One of our most extensive areas of journalistic research has involved investigations of Palestinian Authority/UNRWA education.
We have translated and examined all PA school books used by UNRWA since the new PA curriculum was launched on August 1, 2000.
The idea of an independent curriculum which would be generated by the nascent Palestinian Authority was seen as the panacea of the peace process.
While the new PA curriculum was always characterized by incitement, the last two years have witnessed a deterioration into war indoctrination. This was amply documented in the studies provided to the US Congress by our professionals. Now studies by the GAO, as requested by Senator James Risch, chair of the Near East Subcommittee have provided independent verification of the findings of CFNEPR.
Thanks to the GAO disclosure of its study of PA/UNRWA education, the public can gain better understanding of where the problem lies.
Focal issue of GAO report: The State Department misled Congress
The State Department reported to Congress that it had developed alternative materials to the anti-Semitic and pro-incitement PA school curriculum used by UNRWA.
In the GAO report, State cannot explain why these existing alternative materials were never implemented and have never been seen in the UNRWA classroom.
GAO asserts that the PA curriculum used by UNRWA led to participation in riots.
GAO reveals that State neither vetted any PA books used in the UNRWA curriculum.
How did State know there is no incitement? GAO reports that State relied solely on the assurances of representatives of the PA Ministry of Education, who wrote the school books.
How can UNRWA justify the glorification of murderers in the school books?
State tells GAO that “problematic” pages appear only 3% of the books, which UNRWA acknowledges.
If so, why does UNRWA not remove such books? No explanation.
Why did US AID, which covered 30% of UNRWA’s budget until recently, never demand the removal of such books? No explanation offered.
Senator James Risch (R-Idaho), chair of the US Senate Near East Subcommittee, who initiated the GAO study, is to be commended.
He has no real Jewish constituency to speak of.
He initially met me for one reason: because of his fundamental integrity.
When I showed him chapter and verse of the curriculum, he shook his head and simply said that such incitement to violence has no place in a school system financed in part by the US – let alone by the UN.
Senator Risch asked for “independent verification” of the research that our agency provided Congress with over the years, ever since we began to acquire the new school books of the PA.
On the day that the PA first published its new school books, on August 1, 2000, we travelled to the meet the PA Minister of Education Dr. Nayim Abu Humus, at the new Ministry of Education in Ramallah, who presented us with the first set of books.
Ever since, we have received and translated all PA school books used by UNRWA.
The idea behind the PA issuing its own texts for use in UNRWA schools was that this would be a sign of a responsible, independent Palestinian Arab state in formation. However, the theme of the new PA school books evolved into the “right of return [to take back all of Palestine] by force of arms” including what is now Israel.
Senator Risch received the GAO report last April, which provided independent verification that the PA provided war curriculum for UNRWA, the State Department issued a gag order, not to release the report.
Senator Risch had the courage to speak up, telling colleagues that was he was shocked that State would classify the report, in order to stop the Congress from even reviewing it.
At one point, a journalist asked the Senator why he does not publish the GAO report on his own. Senator Risch responded that that if he opens the GAO report, he can be arrested.
Threat of punishment for violation of classification is stated on what was the opening page of the GAO report before its declassification in early February 2019.
Until three weeks ago, spokespeople of the US State Department, blamed the GAO for the classification of the report.
However, the spokesman of the GAO, Chuck Young, asserted that the decision to classify the report was made by the State Department.
State was forced to issue a statement that, indeed, only State was responsible for quashing its publication and release.
The straw that broke the camel’s back occurred when a State spokeswoman declared that State did not have to respond as to why they classified the report.
That response produced angry calls from Congress, and, finally, a decision by State to make the report available for public knowledge and for US Congressional scrutiny.
State Department now distributes and discloses the report, with no explanation for the ten-month delay.
How bad are the PA books used by UNRWA?
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, of blessed memory, who served as the Papal Nuncio in 2000, was the first official to review the new PA school books.
Archbishop Sambi declared that the new PA curriculum was a manual for war and asked the Italian government to pull its funding from the PA Ministry of Education. The Italian consul in Jerusalem publicly apologized to Israel’s Knesset Parliament for “helping to produce such books of war.”
Over the past 18 years, our agency has reviewed all PA school books used by UNRWA.
We have produced more than a dozen short films shot on location in the UNRWA schools, which are have been transformed into paramilitary bases, training children to kill.
Had we seen one school book or one school lesson for peace, it would have been an honor to report it.
Thanks to the initiative and integrity of Senator James Risch, the issue of UNRWA “education” now sees the light of day.
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