LFI responds to revelations that the government’s PA curriculum review has examined the wrong textbooks

LFI has expressed deep concern about the latest revelations concerning a UK government-backed review on incitement to violence in the Palestinian Authority’s school curriculum.
 
The review appears to have mistakenly studied school books used by Israeli-Arab children, not Palestinian pupils, while three-quarters of the textbooks in an unpublished interim report are not taught in Palestinian schools.
 
The curriculum was introduced in September 2017 and is part-funded by the UK. DfID promised a review of the curriculum in spring 2018. It then announced it wanted an independent, international review and promised that its work would be completed by September 2019. The full much-delayed report is expected to be completed later this year.
 
An Interim Report, conducted by the Georg Eckert Institute and commissioned by the European Union, was due to completed in June 2020 but has not been published.
 
However, a presentation of the interim review obtained by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) has detailed serious flaws with the review. These include:

  • Researchers review the wrong books: A presentation of the EU’s Interim Report on the Palestinian curriculum praises the Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality Arabic textbooks, presented by the researchers as Palestinian Authority textbooks. In reality, specific examples which are singled out for praise by the researchers are not contained in PA textbooks, but those used by Israeli Arab pupils.
  • Three-quarters of the researched textbooks in the Interim Report are not taught in Palestinian schools. Only 24% (21 out of 85 books researched) covered in the grade 8-10 Interim Report are currently taught in the 2019-20 school year – 76% of the researched textbooks are no longer taught or used in PA schools. 
  • An already-released scoping report conducted by the GEI and paid for by the UK contains poor comprehension of Arabic, missing terminology and factual inaccuracies, according to research by IMPACT-se. This scoping report was finally released following a PQ from LFI vice-chair John Spellar. It contained basic Arabic translation errors, left out key words, showed a lack of familiarity with Palestinian culture, and quoted references to research that does not actually exist. For instance, the phrase for women who accompany Muslim believers in paradise (العين حور ) is mistranslated as “Horoscope”. Shimon Peres became “piers” that are constructed over bodies of water. The very well-known Palestinian phrase for rock-throwers – The Children of the Stones – becomes “children stones.”

The EU stated on 1 July 2020 that the Interim Report would not be published. UK government ministers claim that they favour transparency and publication of the report. It is unclear, however, why ministers – knowing that Britain was leaving the EU – chose to contract out the report to a body over which it no longer had any power. 

The curriculum extols the virtues of becoming a jihadi and includes schoolbooks that teach five-year-olds the word for “martyr” and “attack”. Teenagers are taught that those who sacrifice themselves will be rewarded with “72 virgin brides in paradise”.  Terrorists – such as Dalal Mughrabi, who led the infamous 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, in which 38 civilians, 13 of them children, died – are described as “heroes”.
 
The textbooks also contain violent poems which extol the virtues of “sacrificing blood”. Maths books ask nine-year-olds to calculate the number of “martyrs” who have died in uprisings against the Israelis – and put a picture of a funeral next to the exercise. A science exercise teaches Newton’s Second Law through the image of a boy with a slingshot targeting soldiers.
 
The schoolbooks include lessons in “jihad” or Holy War and contain antisemitic messages, such as accusing Jews of sexually molesting Muslim women and claiming that they attempted to kill the Prophet Mohammed.
 
Steve McCabe MP, Chair of LFI, said:
“The British government was first alerted to the problem of incitement to violence in the Palestinian Authority’s new curriculum by LFI nearly three years ago. It first denied the existence of this problem then pursued a series of delaying tactics. We now find it has spent UK taxpayers’ money on a review which appears deeply flawed and which we may never have the chance to see. The government is hiding behind the EU to escape accountability for its own inaction. The UK should immediately suspend all PA aid related to the delivery of the PA curriculum until wholesale and urgent revisions are guaranteed.”
 

Following these revelations, LFI vice-chair, Rt Hon John Spellar MP, wrote to the Middle East minister, James Cleverly MP, raising important questions concerning the joint UK/ EU review of Palestinian Authority textbooks.

Mr Spellar writes:
“Specific examples which are singled out for praise by the researchers are not contained in PA textbooks, but those used by pupils in the Jerusalem Municipality’s Arabic-language schools. If this is not an error, I’d be grateful for an explanation as to what interest the British government and EU have in studying textbooks which are funded by Israeli taxpayers and which are not used in PA schools?

Mr Spellar adds “if accurate, IMPACT-se’s allegations seriously undermine the credibility of the textbook review and call into question its utility as a means to deal with the issue of incitement to violence in the PA curriculum.”

He concludes:
“You have now suggested that, while you would like to see the review published, it is the property of the EU. Given that ministers were well aware at the time they opted for an international review that Britain was leaving the EU, I find the decision to opt for a process over which the UK would effectively have no control or ownership a curious one.” 

Read his full letter here.