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The Palestinian school curriculum

In 2016 and 2017, the Palestinian Authority (PA) published a revised curriculum covering both primary and secondary school students. There have since been accusations that the new textbooks promote radicalisation and that “examples of incitement litter Palestinian schoolbooks”.

A report by the Israeli-based NGO IMPACT-SE (The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education) also raised concerns about the new textbooks. The Government  has met with IMPACT-SE to investigate the issue further.

Critics argue that as the UK funds the PA, it is in effect turning a blind eye to the accusations of radicalisation.

The PA’s Minister for Education, Sabri Saidam, defended the curriculum in an interview in 2017, saying that contentious parts of the PA curriculum, including maps that don’t recognise Israel, and praise of so-called martyrs—many of whom are considered terrorists by Israel—derive from “the ripple effects” of the conflict. The UN Relief Works Agency which runs schools in Gaza and the West Bank has rejected criticisms of textbooks used in its schools. In a statement in 2017, it says that it reviewed  textbooks rigorously and that its curriculum framework ”aims to ensure that our curriculum is in line with UN values”.

The UK Government position

The UK has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Palestinian Authority under which the PA must adhere to the principles of non-violence and respect for human rights. Under this MoU the Department for International Development (DFID) is required to take action when they do not.

The Government also says that it does not fund any textbooks or educational materials. Instead, DFID support to the Palestinian Authority contributes to the salaries of vetted teachers and education public servants in the West Bank.

In 2018, DFID reported that financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority had paid the salaries of up to 39,000 teachers, doctors, nurses, midwives and other health and education public servants in the West Bank.

This funding is largely paid through the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). Funding to UNRWA increased as a result of the US termination of support for UNRWA and of its wider assistance to the Palestinians, as well as new Israeli legislation aiming to withhold Palestinian clearance revenues as of 2019.

DFID says that it has always been clear that it expects textbooks used by the Palestinian Authority to be academically rigorous and must not to incite racial hatred or violence under any circumstances. DFID also reports that it does discuss issues of concern about radicalisation with the relevant PA representatives from time to time.

DFID also pushed the EU to commission an independent review of Palestinian textbooks. This is being carried out by the Georg Eckert Institute. The interim report will be completed in Spring 2020 with the full report due later this year.

Documents to download

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