PA suspends ties with UNRWA over planned curriculum reform

Exchange to any letter to appease any party is a betrayal of the Palestinian narrative’

Proposed changes to textbooks by UN agency, welcomed by Israel, reportedly include revised maps, a ‘balanced representation of Jerusalem,’ and excision of messages seen as incitement

BY DOV LIEBER, TOI April 13, 2017,

Palestinian children at a school in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry on Thursday announced it was suspending ties with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over plans by the international agency to reform its curriculum.

The Palestinian ministry, in a statement published on its official website, called the possible revisions to the curriculum an “affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles,” and said the suspension would continue until the UN agency’s “positions are corrected.”

UNRWA has over 312,000 students in its schools across the West Bank and East Jerusalem (together, 50,000) and the Gaza Strip (262,000).

The UN agency has not formally published any plans to alter its curriculum, but leaks to the Arab press of possible changes have led to outrage over recent weeks in Gaza and the West Bank.

The changes, according to Arab media reports, include revisions to maps of Palestine to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities, a practice that numerous studies of Palestinian textbooks have labeled as “incitement.” Other changes were reportedly planned to tone down praise for Palestinian prisoners and improve Israel’s image.

According to a March report by COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, part of the reform to the UNRWA curriculum “is a balanced representation of Jerusalem as having religious significance to the three major monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and mentioning that Muslim believers have access to the holy sites.”

“UNRWA additionally sought to amend textbooks in cases where the content showed gender bias, lacked objectivity, and incited violence against Israel,” COGAT added.

The Israeli government, US State Department, and independent organizations have for many years accused the Palestinian education system, including UNRWA schools, of educating Palestinian children to hate Israel and support violence.

Palestinian teachers at a government school in Gaza City on September 13, 2014 (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Palestinian teachers at a government school in Gaza City on September 13, 2014 (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

COGAT praised the proposed changes as an effort “to create a balanced, positive curriculum with universal values free from violence and incitement.”

A representative of the Palestinian Authority Education Ministry refused to speak with The Times of Israel.

“Any distortion of the Palestinian curriculum is a flagrant violation of the laws of the host country, and any change to any letter to appease any party is a betrayal of the Palestinian narrative and the right of the Palestinian people under occupation to preserve its identity and struggle,” the PA ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for UNRWA, wrote in a statement to The Times of Israel that the UN agency “has worked with the PA for years and has a long track record as a partner teaching children in a highly complex environment.”

Chris Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman in Gaza, shortly before breaking into tears during a television interview during the 50-day summer conflict, July 30, 2014. (photo credit: screen capture YouTube/Kaya Bouma)

Chris Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman in Gaza, shortly before breaking into tears during a television interview during the 50-day summer conflict, July 30, 2014. (photo credit: screen capture YouTube/Kaya Bouma)

“UNRWA schools follow the curriculum of the host authority, a practice agreed in 1954 with the support of UNESCO and reaffirmed following the Oslo Accords. It is UNRWA policy to review and where appropriate enrich the official PA textbooks, curricula and other learning materials used in UNRWA schools to ensure compliance with UN values and principles,” the statement added.

A report published earlier this month by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), said that the 2016-2017 elementary school curriculum in the PA “teaches students to be martyrs, demonizes and denies the existence of Israel, and focuses on a ‘return’ to an exclusively Palestinian homeland.”

The Israeli government has long argued that incitement in Palestinian textbooks is a main contributor to terrorism against Israelis. The issue has taken on increasing significance of late, as members of the United States Congress have threatened to decrease aid to Palestinians if incitement is not curbed.

April 14, 2017 | Comments Off on PA suspends ties with UNRWA over planned curriculum reform | 73 views

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4 Comments / 0 Comments

  1. UNRWA has over 312,000 students in its schools across the West Bank and East Jerusalem (together, 50,000) and the Gaza Strip (262,000). editors corrections should read ‘312,000 terrorists in training.’ ‘JUDAH – SAMERIA.’ ‘eastern JERUSALEM.’ ‘illegally occupied Gaza strip.’

  2. This move is so quintessentially Arafat, it hardly passes as “news”. Fatah and friends need to be declared as terrorist organizations, the PA needs to be dissolved, and the failed Oslo Accords need to be pronounced dead. Then SERIOUS, MEANINGFUL negotiations about what to do with this bunch of violent, irrational people can begin as soon as Jordan and Egypt are willing to partner with Israel to govern them.

    The above is a rational approach, so don’t expect it to be implemented. Ultimately, President Kushner will give his dictat concerning Israel, Israel will reject it, and the UN will attack Israel. The only question left, is “When?”. I would say, “somewhere between 2028 and 2031”

    When the Palestinian leaders are all roasting in hell, they will be blaming Israel, and rejecting things. Some things never change.

  3. The Israeli Government would do better to educate her youth and the public in general about Israel’s Rights to the Land of Israel, rather than trying to change the PA and UNWRA hate filled textbooks.

    Especially now, the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which re-constituted the Jewish People’s historic right in Palestine, and gave birth to the Mandate for Palestine approved by the League of Nations, a right unalterable even at the by the end of the Mandate, as stated in Art 80 of the UN Charter.

    Clearly, the Land of Israel from the Jordan to the Mediterranean belongs to the Jewish People.
    Period!

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