PA severs ties to UNRWA over proposed changes to school curriculum

The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry on Thursday announces it is suspending ties with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) over plans by the agency to reform its curriculum.

The ministry, in a statement, calls the possible changes to the curriculum an “affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles,” and says the suspension will continue until the agency’s “positions are corrected.”

UNWRA has over 312,000 students in its schools across the West Bank and East Jerusalem (50,000 total) and Gaza (262,000).

The UN agency has not formally published any plans to change its curriculum, but leaks to the Arab press of possible changes have led to outrage over recent weeks in Gaza and the West Bank.

The changes, according to Arab media reports, include revisions to the map of “historic Palestine” to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities — a phenomenon that numerous studies of Palestinian textbooks has labeled as “incitement.”

According to COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, in a report published at the end of March, part of the reform to the UNRWA curriculum “is a balanced representation of Jerusalem as having religious significance to the three major monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and mentioning that Muslim believers have access to the holy sites.”

“UNRWA additionally sought to amend textbooks in cases where the content showed gender bias, lacked objectivity and incited violence against Israel,” COGAT added.

— Dov Lieber

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