The government has admitted that British aid is helping to support the delivery of the Palestinian Authority’s new school curriculum – a curriculum which promotes terrorism and encourages children to become “martyrs”.
The revelation was exposed by LFI chair Joan Ryan and covered by the Sunday Times last weekend.
In response to a series of parliamentary questions tabled by Ms Ryan, Middle East minister Alistair Burt admitted that UK aid was paying the salaries of 33,000 teachers and civil servants who are “involved in the implementation process” for the revised curriculum.
Mr Burt went on to suggest that the UK government “is working with the PA Ministry of Education and Higher Education to maintain the delivery of high quality education, including through its curriculum”.
In a major report published last year, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education group (IMPACT-se) painted a damning portrait of the new curriculum the PA is using to teach Palestinian children to hate Israelis.
Introduced in the 2017 school year, it is the first major reform conducted since 2000 when the PA introduced its initial curriculum following the Oslo Accords. IMPACT-se made its assessment based on standards for peace and tolerance derived from UNESCO declarations.
It found that the curriculum “exerts pressure over young Palestinians to acts of violence in a more extensive and sophisticated manner” and places a great deal of emphasis on the virtues of martyrdom. It also asserts that “the curriculum’s focus appears to have expanded from demonisation of Israel to providing a rationale for war”.
Among the lessons taught by UK-funded school teachers:
• A maths textbook for nine year-olds which asks students to calculate the number of martyrs in Palestinian uprisings.
• A science text book for 12 year-olds sees Newton’s Second Law taught through the image of a boy with a slingshot targeting soldiers.
• A textbook for 10 year-olds that calls martyrdom and jihad “the most important meanings of life”, advising that “drinking the cup of bitterness with glory is much sweeter than a pleasant long life accompanied by humiliation”. So-called martyrs – such as Dalal Mughrabi, who led the infamous 1978 “Coastal Road Massacre” in which 38 Israelis, including 13 children, were murdered – are held up as role models.
• Maps of Palestine without Israel appear frequently in the curriculum. A poem taught to nine year-olds appears to call for violence against Jews in pre-1967 Israel after its liberation. It calls for “sacrificing blood”, “eliminating the usurper” and “annihilate[ing] the remnants of the foreigners”.
The curriculum continues to suggest Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque is threatened by Israel – a false, incendiary claim which has frequently triggered violence – and stresses the need for its defence. Thus children are taught that Israel carries out excavations under the Mosque to cause it to collapse and they are encouraged to “sacrifice” for its liberation. There is also a negation of Jewish holy sites, including the suggestion that the Western wall is only holy to Muslims.
By contrast, there is no education for peacemaking with Israel anywhere in the curriculum. There is an absence of positive references to peace in a political context or a two-state solution and the PA appears to have decided to remove previous references to past agreements between itself and Israel, including the Oslo Accords and the letters of mutual recognition between Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat.
IMPACT-se suggests the new curriculum contains a greater demonisation of Israel, which is mostly described as the “Zionist occupation”. This is coupled with an increased emphasis on the return of Palestinians to pre-1967 Israel. It is suggested that this will take place through violence and that all of Israel, not simply the West Bank and Gaza, will become sovereign Palestinian territory.
In response to the government’s admission, Ms Ryan said: “It is absolutely appalling that UK taxpayers’ money is helping to support the teaching of a curriculum which incites violence and terrorism and spreads antisemitism. This poisoning of young minds does nothing to support the cause of peace and coexistence but instead simply breeds further hatred and intolerance. The government must immediately suspend all aid to the Palestinian Authority until it commits to wholesale and urgent revisions of the curriculum in line with UNESCO’s standards for peace and tolerance in school education.”
Marcus Sheff, chief executive of IMPACT-se, urged donors such as Britain to take action: “Donor nations who essentially fund the Palestinian Ministry of Education must insist on an education for these children based on UNESCO-derived standards of peace and tolerance. They deserve hope – and certainly a better future than these dangerous textbooks promote.”
DfID now says it is “planning to conduct a thorough assessment of the Palestinian curriculum and evidence and if we find evidence of material which incites violence, we will take action”.
In December 2016, the British government announced that it would tighten how it spends the £25m it sends annually to the PA, amid concerns raised by LFI about incitement.
DfID pledged that the money it spends helping fund the salaries of PA officials in the West Bank would in future “only go towards the salaries of health and education public servants on a vetted list”.
DfiD has a memorandum of understanding with the PA governing UK aid money which commits the PA to non-violence. Last year, then DfID secretary Priti Patel told Ms Ryan and LFI parliamentary supporter Ian Austin in a letter: “The MOU also includes a commitment from the PA to take action against incitement to violence, including addressing allegations of incitement in the education curriculum.”
Aside from its new curriculum, the PA names summer camps and schools after terrorists, and its officialmedia pumps out a diet of antisemitic incitement, which features heavily in children’s television programmes.
LFI has long campaigned on the issue of incitement. In March 2017, we published a dossier which revealed that more than 20 Palestinian schools in the West Bank and Gaza are named after terrorists or Nazi collaborators. Ms Ryan argued at the time: “As major donors, we passively write cheques to the PA (£125 million of taxpayers’ money has been pledged until 2021) without issuing any more than rote condemnations of its actions.”
She called once again for the government to make the PA stick to the funding agreements it has signed with DfID.
LFI has repeatedly urged the establishment of an independent cross-party inquiry to examine how UK aid spending in Israel-Palestine can best support a two-state solution.