EU finally releases report on Palestinian textbooks; it confirms textbooks teach antisemitism and incitement to violence
- Report condemns curriculum for teaching antisemitism, incitement to violence, jihad and delegitimization of Israel.
- Following report, a cross-party EU parliament group of 22 members send letter to President of EU Commission demanding aid be withheld to the PA.
- Leader of largest EU party condemns Palestinian textbooks for teaching children to hate Israel and Jews. Criticizes use of EU funds to promote antisemitism.
- Vice chairman of EU Parliament’s budget affairs committee calls for 5% reserve on Palestinian aid.
- Report was completed in February 2021 after years in the making. Was held by EU for months, despite being ready.
- IMPACT-se has independently assessed the report. It confirms many of IMPACT-se’s findings over the last five years.
- There are serious shortcomings in the report, both in relation to presentation of findings and what the reviewers missed.
- The report makes sweeping conclusions about positive changes in 2020 based on some books that were not in the curriculum.
- IMPACT-se has worked extensively alongside members of the EU Parliament over the last five years on this issue. Parliament passed unprecedented resolutions condemning incitement in PA textbooks and demanding EU aid be made conditional on teaching peace.
IMPACT-se’s preliminary assessment of EU report can be found here.
IMPACT-se’s May 2021 report on the current PA curriculum can be found here.
Selected examples of changes in the 2020–21 PA curriculum can be found here.
Dear <<First Name>>,
The European Union’s official report
on Palestinian textbooks, published today, slams the Palestinian curriculum for antisemitism, encouragement to violence against civilians, glorification of terrorists and their acts, encouragement of jihad and martyrdom, delegitimization of Israel, and removal of peaceful content.
The report was completed in February 2021. This is despite statements over the last few months made by governments that report was not in fact complete.
Last week, a group of 22 members from all major parties in the European Parliament sent a letter
to the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, demanding withholding of aid over “preach[ing] anti-Semitism, incitement, and the glorification of violence and terrorism… violating fundamental EU values and our declared goal to help advance peace and the Two State Solution.”
Following the exposure
of the report by leading German newspaper BILD
lawmakers criticized the EU Commission for suppressing the report.
MEP Niclas Herbst, Vice Chairman of the EU Parliament budgetary affairs committee said
, “the secrecy of the EU Commission is counterproductive and incomprehensible.” And called for a 5% reserve on EU funding to the PA and UNRWA, stating the withheld funds should be redirected towards NGOs that adhere to UNESCO standards until the PA removes all hate and incitement from its textbooks.
Last month, the leader of largest and most influential EU party (EPP), Max Weber, condemned
Palestinian textbooks for teaching children to hate Israel and Jews and criticized use of EU funds to promote antisemitism.
More detailed information:
IMPACT-se has independently assessed
the EU report which highlights numerous instances of antisemitism and incitement to violence in Palestinian textbooks.
The report confirms that antisemitism, glorification of terrorists and their acts, calls to jihad and martyrdom, negation of Israel’s existence and messages which exacerbate the conflict are present throughout the PA curriculum
; however, there are also serious shortcomings in the report, namely in terms of how it presents findings and what it missed
- The report makes sweeping conclusions about positive changes in 2020 based on books that neither we nor the researchers can ascertain were ever taught- they were not on the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education portal when the report was written, nor were there print versions ever in circulation
- The reviewer, the Georg Eckert Institute (GEI), acknowledges this fact but buries it in footnotes of report; these 2020-21 first semester books were supplied to GEI directly by the EU at the end of the semester
- The report confirms that “the review of these books was added after the analysis of the Report had been finalised.”
- The Executive Summary and Conclusion are incongruent with the body of the report; they argue that textbooks align with UNESCO standards, while the actual analysis of the report shows widespread antisemitism, violence, dehumanization, and rejection of peace, a clear violation of UNESCO standards
- The authors strain to justify problematic findings; miss blatant violations of UNESCO standards in books the analyze, and they actively amplify singular positive messages to create an artificial sense of balance
Negative Material Identified by GEI:
The report confirms that PA textbooks contain:
1. Antisemitism – Antisemitic tropes from early Islam, such as treachery and greed, are applied to modern context; Jews are deindividualized and historic Jewish connection to the land is omitted.
- “The chapter [‘the Female Companions of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)'] therefore sends the message that the Jews as a collective are dangerous and deceptive, and demonizes them. It generates feelings of hatred toward Jews and […] must be characterized as anti-Semitic.” (p. 89)
- “That the Jews in the Jewish sector of the Old City had had synagogues for centuries, some of which had been destroyed in the Jordanian occupation and rebuilt after 1967, is presented here as though the ‘Zionists’ had built those synagogues with the effect of altering the Arab-Islamic character of the Old City. “ (p. 98)
- “[a] textbook provides a learning context that displays anti-Semitic motives and links characteristics and actions attributed to Jews at the dawn of Islam to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.“ (p.172)
2. Celebration of Terrorists – report has entire sub-chapter on glorification of Dalal al-Mughrabi; led attack Israeli civilians that killed 38, including 13 children. Textbooks call it an act of “defiance and heroism, which made her memory immortal in our hearts and minds.”
