The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) hate-filled school curriculum indoctrinates schoolchildren to become future martyrs. So why is the European Commission funding it to the tune of €145 million?
After a 14 month-long funding freeze, EU member states resumed paying the salaries and pensions of PA civil servants. Only one year prior, a damning EU-commissioned report had found that the same civil servants had been curating and producing problematic educational materials for several years. Children in schools across the West Bank are taught from textbooks replete with antisemitism, terrorism glorification, and the erasure of Israel.
The damning report by the Georg-Eckert Institute exposed the extent of troubling content in PA-produced textbooks, including the veneration of terrorist martyrs who conducted attacks against Israelis, as well as the complete erasure of Israel. Despite this, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen resolved to pay the PA, without seemingly any preconditions, that would have seen the removal of the objectionable text and images.
The Georg-Eckert Institute (GEI) reviewed 156 textbook and 16 teaching guides published between 2017-2019 to conduct a curriculum-wide analysis. Prof. Dr. Eckhardt Fuchs (GEI Director) addressed the European Parliament in September 2021 and underscored that some materials do indeed meet UNESCO standards, however others contain “incitement to hatred and antisemitic elements.”
Prior to unfreezing the funds, 32 members of the European Parliament expressed their opposition to paying out the PA in a cosigned letter in March 2022. Addressed to von der Leyen, the letter highlighting the seeming hypocrisy of the EU upholding a policy of “zero tolerance” for antisemitism while simultaneously funding textbooks that explicitly and unambiguously encourage anti-Jew hatred and incitement.
The letter states, “Years of negotiations with the PA and repeated Commission pledges of ‘zero tolerance’ for antisemitism have sadly failed to achieve the desired change.” The authors continue, “Palestinian children are still abused and taught to hate… It is not an imposition to ask the PA to revise these books; it is a self-evident and non-negotiable duty.”
Earlier in the year, the European Parliament appeared to hold firm on the matter, condemning the educational materials and demanding that “all textbooks and materials supported by Union Funds that are used in schools must be in accordance with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.” However, in the intervening months the conviction waned to the point that the EU Parliament willingly signed-off on the aid package without any changes to the curriculum.
€3 million was specially earmarked to “promote gender responsive policies and laws in the occupied Palestinian territory.” A noble pursuit, considering that a Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics survey in 2011 found that on average 37% of women in the West Bank are victims of gender-based violence. Fulfilling the mandate, Palestinian textbooks featured a Palestinian female icon: Dalal Al-Mughrabi.
The only problem is that Al-Mughrabi was a Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorist who carried-out the 1978 Coastal Road massacre and is responsible for the murder of 38 Israelis (13 of whom were children). One excerpt referencing Al-Mughrabi states “Our Palestinian history is full of many names of shuhadā’ [martyrs] who sacrificed their lives for the homeland, including the shahīda Dalal Al-Mughrabi whose struggle took the form of defiance and heroism, which made her memory immortal in our hearts and minds. And the text in our hands talks about one aspect of her struggle.” When PA textbooks offer up terrorists as role-models, it is little surprise that the cycle of Palestinian violence against Israelis perpetuates itself.
As the main funder of the PA, the EU held all the cards and could have pressed for the removal of this content. In September 2021, the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets passed an amendment to the 2022 budget that made the funds conditional on “substantive positive changes are made in the PA curriculum” and specified that such changes should “promote coexistence and tolerance with the Jewish-Israeli ‘other’ and peace education with Israel in alignment with the goals of the two State solution.” The amendment cautioned that “Should there be no change, appropriations in reserve shall be used for funding Palestinian NGOs that have a proven track record of promoting educational initiatives in school settings for children designed to foster tolerance, coexistence and respect towards the Jewish-Israeli ‘other.’”
The amendment notes that the complaints over antisemitic incitement in PA textbooks have been tabled for several years already, without any changes to the PA’s curriculum. Adhering to preconditions around the funding freeze would have been a crucial measure to ensure that European lawmakers – not to mention taxpayers – are not funding a hate-filled curriculum.
Instead, the European Commission surrendered the high ground and a historic opportunity to help mend the Israeli-Palestinian divide. Allocating fund, with no accountability, to the PA directly supports the work of civil servants whose antisemitic, anti-peace, and anti-Two State Solution biases splash across textbooks in Palestinian classrooms.
By 2024, the EU is estimated to have provided an eye-watering €1.15 billion in various forms of financial assistance for Palestinian causes. If the EU truly wants to insert itself as a responsible party in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it should desist from taking steps that perpetuate the cycle of violence. Funding the salaries and pensions of antisemites within the ranks of the PA is no exception to this.