Palestinian kids display their textbooks.
(photo credit: AHMED JADALLAH / REUTERS)
The EU is planning an “academic study on Palestinian school textbooks” to see whether they are in compliance with “UNESCO standards of peace and tolerance in education,” EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a written answer to a question posed in the European Parliament.
For years, Israel and various NGOs have worked to get the EU – the largest contributor of funds to the PA’s education system – to deal with textbooks in the Palestinian Authority that educate not toward peace and accommodation, but to martyrdom and jihad.
“It can be confirmed that an academic study on Palestinian school textbooks is planned,” Mogherini wrote. “Necessary funds have been reserved in the 2019 budget. The study shall be carried out by an independent and internationally recognized research institute. Terms of reference for the study are currently being prepared with a view to identifying possible incitement to hatred and violence, and any possible lack of compliance with UNESCO standards of peace and tolerance in education.”
Mogherini’s answer was delivered on April 24 to a question asked on February 19.
“The study shall provide for a comprehensive analysis of the current Palestinian textbooks. The work on the study is indicatively scheduled to start in spring 2019,” she wrote. No timeline was given.
“Incitement to violence is fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-state solution and is greatly exacerbating mistrust between the communities, as already pointed out in the report of the Middle East Quartet of 1 July 2016,” she said. “The EU has therefore repeatedly discussed this issue with the two parties.”
The Foreign Ministry had no reaction.
One organization that has been heavily involved in the issue is IMPACT-se, a research institute based at Hebrew University studying standards of peace and tolerance in school education. Its head, Marcus Sheff, applauded the move saying, “We hope this study will help put an end to the abuse and finally allow young Palestinians to receive meaningful peace education.”
According to Sheff, the majority of the EU’s €360 million PEGASE budget is earmarked to the PA Education Ministry, and the EU also donates €158 million to UNRWA, much of which goes to the organization’s schools which also teach the PA curriculum.
He said the EU has a responsibility to its taxpayers to ensure that the money is spent to promote the EU’s vision, which is one of peace, tolerance, a negotiated settlement and a two-state solution.
“Palestinian children are not taught any of that,” he said. “There is no idea of peace horizon in the Palestinian curriculum. The PA is taking the money and completely ignoring the will and the values of the EU,’ he said.
Sheff said the European Parliament passed legislation in April 2018 designed to prevent EU aid to the PA from being used to teach hate, and in September the parliament’s Budgetary Committee recommend a five percent freeze on the funding until the curriculum was changed, something that did not go through the plenary. However, Sheff said, the issued became a “hot button issue in the Parliament.”
Morgherini’s statement was prompted by a parliamentary question put forward by Croatian European Parliament member Marijana Petir, a close IMPACT-se ally who is a member of the center-right European People’s Party group in the Parliament.
On February 19, Petir asked Mogherini if, as PA Education Minister Sari Saidam said, the EU “will work with a neutral European committee to conduct a comparative study between the Palestinian and Israeli school curricula.”
“Can the Commission confirm whether a study of the PA and/or Israeli curricula is indeed being planned?” she asked. “If so, could details be provided of the study’s scope, researchers, research methodology and timeline? On what legal basis is it being conducted, bearing in mind that the Israeli school curriculum is not financed by the EU?”
The Palestinian Authority responded on Thursday to the EU intention to conduct a study of the curriculum by saying it is the result of Israeli “incitement.”
The PA Ministry of Education in Ramallah said it was still in the process of researching what the EU intends to do in this regard.
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