Middle East Monitor reported last week:
The Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education is suspending contact with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) it announced, Thursday. The move came in protest at UNRWA’s intention to amend the Palestinian curriculum in West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip schools.
The Ministry said in a statement that “Any distortion of the Palestinian curriculum is a flagrant violation of the laws of the host country,”.
“Changes in any character, to appease any party, is a betrayal of the Palestinian narrative and the right of the Palestinian people to preserve its identity,” it added.
Commenting on the decision, Minister of Education and Higher Education Sabri Sidem said that “Palestine will not surrender to anyone, and will not accept to give up our dignity, history and decades of struggle to protect the Palestinian narrative,” he said.
What were the changes that were proposed by UNRWA?
According to stories leaked in March, they include the following revisions in textbooks aimed at grades 1-4:
* Removing maps of “Palestine” that include all of Israel
* Replacing the phrase “Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state” with the words “Jerusalem is a holy city for all Abrahamic religions”
* Replacing a picture of a wedding that showed only men with one that showed men and women
* Stop referring to Israelis cities as “Palestinian”
* Remove some pictures of evil Israeli soldiers and innocent Palestinian victims.
UNRWA’s own principles for teaching human rights include “the building and maintenance of peace.” Its educational vision is one “which develops the full potential of Palestine Refugees to enable them to be confident, innovative, questioning, thoughtful, tolerant and open minded, upholding human values and religious tolerance, proud of their Palestine identity and contributing positively to the development of their society and the global community”.
A 2011 study of the UNRWA human rights curriculum said in its section of the omissions from the program:
What is missing from this list – with no justification – is freedom of religion, religious equality and religious tolerance. In fact, the books are totally devoid of any mention of religion.
· The Middle East war is absent from the books. None of the values mentioned: peace, tolerance, peaceful resolution of conflicts, non-violence, etc. is given an interpretation in connection to the conflict. On the other hand, there are few references to aspects of the conflict – all presenting the Palestinians as victims. For example, an exercise includes a picture of two girls sitting next to a tent with a demolished house in the background. The caption reads: “A family whose house was demolished lives in a tent” (Human Rights Curriculum, Grade 3, Part 2 (2010) p. 34). In another example the children of Gaza fly kites “in spite of the [Israeli] siege” (Human Rights Curriculum, Grade 5, Part 2 (2010) p. 66).
· [The books’] contribution to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is nil, if not negative.
There have been plenty of other studies that show that the Palestinian textbooks used by UNRWA promote hate and intolerance.
This episode with UNRWA shows that all of this is true.
We’ve seen this play before, and we know that UNRWA will cave and not change anything.
In the past when they tried to introduce, for example, Holocaust education in their programs, UNRWA workers leaked the potential programs to the Arab media, the Arabs freaked out, and UNRWA was able to quietly table the idea of changing the curriculum without admitting anything.
The PA’s refusal to deal with UNRWA based on these unofficial curriculum changes indicates that not only will UNRWA cave and not implement these changes, but also that the PA simply refuses to teach peace to its students.
Given that the PA has existed now for over 20 years, an entire generation that could have been raised on the desire for peace has instead been taught nothing but hate for Israel.
Now that the PA publicly admits that it refuses to teach peace and basic facts like Israel’s existence, UNRWA and the PA will need to explain to their Western funders why they both adamantly insist on teaching incitement and hate.
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