EU resolves to nix intolerant content in Palestinian textbooks
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EU resolves to nix intolerant content in Palestinian textbooks

Parliament passes two motions requiring that EU fund only educational programs committed to 'common values such as freedom'

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A Palestinian student reads her textbook on the light rail at Shuafat, Jerusalem, September 30, 2014 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller / Times of Israel)
A Palestinian student reads her textbook on the light rail at Shuafat, Jerusalem, September 30, 2014 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller / Times of Israel)

The European Union’s parliament on Wednesday advanced legislation geared to prevent content deemed hateful in Palestinian textbooks.

“The European Parliament… insists that educational material financed by Union funds, including PEGASE (Mécanisme Palestino-européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-économique), comply with the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education adopted by education ministers of the Union in Paris on 17 March 2015,” the legislation reads.

The PEGASE fund is the main source of EU funding to the Palestinian Authority.

The motion passed Wednesday in the form of amendments to two general reports on EU budgets. The first amendment demands that the European Commission ensure that EU funds “are spent in line with Unesco-derived standards of peace and tolerance in education.”

In the second amendment, the European Parliament also “insists that teaching and training programmes [to the PA] that are financed from Union funds such as PEGASE should reflect common values such as freedom, tolerance and non- discrimination within education.”

The motions were introduced and subsequently adopted by the EU Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control in March by MEPs Joachim Zeller MEP and Barbara Kappel.

Image from the April, 2017 IMPACT-se report on Palestinian elementary schools textbooks. (Screenshot)

“It is bizarre that for over ten years, the PEGASE fund has transferred around 3 billion euro to the PA, a significant amount of which goes to the Palestinian education sector,” said Marcus Sheff, the CEO of Jerusalem-based IMPACT-se — Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, which assisted the European lawmakers in advancing Wednesday’s legislation.

“In all that time, there have been no real attempts by the European Commission to ensure that Palestinian children, who the EU supports in the classroom, receive an education based on European values — the values of peace and tolerance.”

In June 2017, PA Education Minister Sabri Saidam unveiled a new school curriculum that he said focuses on skills, training and entrepreneurship rather than traditional rote learning, which has been the method for the past half century.

Palestinian Education Minister Sabri Saidam at a press conference, July 2016. (Baha Nassar/Wafa)

The reform, undertaken with the involvement of European diplomats, was meant to give Palestinian children a better future but turned out “more radical than ever,” said IMPACT-se’s Sheff, “purposefully and strategically encouraging Palestinian children to sacrifice themselves to martyrdom. The European Parliament has clearly decided that enough is enough.”

New Palestinian schoolbooks still include maps that don’t recognize Israel and praise so-called “martyrs” — Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel, including terrorists — while ignoring the Holocaust.

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