EU Parliament slams ‘hateful’ Palestinian textbooks, threatens funding freeze

Resolution ‘deplores’ that problematic and inciting content has not been removed, conditions financial support for education on its removal

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, May 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

The European Parliament passed a resolution Wednesday condemning the Palestinian Authority over the “hateful” content of its textbooks and conditioning future funding for education on the removal of antisemitic material.

It is the fourth consecutive year that the parliament has passed a resolution criticizing the PA for its school material.

The vote, part of the EU’s annual budget oversight to examine how European taxpayer funds are spent, passed 421 in favor, 151 against, with five abstentions.

The wording of the 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).

For the first time, an EU resolution directly linked the content of PA textbooks with funds for Palestinian terrorism, and in particular attacks by young people, it said. The resolution also acknowledged that there is antisemitism in the textbooks and demanded that it be removed.

It stated the EU “deplores the problematic and hateful material in Palestinian school textbooks and study cards which has still not been removed” and “underlines that education and pupils’ access to peaceful and unbiased textbooks is essential, especially in the context of the rising implication of teenagers in terrorist attacks.”

The resolution said the bloc “stresses that financial support from the Union for the Palestinian Authority in the area of education shall be provided on the condition that textbook content is aligned with UNESCO standards” and that “all anti-Semitic references are deleted, and examples that incite hatred and violence are removed, as repeatedly requested” in previous resolutions.

Illustrative: An image of a girl smiling as ‘heretics’ are burned in a Palestinian textbook. (IMPACT-SE)

The EU asked that the European Commission “closely scrutinize that the Palestinian Authority modifies the full curriculum expeditiously.”

The resolution had the support of major center-left and center-right parties, IMPACT-se said.

During the voting session, European Parliament member Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou of the center-right European People’s Party Group, the largest European Parliament party, said that “zero tolerance means antisemitic rhetoric must be removed from the textbooks used by the Palestinian Authority.”

Previous resolutions mentioned incitement to violence but did not directly demand the removal of antisemitic content, according to IMPACT-se.

Regarding Israel, the EU stated it is “concerned about destruction and confiscation of Union-funded projects in the West Bank” and reiterated the position of the European Council that “all agreements between Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate the inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.”

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said the PA “lobbied hard in Brussels against this resolution, but found itself up against the hard reality of its hateful school curriculum and the anger and frustration of European Parliament members with a Palestinian national strategy of inciting schoolchildren to hate and violence on their dime, year after year.”

The European Union, the PA’s largest donor, helps to pay the salaries of the PA’s many civil servants, constituting a significant chunk of the West Bank economy. Between 2008 and 2020, Brussels sent around $2.5 billion in direct budget support to the PA.

But PA textbooks have long been a subject of controversy. Watchdogs have slammed the curricula for allegedly promoting violence and glorifying terrorism. The PA defends them as a faithful reflection of their national narrative.

Olivér Várhelyi, the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, during a meeting of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, May 2020 (Twitter)

Last week EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi announced after meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Brussels that the EU “will make sure it’s not funding Palestinian textbooks that incite against Israel.”

According to Israel, Varhelyi promises that no EU funding will reach terror groups, even indirectly.

Last year, the EU for months held up hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the PA over the textbook content issue.

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