Erekat to US Representative: PA curriculum not perfect, but working on teaching mutual respect

Democratic Whip says US will not want to fund PA schools after PLO negotiator admits unfair portrayal of Jews in curriculum.

August 8, 2013 07:00
2 minute read.
East Jerusalem Classroom

Palestinian schoolchildren (R370). (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)


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No group on earth has been subjected to more discrimination and hate than the Jews, and the US will not fund curriculum in the Palestinian Authority that does not teach tolerance and mutual respect, US Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said on Wednesday.

Hoyer, leading a massive delegation of 36 Democratic US congressman, said this issue was the first one he broached during a meeting Wednesday in Ramallah with PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat.

“Erekat talked about the necessity to live together with mutual respect,” Hoyer said at a Jerusalem press conference. “I asked whether the [Palestinian] school curriculum would comport with that objective. He indicated that they had not done so perfectly, but he believes they are working on that and trying to get to that objective.”

Hoyer, on his 13th visit to Israel, said that when he returns to Washington next week he intended to “pursue” the issue “with the State Department and others.

Clearly the US does not want to fund efforts that do not fairly portray other peoples.”

The week-long trip was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Next week a Republican delegation of 26 congressman is to arrive.

Hoyer said in the Middle East there has been “too much teaching of violence, too much perpetration of violence, too much teaching of prejudice. No group on earth, in so many venues throughout the earth, have been the objective of so much discrimination and hate as the Jewish population.”

He said the issue of teaching toward tolerance was something that needed to be worked on throughout the world, including in America.

“Rather than us pointing fingers,” he said, “we in the US are still working on this issue. We have a large African-American population, a large Hispanic population.

We are a nation of immigrants, almost every immigrant group that has come to the US of any size has found discrimination.”

Hoyer was flanked during the press conference by the 36 congressman, including 31 freshman House members, half of whom have never been to Israel before.

The delegation met Tuesday for nearly two hours with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and met with President Shimon Peres.

A planned meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not materialize on Wednesday, because Abbas is currently in Saudi Arabia. So the group met Erekat instead.

Hoyer did not reply directly when asked if he heard anything from either Netanyahu or Erekat to give him a sense that the current stab at peace talks might work where previous attempts failed, saying instead that both sides have “already made – from their perspectives – difficult decisions to get back to the table.”

He said both sides ascribed their decisions to return to the negotiations to the “indefatigable work” of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We’re hopeful,” he said. “It is never too late to do the right thing, never too late to reach for peace, and never an option to give up and say we can’t. Those with whom we spoke were hopeful as well.”

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