New Palestinian curriculum shows no improvements, antisemitism remains

The Palestinian Authority’s newly released educational curriculum shows no substantive changes for the better, despite assurances earlier this year that egregious examples of antisemitism and hate education would be eliminated. An analysis by the new curriculum by IMPACT-se, a research and policy institute that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula through UNESCO-derived standards on peace and tolerance, has found that educational textbooks for use in Palestinian schools throughout the West Bank remain openly antisemitic, encourage violence, and promote jihad and martyrdom. Some 82% of the books remain unchanged from last year, while 152 modifications were found within the remaining 40 books, according to IMPACT-se’s analysis. However, 88% of those adjustments either keep the problematic material intact or amplify it. In one such modification, a reading comprehension exercise on Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who led the Coastal Road Massacre killing 38 Israelis, was replaced by text on Khalil al Sakakini, a notorious antisemite and Nazi sympathizer. Mughrabi meanwhile remains within the book, having been moved to a different section where she is lauded as the “crown of the nation.”In another, math is still being taught to 4th graders through the example of the number of “martyrs” who died in the intifadas, although this figure has been modified downwards from 2,026 to 1,392. The new curriculum also refines the definition of “Jihad” from being a private obligation of all Muslims to being specifically a religious war against Israel. In line with previous textbooks, Israel’s existence is entirely negated on regional maps. Not a single map mentions the name “Israel” out of the over 200 maps across the PA curriculum. The changes to the curriculum for 2020-21 follow a vote by the Palestinian Cabinet in May to modify the content, which came about through pressure from the European Parliament and national governments in Europe. The vote shortly followed the passage through the European Parliament of three separate resolutions condemning the failure within the Palestinian education system to remove hate speech and incitement to violence within school textbooks. The vote was therefore widely seen as a positive Palestinian response to the pressure brought about by the international community. However, during the cabinet meeting in which the vote took place, the cabinet was addressed by the Minister of Education, Prof. Marwan Awartani, who gave a detailed report the new curriculum which emphasized the need for the “preservation and protection of the curricula as based in a sovereign Palestinian matter … as they relate to the Palestinian narrative and identity, and the strategic directions of the state, including the Declaration of Independence.” European leaders have indicated as recently as early September that they expected changes to be for the better. In a written answer to a question posed by a Conservative Member of Parliament, Britain’s Minister of State for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, James Cleverly said of the UK government: “We welcome the PA’s work to revise its textbooks and their intention to publish updated content for the start of the school year in September 2020.” “The UK Government remains deeply concerned about allegations of incitement in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) curriculum,” he added. “Anti-Semitism, violence and hate have no place in society. We repeatedly raise our concerns with the highest levels of the PA. The Foreign Secretary [Dominic Raab] did so with the Palestinian Prime Minister and Minister for Education on his most recent visit.”Similarly, Norway’s Foreign Minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, assured a Member of the Norwegian Parliament that the Norwegian government feels “there is a good and close dialogue with the Palestinian education authorities on the issue,” adding “Some changes to the curriculum have already been made by the Palestinian Authority’s textbook quality control committee.” She further warned that continued financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority would depend on changes being made to improve the content of textbooks. “It is disastrous that 1.3 million Palestinian children are condemned to yet another year of sitting in PA and UNRWA schoolrooms to be fed hate and incitement on a daily basis,” Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se said. “The Palestinian Prime Minister and Minister of Education told senior European government ministers from donor countries to their faces, as late as the beginning of September that change is coming, obviously knowing full well it was not. Recalculating the number of suicide bus bombers for a lesson in addition is not the kind of change they were hoping for.”The NGO recently released a report on moral education within the United Arab Emirates which found that that curriculum does meet UNESCO-derived standards, demonstrating that peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is possible. Among the key findings within that report were that diversity and inclusivity are central, while peace is highlighted within the curriculum as the ultimate goal for a global society. “There is positive change as textbooks in the region are being improved,” Sheff said. “There are leaders who understand the importance of a peace education. But Palestinians are bucking the trend, placing themselves firmly in the Iranian school of curriculum development and demanding the Europeans pay for it.”

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