On November 21, the Action and Protection League (APL) hosted a conference on the importance of combating antisemitism through education at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, which started with two research presentations, including the presentation of Dr. Arnon Groiss from the Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research.
In his presentation, Dr. Arnon Groiss explored the portrayal of Jews, Israel and peace in Palestinian textbooks, including the ones used in UNRWA schools in the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA has been operating schools for Palestinian refugees since the early 1950s, providing education to more than two million children to the present day.
These textbooks feature three fundamentals in the context of the conflict: the de-legitimisation of Israel’s existence and the Jews’ presence in the country, including the denial of their history and the existence of any Jewish holy places there; the demonisation of both Israel and Jews, also religiously – with serious implications regarding the Jews’ image in the eyes of children who come from a traditional society; and the absence of call for peace with Israel; instead, there is a call for a violent struggle for the liberation of the whole country, including pre-1967 Israel. This struggle is given a religious colour, and terror is made an integral part thereof, with the accompanying meaning of encouraging the murder of Jews.
Dr. Groiss explains that the de-legitimisation of Israel’s existence is already apparent on all textbook covers since all bear the name „the State
of Palestine” and not „the Palestinian Authority”. The PA considers itself a full state under foreign occupation, and the borders are not restricted to the 1967 lines. The term „Zionist occupation” usually replaces the name „Israel” in the schoolbooks. Moreover, instead of using the expression „Israeli [pre-1967] territory”, all schoolbooks use the term „the territories occupied in 1948”. Israel and its inhabitants are considered a foreign colonialist entity, and schoolbooks compare „the tragedy of the Indians, America’s original inhabitants to the tragedy of the Palestinian people „. Textbook materials deny the country’s Jewish history, along with the existence of Jewish holy places in the country, including the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and the Jews’ historical and religious ties to Jerusalem are wholly ignored.
According to Dr. Groiss, one way of demonising Israel is by way of self-victimisation, and Zionists are accused of genocidal intentions towards the Palestinians. Moreover, Jews are demonised outside the context of the conflict as enemies of Prophet Muhammad and Islam in its early years and thus as eternal enemies of Muslims today. As a matter of fact, Jews are portrayed as enemies of all God’s prophets and, by extension, enemies of God Himself.
Regarding peace, it is never advocated in any schoolbook throughout the entire curriculum, and neither is co-existence with Israel. Instead, the PA schoolbooks in UNRWA call for a violent struggle for the liberation of Palestine in its entirety. There is a hint of war indoctrination in the Palestinian Authority’s national anthem, and the national struggle is given a religious character by using the traditional Islamic term „Jihad”. Moreover, PA textbooks in UNRWA’s schools also use the Islamic traditional ideal of martyrdom (Shahadah).
Dr. Groiss explains that terror is part of the liberation struggle, and terrorists are celebrated as martyrs. There was a rare clear message in a singing book, answering the question: „What should be done with the Jews who will survive after the liberation of Palestine?” The answer was extermination. However, the 2020 edition of the textbook does not contain the expression „extermination”.
In his conclusion, Dr. Groiss stresses that although the UNRWA is a UN agency and is supposed to be committed to neutrality and peace, its use of such schoolbooks sharply contradicts that commitment and makes UNRWA a full accomplice in the PA antisemitic indoctrination and notes that the PA schoolbooks used by UNRWA demonise both Israel and the Jews, to the point of sheer antisemitism. Dr. Groiss emphasises that the UNRWA betrays its sacred obligation towards the wellbeing of the Palestinian children and youths under its care by preparing them for war against their Israeli counterparts and highlights that this kind of „education” should stop immediately. The donor states, aka the EU member states that contribute to the funding of the PA through the aid provided by the EU, should have a say in this matter.
Photo credit of the cover photo: Mamoun Wazwaz/Anadolu Agency