3. Rejection of Peacemaking or Reconciliation
– report confirms that peace agreements, negotiations post-Oslo Accords, previously included in curriculum, have been removed. Notes passages consciously omitted from Oslo letters about non-violence and reconciliation.
- “While earlier textbook editions did mention initiatives of the peace process subsequent to the Oslo Accords, these are no longer present in the textbooks analysed for this Report.” (p. 123)
- “It is, however, important to note […] the omission of a passage that speaks of beginning a new era of peaceful coexistence free of violence reflects the current situation between the two parties, which does not provide a roadmap to non-violence and peace acceptable to all sides involved. The second significant omission refers to the undertaking by the PLO to require all its elements, armed groups and their respective members to renounce violence.” (p. 121)
- “The current textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority contain only faint echoes of the short-lived rapprochement and reconciliation process that became known as the Oslo peace process. […] the depiction of peaceful attempts to resolve the conflict is limited to a few pages in ‘Geography of Palestine and its Modern and Contemporary History 10/II’ from 2019.” (p. 118)
- “History and (some) social studies textbooks present violence perpetrated by Palestinians as a legitimate means of resistance in certain periods of Palestinian history […] Terrorist operations are presented as a necessary means during a historical phase in the Palestinian struggle.” (p. 172-3)
– violence against civilians found central to narrative of “Palestinian nation-building,” textbooks amplify violence against Palestinians “to dehumanize the Israeli adversary,” Arabic textbooks refer to violence against Israelis as acts of “heroic struggle.”
5. Jihad and Martyrdom
- “As a type of ‘military operation’, violence against civilians is also presented as part of the narrative of resistance.” (p. 123)
- “[…] in this textbook for year 8 the wounding or even killing of the opponent is presented in a positive light.” (p. 111)
- “Even if no explicit call to violence is present, it is clear that telling this story immediately before setting the exercise will influence the students’ answers so that a violent solution to the conflict with the ‘Jewish Zionist occupation’ might be suggested.” (p. 89)
- “The depiction of the Aqsa Mosque corresponds with the significance of Palestine’s Islamic identity, presented in the text, and the constant threat represented by the ‘occupation,’ while the national resistance fighter (masked by a keffiyeh) suggests that the liberation of Palestine might be achievable through violent resistance. While this representation does not explicitly call for violence, it can be seen as carrying highly escalatory potential.” (p. 80)
- “Resistance is defined as ‘confronting the coloniser by peaceful or military means, or both, to respond to injury, maintain existence and identity, and gain freedom. It is a legitimate right confirmed by monotheistic canons and international conventions”. (p. 107)
- “Although a ‘right to resist’ as such is not explicitly confirmed in internationally recognized human rights documents, it is introduced as a quasi-legal term in some of the textbooks.” (p. 63)
– outside spiritual contexts, violent jihad and martyrdom are taught in multiple subjects, frequently used in praise of violence by Palestinians against Israeli civilians.
6. Delegitimization of Israel
- “The naming of persons as shuhada [martyr] follows an inconsistent pattern, this title being applied both to innocent victims of Israeli violence as well as to protagonists of Palestinian violence against civilians." (p. 74)
- “The term shahīd [martyr] is almost exclusively used in the context of the conflict and applied to two different groups: to individuals killed while committing violent attacks against Israel and to victims of violence who were themselves not actively involved.” (p. 171)
- “One in eight references to jihād in Social Studies 7/II relates to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East: ‘the Palestinian freedom struggle as jihād’. (p. 73)
- “Islamic Education 8/II contains a whole lesson on jihād in the context of military fighting. Students are asked to discuss related topics and concepts such as mujāhid (مجاهد), (someone who engages in jihād and shahāda), here in the sense of someone killed in combat […]. (p. 72)
– GEI confirms Israel not referred to by name, textbooks erase Israel from maps and assert ownership over Jewish-founded cities as well. Almost no portrayal of individual Israeli ‘Other’, when present referred to solely in pejorative terms.
