Attempt to blame violence on Palestinian school textbooks fails to win support

A campaign by MPs in Conservative Friends of Israel to blame acts of violence by young Palestinians on “incitement” in their Palestinian school textbooks failed to win any clear endorsement from Government ministers.

A report commissioned by the European Union, which examined over 150 Palestinian text books, came to the conclusion that “the textbooks adhere to UNESCO standards and adopt criteria that are prominent in international education discourse, including a strong focus on human rights”.

Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD) pointed out that Israeli school textbooks “often include the West Bank as part of Israel” and do not show the internationally-recognised border between Israel and Palestine.

The EU report had focused on Palestinian textbooks and “there has not been the same rigorous analysis of educational standards within Israel.”

Image of Israel as shown in Israeli school textbook. The West Bank has almost completely disappeared. 

Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) (Lab) said the Israeli lobbying group that had been leading the campaign, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, was “a completely discredited organisation.

Schools in Israel

“I recently saw footage on social media from a religious school in Israel where children taking part in a question and answer session were caught saying that in 10 years’ time the al-Aqsa mosque would not be there, a temple would be built on the site, and the only Arabs surviving would be slaves.”

What had far more impact on the reality of inciting violence among Palestinian children was the fact that 66 Palestinian children were killed and 600 wounded in Gaza this year. “Palestinian children have been beaten up and arrested in the West Bank, and they still endure midnight raids, interrogation, detention and military trial. They go to school under threat from Israeli settlers and 53 Palestinian schools in the West Bank are subject to threats of demolition.”

Former UK Middle East Minister Alistair Burt had said that the UK Government’s assessment is that “the IMPACT-se report was not objective in its findings and lacked methodological rigour”.

Overall its report was “generalising and exaggerating. Some claims were made on the basis of partial or subjective reading of the text, some findings are presented out of context.”

“Headed in Right Direction” – Brendan O’Hara

Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP) said the report says that, while still not perfect, the changes recently made to the curriculum show that the Palestinian Authority are heading in the right direction, and the report significantly tempers some of the wilder accusations and allegations that we have heard from certain quarters.

“It did not find that, in the context of a region where, for the best part of a century, there has been active armed conflict, the depiction of the “other side” in the school textbooks as an aggressor or as violent necessarily equated to that igniting hatred.

“Indeed, the report goes on to say that it is important to acknowledge that such indicators are generally very rare and that there are also numerous instances of the school textbooks calling for tolerance, mercy, forgiveness and justice.”

The EU commissioned repot said that IMPACT-se’s report was “marked by generalising and exaggerated conclusions based on methodological shortcomings.”

Foreign Office minister James Duddridge said it was “positive that the textbooks analysed were found to adhere to UNESCO guidelines on human rights and generally to promote political pluralism and cultural, social and religious values that support co-existence. 

“We agree with the broad thrust of the report that there has been progress and there are still areas where progress needs to be made. The overall conclusion was that the materials conformed to the UNESCO standards. We agree with the thrust absolutely.”

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