Palestinian schoolchildren take part in a lesson at a school run by UNRWA .
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The American “Peace to Prosperity” plan for the Palestinian people quite rightly focuses on enhancing Palestinian education, concentrating on funding higher education and, in particular, the creation of a new Palestinian university.
Improving higher education in the Palestinian Authority is important. But it is the school system that passes on the values that shape subsequent generations. School curricula are the key to achieving the tolerant and open-minded societies of the future. But they are also where negative influences – skewed historical narratives, hatreds of “the other,” and political violence – take root.
By the time Palestinian students reach higher education, they have already been thoroughly radicalized by the current Palestinian textbooks.
Comprehensive research by IMPACT-se has shown that the textbooks and materials being taught to Palestinian students are at complete odds with the values of the Western governments footing the bill for their production.
The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through peaceful means is not taught. Peace agreements, summits and proposals with Israel that previously appeared in PA schoolbooks have been removed.
Antisemitism is now more prevalent than in previous curricula, as is the demonetization of Israel, which is described as the “Zionist occupation” and systematically characterized through examples of evil-doing.
There are no examples of cooperation between Israel and the PA, and no education for coexistence, further removing any remnant of the Israel recognized by the PA in the Oslo Accords.
Instead, Palestinian textbooks are replete with encouragement to violence. Children under the age of 10 recite a poem calling for “sacrificing blood” to remove the enemy from the land by “eliminating the usurper,” and to “annihilate the remnants of the foreigners.”
Newton’s Second Law of Motion is taught by way of a slingshot and the image of a violent confrontation, thus encouraging young Palestinians toward actions of violence and self-sacrifice. They are taught to aspire to a life dedicated to jihad – that martyrdom is a realistic and recommended life goal. In perhaps the ultimate betrayal of youth, they are told that choosing death is better than choosing life.
For a peace plan to succeed, children need to understand what peace looks like. And if children have graduated after 12 years of an intense radicalization program at school, all the training the academy can bring to bear will not contribute to a peaceful society. There have been more than enough terrorists with impressive engineering degrees.
A bill passing through the US Congress deals with this issue. HR-2343, the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act, ensures that the State Department will annually review the Palestinian curriculum used by the PA and UNRWA for content encouraging violence, antisemitism and intolerance. It mirrors European Parliament legislation passed in April 2018, stating that European Union funds to the Palestinian Authority must not be used for teaching hate.
The European Commission is currently conducting its own investigation into the Palestinian curriculum. As commission vice-president Federica Mogherini stated, “Incitement to violence is fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-state solution, and is greatly exacerbating mistrust between the communities.” Labour Friends of Israel members of the British Parliament reacted similarly when discovering that UK aid is funding lessons in hate.
By concentrating on higher education, the “Peace to Prosperity” plan skips the hard part of ensuring that 1.3 million Palestinian children receive a peace education. That can only happen when the Palestinian school textbooks are changed.The writer is CEO of IMPACT-se-The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
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