EU report into PA hate education 'unsatisfactory,' UK MP, NGO tell 'Post'

A report jointly undertaken by the EU and UK into hate education is both overdue and riddled with errors, NGO IMPACT-se has found.

A Palestinian girl looks out of a classroom window as she attends a lesson on the first day of a new school year, at a United Nations-run school in Khan Young in the southern Gaza Strip (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
A Palestinian girl looks out of a classroom window as she attends a lesson on the first day of a new school year, at a United Nations-run school in Khan Young in the southern Gaza Strip
An investigation commissioned by the UK and the EU into Palestinian education has been slammed as a “comedy of errors” and criticized by a British lawmaker as “unsatisfactory.” A presentation on the interim report appears to have revealed a myriad of mistakes and issues with the way the investigation is being conducted.
In April 2019, a study was commissioned to investigate claims that Palestinian Authority textbooks were inciting hatred and violence in contravention to UNESCO standards on peace and tolerance in education. The commission followed a report at the time by the Jerusalem-based NGO Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), which reviewed a selection of Palestinian educational materials and found that they were even more radical than those previously published.
The EU and UK agreed to jointly fund the report at a cost of nearly €225,000 ($264,000). The Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI), based in Germany, was selected to carry out the investigation, with results initially expected to be released in September 2019. This May, with no report in sight, the UK announced an interim report would be released in June, with the full report coming later in the year.
That interim report has still not emerged, but IMPACT-se has uncovered a presentation on the report by the institute on Prezi, a presentation-resource website. According to IMPACT-se, the document has revealed numerous issues with the report, including methodological irregularities, translation errors and Israeli textbooks in Arabic being investigated in place of PA textbooks.
The presentation details the methodology being followed by the GEI. The interim report primarily gives a quantitative overview on common terms found within educational material that refer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the institute said. It has looked at 50-70 secondary-school textbooks across a range of subjects.
It has found, for example, that the word Zionism and its derivations appear 612 times within the selected material, whereas Judaism and Jew/Jewish occur 97 times. Codifying the texts by identifying each instance of the words used is the first step in the process, the presentation slides explain, adding that context will subsequently be reviewed.
However, IMPACT-se has raised concerns over the choice of methodology.
“The proposed methodology, as best one can determine, is a mix of a Stanford University group’s standards for textbooks and a qualitative approach derived from Grounded Theory. It is unclear as to how this methodology is in line with the EU directive,” the NGO has said in a statement, adding: “This combination of standards over-complicates the methodology. Significantly, GEI’s methodology does not include the UNESCO standard of unbiased information.”
Furthermore, none of the Palestinian textbooks used in the review have been referenced, no book list is cited, and the curriculum has been cherry-picked rather than reviewed in full.
IMPACT-se queried the choice of terms surveyed. Martyrdom and Nakba (from Nakba Day, or Catastrophe Day, a term Palestinians use to describe 1948 War of Independence), two words commonly associated with hate education in Palestinian schools, have not been included in the word bank, nor were Al-haram Al-Sharif and Bait Al-Maqdas, two common names for al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which is a common focal point for nationalist incitement, it said.
The GEI also seems to be unfamiliar with both the Arabic language and Palestinian culture, leading to translation errors within the review. A phrase that in English means the women who accompany faithful Muslims in paradise has been translated as horoscope.
Another well-known Palestinian phrase for rock-throwers, the Children of the Stones, has been mistranslated as children stones, with no indication as to what this might mean. Naksa, which means setback and is commonly used within the term Yawm an-Naksa, or day of the setback in commemoration of the Six Day War in 1967, has been rendered remembrance.
Oddly, the institute also appears to have used Israeli textbooks in place of Palestinian books in some instances, leading to a false picture of radicalism within the Palestinian curriculum.
Within their presentation, the GEI reports: “In the Life Science textbook of the 8th grade (part 1), changes have been made to the version of 2018 – in comparison to the version of 2017 – replacing 5 (out of 8 references in this textbook) real-life connections that address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with other examples that promote peace or show tolerance towards Israeli individuals. These differences indicate the serious involvement of the textbook’s editors with conflict-related connections in the school textbooks and a careful consideration and differentiation towards the Israeli individuals.”
However, the researchers appear not to have compared Palestinian textbooks from two different years, but rather, Palestinian and Israeli textbooks for children who speak Arabic, an IMPACT-se spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post. In a statement, the NGO highlighted a number of examples.
In one example, Israeli and Palestinian firefighters are shown training alongside each other. “This example promotes tolerance towards Israeli Individuals,” the researchers said in their presentation. However, according to IMPACT-se: “There is no positive portrayal of the Israeli-Jewish other ‘in an everyday context’ in the real Palestinian curriculum. This example has been taken from an Israeli Arabic textbook.”
Similarly, the institute’s reviewers present a map with the name Israel on it, saying it “stimulates the peace-narratives,” yet no such map is found within Palestinian educational materials.
Taken as a whole, the presentation is “really regrettable,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said. “The European Union and the UK had the opportunity to add to our collective understanding of these extreme textbooks and to fulfill their duty of care to Palestinian students. Instead, the review has been a comedy of errors from start to finish.”
“This is not a particularly complex project,” he added. “It is hard to fathom how it went so wrong. Adding insult to injury, this report has been plagued by delay. The British government clearly wants it made public as soon as possible, but the EU has declared it is staying under wraps. Frankly, given the debacle this research project has become, one can understand why.”
In March, the British Parliament held a debate on radicalization in the Palestinian school curriculum, questioning why there has been so little progress in clamping down on the activity – despite concerns being consistently raised for at least five years over the UK government’s direct or indirect funding of hate education.
“The UK government rightly pushed for an international review of the Palestinian Authority educational curriculum in response to repeated concerns about the incitement of violence and hatred against Israel,” MP Stephen Crabb, who took part in that debate, told the Post on Tuesday. “We were led to believe this would be a high quality piece of work that would help to address some of the longstanding questions in Parliament about how British aid is being used in Palestinian schools.”
“But the length of time it has taken for the interim report to be produced and the fact that it will not be made public is totally unsatisfactory,” he said. “Reports now emerging of basic flaws in the research will only further undermine confidence in this exercise.”
The Georg Eckert Institute did not respond to a request for comment.