UNESCO’s vote

PA President Abbas’s statement that UNESCO decision “is vote for peace” is utterly incomprehensible; Rather, it is a vote for bigotry, hatred and conflict.

Abbas 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
Abbas 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
A huge cheer of joy erupted Monday in the General Assembly room of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after "Palestine" was voted in as the organization's 195th member.
However, the event was, in reality, not a cause for celebration but another lamentable example of the moral bankruptcy of the UN and its organizations.
While the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Israel voted against it, such bastions of human rights and freedom as China, Russia and Brazil voted in favor.
Disappointingly, Austria and France ­ two states which should have known better ­ voted in favor, while Britain could do no more than abstain.
In its rush to aid the Palestinians in their unilateral bid for internationally recognized statehood status, UNESCO completely disregarded its own declared educational and cultural standards based on equality and mutual respect.
Instead, UNESCO effectively endorsed the warped, hate-mongering Palestinian national "narrative" as reflected in the Palestinian Authority's official school textbooks, cultural policies and popular media.
Impact-SE, a research organization that monitors and analyzes schoolbooks and curricula across the Middle East, with an eye toward determining their compliance with international standards on peace and tolerance ­ like those set by UNESCO ­ found shameful examples of anti-Semitism being taught in the Palestinian educational system.
Indeed, textbooks used in PA schools conveyed rabidly anti-Semitic messages (Jews are described as violators of treaties, deceivers, murderers of children, disembowelers of women and impersonators of snakes) erased Jewish peoples' ties to the land of Israel (Rachel's Tomb is presented as the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, and the Kotel is described simply as Al-Buraq Wall) and supported jihad while, completing ignoring the option of a negotiated peace settlement with Israel.
The study quotes the following paragraph from a eighth-grade book: "Today the Muslim countries need urgently jihad and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant." Nowhere in official PA textbooks is the Holocaust mentioned, though there is an entire chapter on World War Two.
One ambiguous passage states: "The Jewish question is first and foremost a European problem." Before the UNESCO decision, there might have been a chance, through international pressure and dialogue, to influence the PA to gradually revamp textbooks so that they more closely reflected reality.
Perhaps a new generation of Palestinian children could have been raised not on anti-Semitism, stereotypes and lies, but on respect for those who are different, the value of peaceful negotiation and recognition of the Jewish people's ties to the land of Israel.
But by accepting "Palestine" as a member, UNESCO has effectively given its stamp of approval to the sort of vicious indoctrination undergone by Palestinian schoolchildren at a young, impressionable age.
Can we honesty expect any future Palestinian leader to criticize the abhorrent messages that appear in PA textbooks if UNESCO failed to? Any leader who dared to introduce reforms would be fighting an uphill battle, not only against Palestinian prejudices and its culture of violence and self-victimization, but also against a respected UN institution's decision.
What's more, according to UNESCO's own rules, accepting "Palestine" as a full-fledged member means that UNESCO essentially waives its right to interfere in ­ or even criticize ­ Palestinian education policies. If anything, Palestinian schoolbooks will inculcate children with even more uncompromisingly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel messages.
And the messages presented in school will continue to be reinforced in Palestinian media and in mosques. Consequently, the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians will get even slimmer.
Seen in this light, PA President Mahmoud Abbas's statement that the UNESCO decision "is a vote for peace" is utterly incomprehensible.
Rather, it is a vote for bigotry, hatred and conflict.