Criticisms of the Report:
- “When examining the textbook excerpts relating to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, its history and the present situation, it is striking that the State of Israel is rarely mentioned by name.” (p. 68)
- “The cartographic representations of an imagined All-Palestine, either as a political entity or an imagined homeland, generally do not include a spatial representation of the State of Israel or of cities founded by Jewish immigrants. The State of Israel and cities such as Tel Aviv are not charted on these maps.” (p. 95)
- “In general, portrayals of violence perpetrated by the Israeli protagonists present them as a homogenous entity mostly referred to as the ‘(Zionist) occupation’ or by similar epithets. On the rare occasions in which individual Israelis do occur in the books, they are de-individualized as violent representatives of a negatively connoted collective, such as soldiers or settlers.” (p.172)
- “[…] maps specifically depicting this region are irredentist and portray […] a territorially whole Palestine, as an imagined homeland, within the borders of the British mandate. This imagined territorial entity of Palestine negates the existence of the State of Israel. None of the geographical maps of the region or symbolic or iconographic presentations of the territory identified in the corpus depicts Israel as a state.” (pp. 75-76). “The State of Israel and cities like Tel-Aviv are not mentioned in the maps. Sites or cities located in Israel with large Arab populations […] are incorporated into the imagined All-Palestine, as are landscape formations that lie within Israeli state territory.” (p. 122)
- The report only covered a small portion of the curriculum (15% of 2020-21 books, 43.6% of overall curriculum) and ignored blatant incitement and antisemitism within the books they evaluated (inexhaustive list):
- Justification of Munich Olympics terrorist attack as “Zionist interests abroad” (History, Grade 11)
- An antisemitic image of an arm branded with Star of David holding a globe (History, Grade 11)
- Tropes of Jews controlling media, finance and politics (Geography, Grade 10)
- Authors strain to achieve ‘balance’ and make excuses for hateful material:
- Systematic antisemitism is forgiven “within a context of highly virulent conflict in which the State of Israel defines itself in national terms as a Jewish state,”- hatred of Jews is justified as Israel is a Jewish state
- Encouragement to violence and gratuitous politicization in math and science textbooks is justified as providing “real-life connections”
- The erasure of Israel and its Jewish population on maps is defended as “an important unifying symbol of Palestinian identity”
- Examples of hateful content removed from 2020 books are highlighted but similar or identical examples remaining in other places within the same books are ignored
- Example: reviewers note a math example of calculating martyrs from the intifadas was replaced with one about Israel stealing land (which they call an improvement)
- Example: the reviewer notes that an exercise demonstrating Newton’s Second Law through a slingshot being used in violent confrontation has been removed however, they ignore several other violent real life connections used to teach science in the same 2020 textbook
- The report selectively and misleadingly uses quantitative analysis to make qualitative arguments:
- Asserts that only 5% of math and science examples invoke the conflict – equivalent to saying ‘only 1 in 20 pages of a children’s book contains gore and foul language’
- Quantitative not applied to positive examples – a single instance where Israel is recognized is repeatedly referenced to make it seem more frequent than it is
- The report argues improvements were made in 2020 based on books that were never given to Palestinian students – GEI admits in footnotes (p. 138, 149, 150) they can’t verify, but nonetheless makes conclusions based on them
- These books were supplied to GEI in PDF format directly by the EU after the semester was over
- The report correctly identifies problematic messages but fails to objectively convey their gravity or destructive potential – this appears to be a conscious choice by the authors to appear ‘balanced’:
- The strongest criticisms are buried within the body of the report, and they repeatedly use vague, misleading statements to describe their observations
- Example: “The authors [of the book] come close to propagating a conspiracy theory”
- At the same time, the report highlights ‘positive’ messages in headings and conclusions
- Example: The introduction to the report makes no mention of the removal of all references in the textbooks to the peace process post-Oslo Accords, although this is found in the main body of the report
- The report attacks textbooks revised by Israel for East Jerusalem, endorsing a view that this is “a policy of power that introduces and centers the Israeli-dominant narrative even if by omission.”
- These same exact books were praised in the report for having “examples that peaceful coexistence and cooperative activities” as well as “inserted passages [that] refer to cultural, religious or historical aspects shared by ‘Jews and Arabs’ (referring to Palestinians)”
- GEI observes that even seemingly positive aspects of the curriculum, like emphasis on human rights, are taught solely in relation to violations of Palestinian rights by Israel; fringe ideas like a ‘right of resistance’ are taught, violence against Israelis never contemplated as a violation of human rights
- The report also notes “the dominant representation of coexistence in the textbooks is religious coexistence between Christians and Muslims; other religions are rarely addressed.” Political or national coexistence is completely absent from textbooks, no promotion of peacemaking or dialogue.
- Reviewers point to some changes as “reducing escalatory potential”, when in fact they remain highly volatile
- Example: An antisemitic example accusing “the Jews” of desecrating the tombs of Muslims was altered in the 2020 edition, replacing the words “the Jews” with “The Zionist Occupation"
- Example: A portrait of Dalal al-Mughrabi was replaced with one where she is seen with her hair exposed and in civilian clothing, which reviewers claim “tones down the militancy in her portrayal” while the same chapter exalts her act as “heroic” and “immortal” in the “hearts and minds” of Palestinians
- Example: Reviewers fail to note that a list of Palestinian heroes replaced Dalal al-Mughrabi with Khalil al-Sakakini, a well-known antisemite and Nazi sympathizer, while the reference to Mughrabi was simply moved to another point in the chapter
- Reviewers ignored examples from 2020 books they reviewed that were made worse or mostly stayed intact:
- Example: Jihad, previously taught as a private obligation for every Muslim, was made more specific in 2020 and is now taught as a private obligation for every Muslim for “the liberation of Palestine”
- Example: A lesson on jihad and martyrdom was linked more explicitly with the conflict, asking students to list sites of jihad wars specifically in Palestine
- Example: In a chapter criticizing Egypt’s peace with Israel, a factual sentence about the normalization of political and economic relations established between the two countries was removed