update deskU.S. News

House passes bill requiring annual report on Palestinian teaching materials

The report, which would be publicly available, would cover "textbooks, leaflets, pamphlets, magazines, and other instructional materials."

Boys at an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip, September 2011. Credit: Shareef Sarhan/U.N. Photo.
Boys at an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip, September 2011. Credit: Shareef Sarhan/U.N. Photo.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would require the U.S. secretary of state to issue an annual public report on teaching materials “in schools in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority or located in Gaza and controlled by any other entity.”

“Among other topics, the report must address (1) whether the materials used encourage violence or intolerance toward other nations or ethnic groups, (2) the steps the Palestinian Authority is taking to reform such materials and (3) whether U.S. foreign assistance is used to fund the dissemination of the offending materials,” per H.R.3266, the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act.

The House passed the bill, which Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) introduced with Reps. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and David Trone (D-Md.), on Nov. 1.

The legislation, which drew 30 more co-sponsors, heads next to the Senate.

If passed, it would require the U.S. State Department to produce an annual report on the “textbooks, leaflets, pamphlets, magazines and other instructional materials” used in Palestinian schools.

Textbooks that the Palestinian Authority uses in Judea and Samaria “include graphics portraying violence against Israeli soldiers, positive portrayals of individuals who have committed attacks against citizens of Israel and references to Palestinian efforts to target the ‘Zionists,'” according to the bill.

“P.A. textbooks are used at schools sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) because UNRWA schools use the textbooks of the host government,” the bill added.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office 2018 report found that Palestinian schools use “inaccurate and misleading maps of the region and include militaristic, adversarial imagery and content that incite hatred,” according to the bill.

“The Department of State raised with Palestinian officials the objectionable content in textbooks, including a specific math problem using the number of Palestinian casualties in the First and Second Intifadas,” per the bill. “UNRWA, in its review of the textbooks, identified content not aligned with United Nations values, the majority of which content related to neutrality or bias issues, including issues related to maps and references to Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”

“It is the sense of Congress that the Palestinian Authority has not sufficiently eliminated content and passages encouraging violence or intolerance toward other countries or ethnic groups from the curriculum used in their schools,” the bill added.

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America applauded the bill’s passage in the House.

“This bill takes on a great deal more urgency following the Oct. 7 massacre,” stated Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.

“Let’s be crystal clear: This modern-day pogrom was conducted with relish by thousands, with the majority likely graduates of UNRWA education in Gaza,” he added. “Where did they learn to ‘cut the necks of the enemy’? Where were they taught that ‘Jews spread corruption which will lead to their annihilation’? More than half of UNRWA’s budget is earmarked for education. No decent society can continue paying for this horror.”

Ahead of the vote, Sherman, one of the bill’s original sponsors, asked how the horror of Oct. 7 happened. “It occurs when generations are raised to hate, to kill, to behead, to murder, and it is a product of the schools that we have seen for decades on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” the California congressman said.

‘Framework for cooperation’

“We should not be surprised that there is therefore significant support for the Hamas doctrine—from the River to the Sea, all Jews must be killed,” he said. “That is their position. That is what holds their organization together.”

“And I know the scenes that come now from Gaza are horrific. People say, ‘Let’s stop the fighting. Let’s have a ceasefire.’ Well, what would happen then? We don’t have to wonder, because just today Ghazi Hamad, a high-ranking official of Hamas, said exactly what would happen,” Sherman said. “He said, ‘We will repeat Oct. 7 one, two, three, four, five times, as many times as it takes until Israel is annihilated.’ That’s what happens if we have a ceasefire unless we have the kind of ceasefire that we should have. One in which Hamas releases all the hostages and disarms. Then we can have a ceasefire.”

The congressman noted that U.S. tax dollars provide more than half of the support for UNRWA schools, while oil-rich Arab states pay only a small portion.

“When we resumed funding for UNRWA in 2021, it was with the understanding that these schools would change, and we reached the 2021 framework for cooperation,” he said. “So far, not so good. … Education for terrorism has continued.”

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