yet to be passed — is set to see an increase in UNRWA’s funding from $157 million to $167 million.
The Committee on Budgets is set to approve the ratified budget for 2022 after it is passed by European Parliament next month.
The amendment was introduced by Committee Vice-Chair Olivier Chastel of the liberal Renew Europe party, with the support of the co-Vice Chair, Niclas Herbst of the centrist European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament.
Chastel and Herbst were lobbied by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), an Israeli watchdog that analyzes Palestinian curricula.
“This is a crucial measure which speaks volumes about the ongoing frustration felt by European lawmakers, who are simply no longer prepared to fund the teaching of hate in Palestinian classrooms. They are rightly demanding that Palestinian children are taught about tolerance, coexistence, and respect,” said IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff in a statement.
In his speech at the United Nations last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decried what he charged were “double standards” applied to the Palestinians, but not to Israel.
As an example, he cited Palestinian textbooks, which critics have charged incite violence against Israeli civilians and glorify avowed terrorists.
“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.