(December 19, 2019 / JNS) The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill which will require the U.S. secretary of state to review Palestinian Authority and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) educational materials on an annual basis.
The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act (H.R. 2343) was introduced by Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by two additional Democrats and two additional Republicans. The legislation is the result of a report by educational watchdog group Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se).
“The new Palestinian curriculums fail to meet the international standards of peace and tolerance in educational materials established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,” the bill states. “Textbooks used by the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA encourage war, and teach children that Palestinian statehood can be achieved through violence.”
“It is unacceptable [that] the [P.A. and UNRWA] textbooks … are used to delegitimize Israel and demonize the Jewish people,” said IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff. “We must demand transparency over the anti-Israel textbooks in this program that are fueling another generation of hate.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee supports the bill, a spokesperson told JNS.
“After 25 years of mind-numbing credulity since the Oslo Accords, it is wondrous and wonderful to see that American politicians have woken to the fact that Palestinian educational institutions systematically instill hatred of Jews and Israel in their children,” Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes told JNS. “Better, Congress wants to alert the world to this abomination.”
Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, remarked that the proposed legislation isn’t the first time Congress has sought oversight of UNRWA.
“While I support the intent and objectives of [the bill] it is not the first time the U.S. has demanded transparency and accountability in UNRWA schools which has also been used as launching pads for Hamas rockets,” he told JNS. “Proper auditing needs to be done by external evaluators while simultaneously looking at the school materials which spread hate rather than reconciliation.”
In February, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office accused the U.S. State Department of misleading Congress over recent couple years regarding actions by UNRWA over the distribution of textbooks that promote Palestinian violence against Israel. For months, the GAO blocked the report’s release due to the State Department requesting it be classified.
A 2017 UNRWA-funded textbook for Arab students offers a revisionist history of Israel as part of its goal to incite violence against Israelis.
“Since the Zionist movement established in 1856 its first settlement, known as ‘Montefioriyyah’ [Mishkenot Sha’ananim, built by Sir Moses Montefiore before the emergence of modern Zionism], south-west of the Jerusalem city wall, the series of division [actions] in Palestine has not stopped,” according to social-studies book for ninth-graders funded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, which was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1949 to assist Arabs who became refugees during Israel’s War of Independence the previous year.
“It [i.e., the Zionist movement] established settlements that included training centers and arms depots. After the ‘Catastrophe’ [Nakba in Arabic] of 1948 it ruled over more than 78% of Palestine’s territory,” continues the text. “More than 850 thousand Palestinians were made to emigrate and they and their families lived in refugee camps in Palestine and in the Diaspora. Nothing of it [Palestine] was left, except the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that were occupied [later] in 1967.”
Palestine has never been a state.
In 1947, the United Nations offered a partition plan of the land that the British occupied and then left, which was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs. The following year, the State of Israel declared independence, leading to victory in war over its neighbors.
The Palestinians have been offered statehood numerous times, only for its leadership to reject each offer and respond with further violence.
“While UNRWA purports to be part of the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is the gatekeeper of the very problem it claims to want to solve,” said Romirowsky.
“Peace education—a curriculum that reinforces the benefits of peace and discourages hate, violence, and intolerance—is among the most important ingredients for the resolution of conflicts,” Academic Engagement Network executive director Miriam Elman told JNS. “Even if Israeli and Palestinian leaders could reach an agreement tomorrow, it could only be sustained if people on both sides have come to appreciate one another’s fears, hopes, and interests as legitimate. That’s why educating for peace is so essential.”
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