PA announces change in school curricula after pressure European Parliament

A number of national governments have condemned the inclusion of incitement to violence and antisemitic materials in school textbooks used in Palestinian schools.

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
The Palestinian Cabinet approved plans to make changes to the educational curriculum in Palestinian schools on Monday, following pressure from the European Parliament and national governments in Europe.
Minister of Education, Prof. Marwan Awartani, gave a detailed report to a meeting of the Cabinet on new curricula and plans for their development, which emphasized the need for the "preservation and protection of the curricula as based in a sovereign Palestinian matter ... as they relate to the Palestinian narrative and identity, and the strategic directions of the state, including the Declaration of Independence."
According to an Arabic-language briefing on the meeting on the Council's website, the Council stressed that any development of the curriculum would be an independent Palestinian national decision, taken only to provide the best education for Palestinian students within an overall strategy to improve the education system. They further stressed the necessity of adopting the highest professional standards in line with international standards of quality education.
The Council also welcomed Awartani's proposal to establish a national curriculum center, and instructed him to present an integrated vision in the near future on the how to set a trend for further upgrades of the curricula.
The announcement follows the passage through the European Parliament of three separate resolutions condemning the failure within the Palestinian education system to remove hate speech and incitement to violence within school textbooks. The legislation requires that salaries of teachers funded by the European Institutions are only used to reward those who teach materials consistent with UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence.
Consequently, they could impact future aid payments by the Union to the Palestinian Authority, given the prevalence of violent materials within Palestinian teaching materials.
The resolutions were driven by IMPACT-se, a research and advocacy organization which monitors and analyses education to prevent the radicalization of young people.
Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se said: "This is clearly a reaction by the Palestinian prime minister and government to the legislation passed by the European Parliament on Thursday. The question remains as to whether we will see the  change in the textbooks that the donor countries are demanding and Palestinian schoolchildren need, or whether it is a further tactic to appease European donor states and play for time.
"Inevitably, we’ll know in September whether the hate and incitement to violence that Palestinian children have been subjected to has been removed and if standards of peace and tolerance have been introduced into PA textbooks."
The PA's endorsement of the curricula changes come before the publication of an interim report on Palestinian textbooks, funded by the EU and expected in June. The report, announced by then EU High Commissioner Federica Mogherini in April last year, has been undertaken “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”.
The endorsement follows moves by a number of national governments to crack down on hate education in Palestinian schools last year.
In December 2019, the Norwegian Parliament described PA teaching materials as "devastating to the peace process," and instructed its government to withhold funding to the PA if the incitement to violence is not removed from textbooks. In the same month, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the bipartisan Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act by unanimous consent. That legislation is currently progressing through congress.
And in August 2019, the UN issued an unprecedented report calling on the PA to remove all antisemitic materials, incitement to violence and hate speech from educational materials.