London, August 15th, 2018 – The international community, led by the European Commission, is in the process of initiating a review of Palestinian textbooks after it was revealed that the new school curriculum, which was introduced last autumn, does not prepare the Palestinian students for peace and co-existence with the Israelis but rather stirs up hatred and radicalization.
Concrete examples of incitement to hatred in Palestinian textbooks were presented to several national governments earlier this year, including in London, Brussels and Helsinki, and have also caught the attention of international media. Both in Britain and in Finland examples of hateful content in Palestinian textbooks, funded by EU tax-payers, have become breaking news stories. After many years of silence and denial, several donor governments have now begun to react.
In an official reply to a grass roots campaign initiated by the European Coalition for Israel in Finland, the government responded in mid-June by saying that “the Finnish government does not accept hate speech and finds it important that the examples of incitement which have been presented are properly reviewed by external experts”. The Finnish government, which is currently chairing the EU-Coordination Group which is responsible for funding and supervising the Palestinian Authority on matters concerning education, reported that a review process is currently being planned together with the European Commission.
This was confirmed in London last week when ECI Director Tomas Sandell met with UK Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt. In a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons in July on incitement in Palestinian textbooks, he made the following statement: “There is no place in education for materials or practices that incite young minds toward violence. Our continued support will come with a continued strong challenge to the Palestinian Authority on education-sector incitement. We are in the final stages of discussions to take forward a textbook review jointly with other donor countries. The review should be completed by September 2019.” Burt confirmed that the review will be “evidence-based and rigorous”.
Palestinian incitement to hatred and the financial support of the families of martyrs have already led to deep cuts in US funding of the Palestinian Authority and last month Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop announced that the Australian government will cease its funding of the PA altogether as long as the payments to convicted terrorists in Israeli jails continue. In the meantime the British government has announced that it will double its aid for economic development in the West Bank and in Gaza in order to improve the Palestinian economy but Alistair Burt maintains that incitement has to stop.
While the US and the Australian governments have cut their funding to the Palestinian Authority significantly, European governments have been more reluctant to do so. In previous talks with the European Commission in Brussels, EU-officials have flatly rejected any mention of incitement to hatred in Palestinian textbooks and even suggested that the Israeli textbooks are no different.
That is now changing. In a statement in London on Wednesday, Sandell welcomed the independent review, saying that “while it is long overdue it will be of critical importance for the peace process”.
“In order to give peace a chance, we must prepare the next generation for co-existence, not war and conflict. A conclusive and comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians depends primarily on whether the two parties are willing to live side by side in peace and co-existence. This cannot come to pass as long as we allow for Palestinian incitement to hatred and violence to flourish in their school textbooks”, Sandell concluded.