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EU study: incitement in Palestinian textbooks

Palestinian Authority textbooks encourage violence against Israelis and include antisemitic messages, according to an unpublished report commissioned by the European Union in 2019 and obtained by The Jerusalem Post.

The European Commission kept the report under wraps after receiving it from the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research earlier this year. Brussels directly funds the salaries of teachers and the publishers of textbooks, which, the report indicates, encourage and glorify violence against Israelis and Jews.

The report, which is almost 200 pages long, examines 156 textbooks and 16 teachers’ guides. The texts are mostly from 2017-2019 but 18 are from 2020. Excerpts from the report were published in German newspaper Bild earlier this week.

The report’s executive summary glosses over the many examples of antisemitism and incitement in the textbooks, claiming that they “adhere to UNESCO standards” though they “express a narrative of resistance within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and they display an antagonism towards Israel.”

However, the report includes dozens of examples of encouragement of violence and demonization of Israel and of Jews.

The report says the textbooks present “ambivalent – sometimes hostile – attitudes towards Jews and the characteristics they attribute to the Jewish people.... Frequent use of negative attributions in relation to the Jewish people... suggest a conscious perpetuation of anti-Jewish prejudice, especially when embedded in the current political context.”

An exercise in one religious studies textbook asks students to discuss the “repeated attempts by the Jews to kill the prophet” Muhammad and asks who are “other enemies of Islam.”

“It is not so much the sufferings of the Prophet or the actions of the companions that appear to be the focus of this teaching unit but, rather, the alleged perniciousness of the Jews,” the report states.

The report identifies “the creation of a connection between the stated deception of the ‘Jews’ in the early days of Islam and the insinuated behavior of Jews today,” calling it “extremely escalatory.” One textbook ties Muhammad’s aunt who clubbed a Jew to death to a question about Palestinian women’s steadfastness in the face of “Jewish Zionistic occupation.”

One textbook promotes a conspiracy theory that Israel removed the original stones of ancient sites in Jerusalem and replaced them with ones bearing “Zionist drawings and shapes.”

The concept of “resistance” is a recurring theme in the textbooks studied, along with calls for the Palestinians to be liberated via a revolution. To clarify the concept, one textbook has a photo with the caption “Palestinian revolutionaries” featuring five masked men toting machine guns.

Glorification and praise of terrorists who attacked Israelis can be found not only in history or social studies books, but also in science and math books, such as one that mentions a school named after the “shahid” (martyr) Abu Jihad, a leader of the First Intifada. A demonstration of Newton’s second law includes Palestinians using slingshots to strike at Israeli soldiers.

Dalal al-Mughrabi was a Palestinian woman involved in a 1978 bus hijacking in which she and her accomplices murdered 38 Israelis, including 13 children. She is a much-admired figure in Palestinian society. Textbooks repeatedly refer to her in the context of female empowerment. The report says there are “no further portraits of significant female figures in Palestinian history,” implying that “the path of violence [is] the only option for women to demonstrate an outstanding commitment to their people and country.”

In addition, most maps erase the State of Israel entirely, portraying the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as Palestine, and the term “Zionist occupation” is used to refer to Israel.

The European Commission said that it "takes this study seriously and will act on its findings as appropriate, with a view to bring about the full adherence to UNESCO standards in all Palestinian education materials." They plan to work with the PA to promote compliance with the UNESCO standards on peace, tolerance and nonviolence, which the commission said are nonnegotiable. The commission also "reiterates its unequivocal commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism."

As for the report's publication, the European Commission said it will be presented to the European Parliament and other stakeholders "shortly."  THE FOREIGN MINISTRY responded to the leaked report, saying that the research “proves Israel’s consistent claim that incitement is constantly present in Palestinian Authority textbooks. This is a claim that Israel has raised with the EU and its member states for many years....

“The research findings also prove that the EU, even at this very moment, is continuing to invest millions in the funding of the Palestinian Authority’s educational system... with no monitoring of the content that appears in the textbooks, and without demanding that the Palestinian Authority immediately stop indoctrinating its children to hate and kill.”

As such, “the EU’s policy harms the chances of promoting coexistence and contradicts the EU’s stated commitment to combating antisemitism and incitement and promoting the principles of peace, tolerance, and coexistence.”

The Foreign Ministry called on the EU to demand that the PA remove incitement from its textbooks. The American Jewish Committee’s Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute said that the EU “must finally act.”

“It is difficult to imagine a policy more at odds with EU values and the stated goal of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians than poisoning the minds of children in this conflict. “As the EU is ultimately financing this incitement – the textbooks are drafted and taught by civil servants and teachers whose salaries are paid directly by Brussels – the Commission must act now to help preserve both the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution and the EU’s own standing as an honest broker,” Transatlantic Institute director Daniel Schwammenthal said.

Following Bild’s report, IMPACT-se, which monitors textbooks in the Middle East, released a statement reiterating what it has been claiming for years. “This report confirms the findings published by IMPACT-se over the last five years,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said. “The question is, will EU policy-makers finally take action to condition EU funding to the PA on positive reforms to the curriculum as the European Parliament has demanded on several occasions.”

Also Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the State Department would be “looking very, very carefully” at how UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, addresses hateful messages in its textbooks.

“We’re also determined that UNRWA pursue very necessary reforms in terms of some of the abuses of the system that have taken place in the past, particularly the challenge that we’ve seen in disseminating in its educational products antisemitic or anti-Israel information, so we’re very focused on that,” Blinken said.

Earlier this year, the US announced that it would contribute $150 million to UNRWA. IMPACT-se released two reports this year finding that UNRWA created, printed and distributed material rejecting peace, glorifying terrorism and inciting violence.

Lahav Harkov, Tobias Siegal