A textbook case of EU funding - opinion

The EC had voted to release the hundreds of millions of euros to the PA that had been delayed due to an argument among member states over the content of Palestinian textbooks.

 EUROPEAN COMMISSION President Ursula von der Leyen arrives for a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, last month.  (photo credit: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS)
EUROPEAN COMMISSION President Ursula von der Leyen arrives for a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, last month.
(photo credit: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS)

During her visit to Israel this week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen went to Ramallah for a powwow with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. During their meeting on Tuesday, she delivered some welcome news.

The EC had voted the previous night to release the hundreds of millions of euros to the PA that had been delayed due to an argument among member states over the content of Palestinian textbooks. To be more precise, it surrounded the issue of whether the PA’s hate-filled curricula constituted sufficient cause for withholding the cash, the transfer of which had been postponed. 

As the NGO Palestinian Media Watch has documented for decades, the PA education system, like its controlled media, indoctrinates children to hate Israel. It does this by bombarding its populace with propaganda that demonizes the Jewish state. 

Neither this nor the European Union’s attempts to obfuscate it is new. By now, the only EU parliamentarians who deny or excuse it are those on the Left who invest more time in abetting the criminalization of Israel than in preventing the flow of their taxpayers’ money to terrorists. Literally.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas makes no bones about continuing his “pay for slay” policy of hefty monthly stipends to Palestinians who kill Jews, despite his waning coffers.

 HAMAS HAS not stopped, even for a minute, its preparations for the day PA head Mahmoud Abbas departs the scene, says the writer. (credit: FLASH90) HAMAS HAS not stopped, even for a minute, its preparations for the day PA head Mahmoud Abbas departs the scene, says the writer. (credit: FLASH90)

“Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

“Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families,” Abbas declared in 2018, when Israel passed a bill to deduct the amount paid to terrorists from the tariffs on Palestinian imports and exports that it collects on behalf of Ramallah. “We view the prisoners and the martyrs as planets and stars in the skies of the Palestinian struggle, and they take priority in everything.”

Nothing has changed

THE AGEING PA leader hasn’t changed his tune a single iota since then, and the EU knows it. This doesn’t stop many European MPs from refusing to abandon the false premise that foreign aid is spent by the powers-that-be in Ramallah on the betterment of Palestinian civil society.

Rather than believe their “lying eyes,” such EU-sugar daddies prefer to be swayed by PA double-speak. This involves simultaneous denial of and justification for antisemitic blood libels and violence against Israelis.

It’s a tired trick, but one that Abbas pulls out of his hat at every opportunity. Take the current controversy over the PA school books, for example.

On one hand, PA representatives pretend that there’s nothing wrong with what Palestinian children are being taught. On the other, they express outrage at the mere suggestion of outside interference, especially from those abroad who hold the purse strings.

Naturally, the PA leadership considers the education that its kids are receiving to be not only appropriate but necessary for imbibing the ideology and acquiring the tools with which to fight Israel. This isn’t what Abbas tells his European apologists, of course, though he never fails to mention the “evil Israeli occupation” during his chats with them.

Nevertheless, the EU Commission funded a study on the matter, to see whether past assurances that incitement to murder had been removed from the PA curricula.

The result of the research, conducted by the Georg Eckert Institute (GEI), was a comprehensive report on the textbooks. The findings, released in June 2021, were to be expected: that the material contained antisemitism, incitement, jihad glorification and a rejection of all peace with Israel.

EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi – whose department covers aid to the PA and UNRWA and who ordered the GEI report on the textbooks – responded by calling on his colleagues to consider conditioning funds to the PA on education reform. His urging spurred the heated debate in Brussels that culminated in Monday’s vote to appease Ramallah.

THE DECISION is mind-boggling, considering the fact that in January of this year, the organization IMPACT-se, together with the GEI, came out with a follow-up report showing that nothing had changed in the PA school system. According to a summary of its findings: “Despite the recognition by all of the PA curriculum’s serious problematic content, commitments to education reform and the alleged implementation of promised education monitoring processes… there were no revisions made to the PA curriculum for the current 2021–22 school year. Contrary to the assurances made by the PA to its international partners that improvements would be made rapidly, the same problematic material identified in the 2020–21 textbooks by the GEI and IMPACT-se are still taught to PA students today.”

Big surprise. The “study cards” used by pupils in grades 1-11 include “additional justifications for violence not found in the textbooks and antisemitic descriptions of Jews as devious, treacherous and hostile.”

There are also exercises pointing to “Jewish control of global events through financial power, manipulative behavior and encouragement of others to fight in wars,” and in which “students are directly incited to violence and instructed to commit jihad against Israelis and die as martyrs liberating the al-Aqsa Mosque; Israel is… described as Satanic… and is accused of forging or destroying Palestinian antiquities to falsify historical facts.”

Students, as well, “are encouraged to sacrifice themselves for their homeland and ‘redeem it with blood.’”

Science instruction is particularly creative, with students learning about energy generation through an illustration of a boy with a slingshot. The very long list goes on; business as usual.

Which brings us to von der Leyen’s chummy get-together with Shtayyeh on Tuesday, when she informed him that EU aid would be flowing again, without preconditions. Back in Brussels, Varhelyi announced that his office would be funding yet another study on PA textbooks.

“No tolerance for anti-Semitism, incitement to hatred & violence,” he tweeted. “Textbooks that go against them undermine peace & co-existence & have no place in classroom. Fundamental principles can’t be negotiable. Hereof, COM reserves the right to take appropriate measures as necessary.”

Though Varhelyi deserves kudos for both his timing and steadfastness, the trouble here is twofold. In the first place, his Twitter thread began by stating that “the Commission remains firmly committed to cooperate w/PA to ensure full adherence of all education material w/UNESCO standards.”

In other words, even the conservative, pro-Israel Varhelyi is paying lip service to “cooperation” with the PA in this endeavor. And there is zero chance of that happening.

Secondly, when the next report demonstrates that the PA is still filling its kids’ heads with the demonization, death and destruction of Israel, the battle in Brussels over aid to Ramallah won’t be put to rest; it will resume as before. In this respect, another study is only useful as a historical record.

SHTAYYEH HAS been crystal clear about this. During his weekly cabinet meeting in the immediate aftermath of the release of the GEI findings last June, he was quoted by the Palestinian news agency WAFA as saying: “Palestinian school curricula is a reflection of our lives and dreams of our children’s freedom and the suffering of our people from the occupation and its violations, and all that is contained in the textbooks is accurate.”

He went on to stress that “the curricula cannot be held to criteria far removed from the history and culture of our people, their suffering and sacrifices, in order to obtain their right to freedom and independence from occupation, injustice and colonialism.” 

More recently, in March, he told Varhelyi that the PA “opposes having conditions placed on European aid” and “wants to preserve true partnership based on respect and cooperation, not on conditions.”

Well, Shtayyeh got his wish. Von der Leyen granted it. Varhelyi might as well save the cost of yet another body of evidence that will do nothing but decorate EU desks.