MEPs call on EU Commission to defund Palestinian hate education

A cross-party group of Members of the European Parliament have called upon the commission to stop funding Palestinian education until antisemitism is purged from textbooks.

Heritage Day for the Palestinian People celebrated in El Oskopia High School places Palestine on the map instead of Israel, March 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Heritage Day for the Palestinian People celebrated in El Oskopia High School places Palestine on the map instead of Israel, March 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
More than 20 Members of the European Parliament, hailing from 15 nations, have called upon the European Union commission to partially withhold funding to the Palestinian Authority until it purges antisemitic and inciting content from its school textbooks.
The call came in an open letter from members of the cross-party Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) interparliamentary group, addressed to the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Neighborhood Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi. TFI is a cross-party friendship group of 77 lawmakers from both sides of the Atlantic committed to strengthening the partnership between the United States, Israel, Canada and Europe.
Detailing well-documented instances of antisemitism found within Palestinian textbooks, which regularly paint the existence of Jews in Israel as a "Zionist occupation" that must be expelled from the land through violent terrorism, the MEPs pointed out that "These textbooks are drafted and taught by education sector civil servants and teachers whose salaries are financed through the EU’s PEGASE instrument. They violate each of the UNESCO standards for peace, tolerance and co-existence in school education."
The MEPs also asked the commission to cut ties with the Georg Eckert Institute, a Germany-based institute tasked in April 2019 with undertaking a comprehensive review of the Palestinian Authority's curriculum. The call follows similar concerns raised by UK Parliamentarians, who are co-funding the report, after a presentation of the Interim Report was found online and revealed glaring flaws in the review.
"We are... gravely alarmed by reports that the Germany-based Georg Eckert Institute, tasked with assessing the Palestinian textbooks, produced the results of an Interim Report in presentation form that is so riddles with glaring errors that it casts serious doubt as to the credibility and usability of the entire project," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.  
"Among the most egregious mistakes is that the Georg Erkert Institute partly used the wrong textbooks: the reviewers attributed Israeli state-commissioned Arabic language textbooks used in Jerusalem schools to the Palestinian Authority – and then praised Ramallah for the "improvements.""
In fact, a recent review of the 2020-21 Palestinian Authority curriculum has shown that no improvements have been made, and in some instances the curriculum is more extremist than in past iterations.
Some 82% of the books remain unchanged from last year, while 152 modifications were found within the remaining 40 books, according to an analysis of the new books by IMPACT-se. However, 88% of those adjustments either keep the problematic material intact or amplify it.
In one such modification, a reading comprehension exercise on Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who led the Coastal Road Massacre killing 38 Israelis, was replaced by text on Khalil al Sakakini, a notorious antisemite and Nazi sympathizer. Mughrabi meanwhile remains within the book, having been moved to a different section where she is lauded as the "crown of the nation."
"There are two inescapable facts facing European lawmakers: the first is that the Palestinian Authority has ignored all efforts to get them to change their extremist curriculum, publishing textbooks this September that contain the same antisemitism, hate and incitement as last year and as the year before," Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se told The Jerusalem Post.
"The second is that the EU report to assess the textbooks is deeply flawed. It ignores passages teaching children that Jews are corrupt and control finance, it justifies violence, refers to terror as “resistance” and presents positive material in Israeli textbooks as the work of the Palestinian Authority, for reasons we cannot fathom."
In light of the errors contained within the report, the MEPs have called upon the commission to discontinue working with the Georg Eckert Institute, and to find a partner with the required competence and expertise to carry out the report.
They further urged immediate intervention in the funding of Palestinian education, pointing out that the salaries of PA education sector civil servants are funded by the EU. "In the interests of advancing peace and putting an end to harmful incitement, we suggest that the Commission put a 5% reserve on funding for the Palestinians until such time that it makes substantive positive changes to the textbooks," the MEPs wrote.
Sheff told the Post that the demands were inevitable, given the seriousness of the situation.
"With the best will in the world, these members of the European parliament from across the political spectrum are not prepared to ignore these two facts," he said. "These members care about how taxpayer money is used, they care about peace education and they represent hundreds more legislators who condemned the PA’s textbook hate in May. They represent the majority that no longer wants to pay for hate."
Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl, who chairs TFI in the European Parliament, said that he hopes the letter will be a wake up call for both the commission and the Palestinian Authority, and that the status quo on Palestinian hate education cannot be allowed to continue.
"It’s unacceptable that the EU is funding Palestinian textbooks which glorify terrorism and peddle antisemitism," he said. "Incitement by the Palestinian Authority continues to be a major obstacle to achieving our common goal of a negotiated two-state solution. By putting a temporary and partial hold on funding, hopefully Ramallah will understand the message that the EU is serious about fighting incitement and all forms of antisemitism.”
German MEP Niclas Herbst, TFI member and vice chairman of the European Parliament’s Budget Committee, added: "The European Parliament has made it very clear, in 2018 and again this year, that it no longer wants European taxpayers to finance the teaching of antisemitism, hate and encouragement to violence in the Palestinian textbooks. Palestinian children deserve better.
"We are extremely concerned that in the new, September 2020 textbooks, changes have still not been made. We were equally concerned that the presentation of the EU interim report of the curriculum used the wrong textbooks, ignored antisemitism and justified terror," he said.
"Something went very wrong in this research process and must be put right."