Palestinian Authority Education Ministry suspends UNRWA ties over textbook spat

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that his organization has worked with the PA for years and has “a long track record as a partner teaching children in a highly complex environment."

A Palestinian student sits on a motorcycle as he watches a protest at the gate of the headquarters of UNRWA in Gaza City (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian student sits on a motorcycle as he watches a protest at the gate of the headquarters of UNRWA in Gaza City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority’s Education Ministry suspended ties with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency on Thursday over disagreements on possible changes in the organization’s textbooks.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that his organization has worked with the PA for years and has “a long track record as a partner teaching children in a highly complex environment."
“Today we deliver quality primary education to more than 312,000 Palestine refugee children in Gaza (262,000) and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem (50,000),” Gunness said.
“UNRWA schools follow the curriculum of the host authority, a practice agreed upon in 1954 with the support of UNESCO and reaffirmed following the Oslo Accords."
“It is UNRWA policy to review, and where appropriate enrich the official PA textbooks, curricula and other learning materials used in UNRWA schools to ensure compliance with UN values and principles."
“In addition, since 2000 UNRWA has taught in all our schools our own supplementary “Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance” curriculum aimed at strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and promoting understanding, tolerance and gender equality,” Gunness said.
In a statement on Thursday the PA Education Ministry stated: “Any distortion of the Palestinian curriculum is a flagrant violation of the laws of the host country, and any change to any letter to appease any party is a betrayal of the Palestinian narrative and the right of the Palestinian people under occupation to preserve its identity and struggle.”

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.