Numerous NGOs and think tanks have been pointing to the systematic incitement against Israel and the glorification of Shahidism that Palestinian children are exposed to in official school curricula. This includes the 711 schools operated by UNRWA, to a large extent funded by the EU.
A decade of reports and protests by these institutions about Europe’s unconditional money flow had an impact. Last May, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the use of EU funds to teach anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in Palestinian schoolbooks. Looking at Europe’s notorious silence until then (with the exception of Belgium), this resolution seemed like a breakthrough. Reality check: The schoolbook incitement goes on. And so does EU funding.
A short headline travelling through Israeli media today set this grim atmosphere institutionalized by the Palestinian Authority in context: “UAE begins teaching about normalization with Israel to grades 1-12” (JPost) and “UAE school textbook praises Israel peace deal” (ToI).
This is how a culture of peace is instilled. This is what authentic and proactive peace looks like. With a remarkable philosophical impulse: children, lucky enough to sit in a classroom in Abu Dhabi, rather than in Ramallah, will be socialized into a world of values composed of a culture of peace, co-existence, and collaboration – or 3C. This sparks the kind of hope this region was chronically deprived of. The UAE, Bahrain, Israel, and hopefully more to follow are now part of the ‘3C Club’ – a New Middle East, as envisioned by Israel’s late President, Shimon Peres. Driven by shared strategic interests and a thirst for cooperation on all fronts. From covid to culture, from Agritech to AI, from security to science, from one people to another; with religion serving as a bridge (look up the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi) not as an instrument for incitement.
The instinctive condemnation of the peace accords by the PA is a tragic continuation of a decades-old pattern: the pathological denial of any chance for peace and hope for its people. As destructive a lesson for Palestinian children as the enmity taught in schoolbooks. Promoting this inevitable paradigm shift, the UAE is one step ahead of the PA. But also of Europe. Away from an obsession with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its currently unrealistic resolution as a sine qua non for normalization with moderate Arab states. Towards understanding that normalization with Israel is a national strategic interest, driven by the Iranian threat and Israel’s development into a technological and military powerhouse. And that it is no burden to peace between Israel and the Palestinians – quite the opposite, as clearly stated by the Bahraini Foreign Minister during his address at the peace accord signing ceremony today.
And the EU? Take Germany, Israel’s most important strategic ally outside of the US, as an example. In a phone call between Chancellor Merkel and PM Netanyahu on September 4th, the former “welcomed” the talks about normalization between Israel and the UAE – (Merkel is not known for communicating in superlatives, but even reserved excitement sounds different), and in the very same sentence insisted on “underlining the necessity of resuming direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of reaching a Two-State Solution.” Not her hope for these talks to yield a historic peace agreement. Nor her eagerness to advance trilateral cooperation or a joint strategy to contain Iran’s nuclear threat and regional aggression.
This obsession with the Palestinian issue on account of a wider, rational, and less naive strategic understanding of the Middle East, is further unmasked by Google: A search in German for “Israel and peace with the Emirates” yields 140.000 hits. A search for “Israel and annexation”? 1,140.000 hits. A million more. The absurd: Israel’s annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria never happened; the mere prospect triggered a tsunami of media reports and political condemnations, including a Bundestag resolution in the weeks leading up to the decisive July 1st deadline. The peace accords, however, thanks to President Trump and his administration, did happen. A historic moment for Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and the entire region, bringing hope and yearned-for change to millions of people.
Israeli TV coverage of the signing ceremony was interrupted by alert banners about Hamas rockets fired against Israel’s South, with two civilians injured. Accompanied by a report about PA President Abu Mazen declaring that he will no longer arrest Hamas terrorists, signaling a new rapprochement. Compare these two kinds of “accords.” The backwards one, legitimizing terror, perpetuating victimhood, robbing the young generation of hope; and the positive, creative and enlightened one, as symbolized by the historic signing ceremony in Washington between Israel and two Gulf nations that the world witnessed today. The EU is at a crossroads: exit the mental lockdown and start promoting own strategic interests in the Middle East or stick to the anachronistic approach, all but promoting Palestinian interests, and watch more Arab states pass by on the fast lane.