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EU’s Borrell against conditioning aid on PA dropping antisemitic textbooks

I will not allow the Palestinian Authority to risk bankruptcy, the E.U. foreign policy chief says.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell in Brussels, Oct. 7, 2019. Credit: European Parliament via Wikimedia Commons.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell in Brussels, Oct. 7, 2019. Credit: European Parliament via Wikimedia Commons.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Saturday that he is against making financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority conditional on it removing hateful and antisemitic content from school textbooks.

The European Parliament passed a resolution last Wednesday condemning the P.A. for incitement to violence, hatred and antisemitism in its school textbooks for the fourth consecutive year and calling on the E.U. to freeze funding to the P.A. until its curriculum aligns with UNESCO standards.

A Palestinian Authority textbook. Credit: Matzav.com.

“The Palestinian Authority is in a difficult situation and it risks bankruptcy if financing from the E.U. is blocked. As high representative [for foreign affairs and security policy], I will not allow it,” Borrell told AFP.

The International Legal Forum, a global network of more than 4,000 lawyers and activists committed to combating antisemitism, including in the E.U., wrote a letter to Borrell calling on him to reconsider his position.

“With all due respect, this is [about] ensuring accountability and that E.U. aid money goes towards projects that promote peace, tolerance and E.U. values…. We know you seek to make a positive contribution to peace in the region, and therefore call on you to unequivocally demand that the Palestinian Authority remove all antisemitic material from their textbooks and undertake not to use E.U. funds for ‘Pay to Slay’ salaries, as a precondition to further E.U. aid,” said the letter.

The letter was referring to Ramallah’s policy of paying monthly stipends to terrorists jailed in Israel and to the families of dead terrorists.

The European Parliament resolution passed 421 to 151 with 5 abstentions and garnered support from major center-left and center-right parties. The Parliament voted down five attempts to delete the resolution following a campaign by the Palestinian delegation to Brussels and pro-Palestinian NGOs.

“The Palestinian Authority lobbied hard in Brussels against this resolution but found itself up against the hard reality of its hateful school curriculum and the anger and frustration of European Parliament members with a Palestinian national strategy of inciting schoolchildren to hate and violence on their dime, year after year,” said Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), an Israeli nonprofit that monitors school textbooks worldwide.

The resolution follows an earlier announcement by E.U. Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi, whose department oversees all aid to the P.A., that the E.U. “will make sure it’s not funding Palestinian textbooks that incite against Israel.”

Following a meeting with Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Várhelyi promised that the E.U. would fund an additional study into incitement and antisemitism in P.A. textbooks.

However, Borrell threw cold water on the prospect of stopping funding to the P.A.

“There is no discussion about looking for excuses about blocking this financial aid. On this point I’m firm,” he said.

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