Brussels, October 1st, 2018 – The European Coalition for Israel welcomes the recent vote by the European Parliament’s Budgetary Committee to freeze more than 15 million Euros in funding to the Palestinian Authority if they do not remove incitement to hatred from their school textbooks. The funds will be released when the Palestinian Authority has committed to reform its school curriculum and textbooks and bring them into line with UNESCO standards for peace and tolerance in school education.
The vote, which will need to be confirmed by the plenary session of the European Parliament later this month, comes after members of the committee have been presented with numerous examples of depictions of violence, hate speech and glorification of jihad and martyrdom in the new Palestinian school curriculum which was introduced last autumn. The radicalization of the school curriculum has already led to an international review by the donor countries, and last month Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated that “as long Palestinian schools are named to glorify terrorism, Belgium can no longer cooperate with the Palestinian Education Ministry and will not contribute to budgets for the construction of schools”.
However, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU institution which is responsible for the distribution and oversight of funds to the Palestinian Authority, has kept a low profile.
The official EEAS position is that the glorification of violence and martyrdom in Palestinian school textbooks and payments to convicted terrorists do not amount to institutionalized incitement or radicalization. This position was reaffirmed when ECI last met with EEAS despite the presentation of numerous pieces of evidence and sample copies of schoolbooks at the meeting. Now the pressure for reform is mounting on EEAS both from the European Parliament and from EU member state governments.
In a statement on Monday, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell welcomed the EP committee vote to freeze funding but he thinks that it may be “too little too late”.
“As the members of the European Parliament prepare for new elections in less than eight months, they can be assured that the on-going mismanagement of EU funds will become a major theme in the election campaigns. If the European Parliament is to regain its moral authority with the EU electorate, it will have to show a genuine will to reform throughout the next five-year term and not only in the closing months of the five-year electoral cycle”, Sandell said.
He concluded that “very little has been done to reform EU aid to the Palestinian Authority over the last four years, although Michael Theurer, the Chairman of the previous EP Budgetary Committee from 2009-2014, in an opinion editorial just weeks before the last elections admitted ‘wide spread mismanagement of EU-funds to the Palestinian Authority’ and concluded that the EU needs to set clear conditions for aid”.
ECI will continue to monitor the review process of Palestinian school textbooks by the donor countries and make sure that EU funding of the Palestinian Authority is put high on the agenda in the upcoming European Parliament election campaigns. The next elections to the European Parliament will be held between May 23rd and 26th, 2019.