On 11 March 1978, Dalal Mughrabi led a group of 11 fellow Palestinian and Lebanese militants ashore on a Tel Aviv beach. After murdering a young American woman who was taking photographs and killing the occupants of a passing taxi, they seized a bus heading to Tel Aviv. Thirty-eight civilians, 13 of them children, died in the “Coastal Road Massacre”, Israel’s most lethal terrorist attack.
It is an event of which President Abbas’s Palestinian Authority is clearly proud. So proud, that it has named three schools after Mughrabi.
Nor is this a one-off. More than 20 schools in the West Bank and Gaza honour individuals who have been responsible for planning or executing the most horrendous attacks of violence.
The most recent addition to this roll call of dishonour is the Salah Khalaf Elementary School for Boys, in the northern West Bank, the cornerstone of which was laid last September. Khalaf, who has a further another two schools named after him, was the head of the Black September terrorist group, which murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
Abu Jihad, who headed the PLO’s terrorist wing and planned attacks which led to the deaths of 125 Israelis; Shadia Abu Ghazaleh, who was one of the first female Palestinian terrorists; and Abu Ali Iyad, who was responsible for a string of attacks on Israeli civilians in the late 1960s are all among those the PA’s Ministry of Education has deemed worthy of having schools named after them.
The PA has not only chosen terrorists from the period before the Oslo Accords to hold up as role models for children. Ahmed Yassin, who has a school in Jenin named after him, was the founder of Hamas and led the terrorist organisation during the Second Intifada in which hundreds of Israelis were killed and injured. Similarly, Nash’at Abu Jabara – immortalised in the Martyr Nash’at Abu Jabara High School for Girls in the West Bank city of Tulkarem – was a member of Hamas who built suicide belts used in the wave of suicide bombings during that deadly period.
And the PA does not confine itself to modern-day or Palestinian purveyors of hate and terror. El Bireh is home not only to a number of its ministries but to the Amin Al-Husseini Elementary School. Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the inter-war period, was a notorious Nazi collaborator who spent the war broadcasting pro-Axis, anti-British, and anti-Jewish propaganda to the Arab world; inciting violence against Jews and the British authorities in the Middle East; and encouraging young Muslims to join the German military, the SS and auxiliary units.
The intent of this policy – to glorify terrorists and antisemites – and its impact are not hard to discern. Indeed, as research by Palestinian Media Watch has shown, children attending schools named after so-called martyrs are well-aware that they are being encouraged to view them as ‘models’ and, in the words of one, to ‘follow [their] path’.
Palestinian children are subjected to a barrage of antisemitic incitement by the Palestinian Authority. Sports tournaments and youth camps are named after terrorists, including some of the perpetrators of the ongoing “knife Intifada”. Programmes on official PA TV aimed at very young children serve up a similarly distasteful diet. Take, for instance, a poem which has been recited by children on a number of occasions in recent years which refers to Jews as “barbaric monkeys”, “wretched pigs” and “filth”.
The prime responsibility for this poisoning of young minds rests with the Palestinian Authority but western governments – including our own – must bear responsibility too. As major donors, we passively write cheques to the PA (£125m of taxpayers’ money has been pledged until 2021) without issuing any more than rote condemnations of its actions.
But those actions directly contravene the very purpose for which we are giving money to the PA in the first place: to support a two-state solution. How does it advance the cause of peace for another generation of Palestinians to be reared in the belief that Jews are not their future neighbours, but their sworn enemies, and that their legitimate aspirations for a state of their own can be attained by violence?
Just before Christmas, in response to concerns about the PA’s policy of paying “salaries” to convicted Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons – a policy which cost it over £100m in 2015 – the government announced some tweaks to its approach. Henceforth, we were assured, “UK support will now focus solely on vital health and education services … Funding will only go towards the salaries of health and education public servants on a vetted list”.
I support funding the PA and agree with the government that funding teachers, doctors and nurses is a good use of our aid money. But I don’t believe that we can simply ignore and be silent on the question of incitement. Indeed, the Department for International Development could not even tell me whether any of the several thousand teachers and other “essential” education public servants it helps pay the salaries of work in schools named after terrorists and Nazi collaborators.
DfiD is currently conducting its annual review of the agreement which governs its relationship with the PA. Among the “Partnership Principles” the PA are supposedly committed to is respecting the principle of non-violence and respect for human rights. Last year, ministers repeatedly refused to publish the outcome of this review, while assuring us – despite all evidence to the contrary – that the PA was living up to its undertakings. Our government needs to start truly making the PA stick to the promises it has made. It can start to show its intention to do so by publishing this year’s review.
Rt Hon Joan Ryan MP is Chair, Labour Friends of Israel