Analysis: What is the PA teaching Palestinian children?

Earlier this year, Mahmoud Abbas told President Trump: “We are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”

It is not a claim that withstands much scrutiny. The Palestinian Authority which Abbas heads namessummer camps and schools after terrorists, and its official media pumps out a diet of antisemitic incitement, which even features in children’s television programmes.

And new evidence compiled by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education group (IMPACT-se) paints a damning portrait of the new curriculum the PA is using to teach Palestinian children to hate Israelis.

It is the first major reform conducted since 2000 when the PA introduced its initial curriculum following the Oslo Accords. IMPACT-se assessed it based on standards for peace and tolerance derived from UNESCO declarations.

The organisation details the manner in which incitement pervades subjects across the curriculum. For instance, a Grade 4 maths textbook asks students to calculate the number of martyrs in Palestinian uprisings as part of a maths exercise, while a Grade 7 science text book sees Newton’s Second Law taught through the image of a boy with a slingshot targeting soldiers.

IMPACT-se’s report concludes that “radicalisation is more pervasive across this new curriculum” than the one that it has replaced and that the curriculum “exerts pressure over young Palestinians to acts of violence in a more extensive and sophisticated manner”. It also asserts that “the curriculum’s focus appears to have expanded from demonisation of Israel to providing a rationale for war”.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the emphasis on the virtues of martyrdom. The curriculum teaches children about the PA’s support for the families of those who carry out terrorist attacks, and how they will be rewarded in paradise. Martydom and jihad are, in the words of one Grade 5 textbook, “the most important meanings of life”. “Drinking the cup of bitterness with glory,” it suggests, “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.

The PA also continues its practice of suggesting that Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque is somehow 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.

Thus there are no examples of cooperation between Israel and the PA. Instead, IMPACT-se suggest, there is 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. Maps of Palestine without Israel appear frequently in the curriculum. Indeed, one 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”.

In response to the report, LFI vice-chair John Woodcock has written to international development secretary Penny Mordaunt. In his letter, Mr Woodcock expresses “deep concern” that the curriculum constitutes a potential breach of the agreement between the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Palestinian Authority which governs UK aid to Palestine. The PA agreed in it to respect the principle of non-violence and curb incitement.

Mr Woodcock cites a letter from former DfID secretary Priti Patel to LFI chair Joan Ryan and parliamentary supporter Ian Austin in which she suggested: “You are correct to say that the Department for International Development (DfID) has a clause in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the PA has to adhere to the principle of non-violence. 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.”

A year ago, 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. Critically, DfID pledged that the money it spends helping fund the salaries of 30,000 PA officials in the West Bank would in future “only go towards the salaries of health and education public servants on a vetted list”.

In his letter to Ms Mordaunt, Mr Woodcock seeks an assurance that “none of those on that vetted list are civil servants at the PA Ministry of Education responsible for writing, approving or implementing this [new] curriculum”.

He also urged her to take a firm stance with the PA, writing: “The government should surely make clear that the continuance of the portion of its development funding which contributes to the salaries of Ministry of Education civil servants will be conditioned on the PA committing to revisions of the curriculum in line with UNESCO’s standards for peace and tolerance in school education.”

LFI has long campaigned on the issue of incitement. In March, we published a dossier which revealed that more than 20 Palestinian schools receiving cash in the West Bank and Gaza are named after terrorists or Nazi collaborators. Ms Ryan argued at the time: “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 (£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’s chair expressed particular concern over the fact that ministers refused to provide an assurance that none 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.

LFI has repeatedly urged the establishment of an independent cross-party inquiry to examine now UK aid spending in Israel-Palestine can best support a two-state solution.