Days of Palestine

Saturday, June 3

EU Education Funds Leverage: The Literal and figurative Textbook Hypocrisy Explained


While the EU struggles to weigh in on challenging developments on issues occurring around the world, the last thing it needs is to shift its focus to completely absurd priorities. A case in point is the EU’s current fixation with Palestinian textbooks, promoted by European commissioner Olivér Várhelyi and Israel-aligned lawmakers in the European Parliament.


Ever since the last round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in May 2021, the conflict has seen a new spate through Israeli excessive use of force, raids, arrests, and demolitions of Palestinian homes, while Gaza remains under a blockade impeding reconstruction.


The new Israeli government has stated unequivocally that it would continue to develop illegal settlements and will not accept the two-state solution, which is the cornerstone of EU policy on the conflict, and signed off the illegal construction of  4,000 housing units for Jewish settlers in occupied West Bank as of late.


The apartheid government’s court simultaneously ruled the evacuation of About 3,000 hectares of land in Masafer Yatta, which is a rural area of the south Hebron hills under full Israeli control and home to several small Palestinian villages, was designated as a “firing zone” by the Israeli state in the 1980s. Firing zones are used for military exercises, and the presence of civilians is prohibited. This will lead to the evacuation of about 1,000 Palestinians can be evicted from an area for it to be repurposed for Israeli military use.


The decision came under the pretext That these lands lack building permits, which are issued by the Israeli authorities and are nearly impossible to obtain. If passed, the decision makes this , once, in effect, one of the single biggest expulsion decisions since the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories began in 1967.


These are all issues the EU failed or rather ignored to effectively address but rather, Brussels institutions are dedicating more attention to a completely peripheral issue: a study of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks funded by the EU and released in June 2021 by the Georg-Eckert Institute in Germany.


The purpose of the study has been to determine whether the Palestinian curriculum encourages anti-Israel animosity and violence. For years, Israel supporters have made similar allegations, using cherrypicked cases with a hefty dosage of spin. Some Western politicians have long taken such claims at face value rather than questioning them as part of Israel’s nationalist narrative.


Despite the fact that earlier international studies, such as one funded by the US government in 2013, disproved the broad charges, the EU agreed to fund a research in 2019.


Unlike the US-funded study, which compared both Israeli and Palestinian textbooks (and found broadly similar levels of bias on both sides), the EU set out to examine schoolbooks on the Palestinian side only.


“The entire notion of studying solely Palestinian textbooks with a fine-tooth comb, while completely ignoring their mirror image in Israeli textbooks, is essentially tendentious,” Israeli academic Assaf David said.


According to US political scientist Nathan Brown, “[t]he analysis is written as if Palestinian textbooks cannot be understood except by relying heavily on how Israelis might view them – but without giving Israeli textbooks the same treatment.”


Despite these limitations, the ensuing study tempers the charges once again. It makes no accusation and provides no evidence that Palestinian textbooks inspire hatred or violence. It chronicles contentious patterns, such as the exclusion of Israel from Palestinian maps or positive depictions of Palestinian armed struggle decades ago– but those exact phenomena are to be found in Israeli society and schoolbooks.

Across a review of more than 150 PA textbooks, The investigation found only two cases of antisemitism, but remarks that both have been positively adjusted or removed in recent editions of the books.


Undaunted, supporters of the allegations set out to falsify and misrepresent the study as though it “proves” their exorbitant claims.


Commissioner Várhelyi, who is in charge of the EU’s external relations, has also tried to emphasize the issue.

Despite the study’s moderate findings, he promised to put more pressure on the PA to change textbooks “as soon as feasible” using a “roadmap” with “incentives” and a “screening and monitoring” procedure.


The Hungarian Commissioner’s desire of amplifying  ‘the issue’ is inextricably linked to his country’s special alliance with Israel under Viktor Orbán. Hungary has blocked practically every EU foreign policy statement critical of Israel in recent years.


There’s an added layer of hypocrisy here. In 2020, Orbán’s administration in Hungary implemented a controversial new school curriculum that included a mandatory reading of antisemitic authors. While in turn, Imre Kertész, a world-renowned Holocaust writer, was also removed from the reading list.


This does not appear to bother MEPs who have expressed outrage about the Palestinian curriculum.


Antisemitism and the direct inciting of hatred and violence should be considered red lines, but the investigation found very little of both. So, what will the EU be pushing for? Will it demand that emotionally charged depictions of Israeli soldiers shooting young Palestinian children be toned down rather than working to remove Israel’s occupation? Since May, Israeli soldiers have killed eleven children and injured nearly 500 more in the West Bank. There comes a point where textbook “improvements” become censorship, selecting what Palestinians can say about their history and living experiences for them.


The notion that Palestinian animosity toward Israel is motivated by textbooks rather than the daily abuses Palestinians face under Israeli occupation, its brutality, and Palestinians’ innate right/instance to resist it by all means possible demonstrates a fundamental lack of empathy.


While both sides tend to exclude the other from their schoolbook maps, Israel’s increasing settlements are destroying the very possibility of a Palestinian state on the ground.


This leaves open-ended Israeli occupation and ethno-dominance over Palestinians, which Human Rights Watch recently classified as the very definition of an apartheid state.


Getting the EU mired in one-sided textbook modifications is a perfect way to deflect from that chilling development.


The Eu is using the aid funding it provides to cover the education sector as a leverage to control and indoctrinate the Palestinians saying broad statements and subtle threats to cut down funding if changes weren’t done


This wouldn’t be the first time this happens. In October 2018 The parliament’s budgetary committee recommended blocking nearly $17 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority Due to anti-Israel incitement in its textbooks.


The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday condemning the Palestinian Authority for continuing to include what it described as ‘hate speech] and ‘violent material in school textbooks.


The resolution stated that the European Parliament, the legislative branch of the European Union, “is concerned that problematic material in Palestinian school textbooks has still not been removed and is concerned about the continued failure to act effectively against hate speech and violence in school textbooks.”


It added an insistence that “salaries of teachers and education sector civil servants that are financed from [European] Union funds… be used for drafting and teaching curricula which reflects UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence, and non-violence.”


They insinuated semi-explicit threats that if these changes weren’t made, the parliament will cut funding.


According to IMPACT-se, EU officials said an upcoming report on the Palestinian school curriculum will remain classified.


That was found rightfully unsettling by many. “Classifying the report is senseless and frankly, seems highly suspicious,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said in a statement.


The Council on International Relations – Palestine expressed its strong condemnation of the European Parliament’s decision.


In a statement issued today, Monday, May 9th, the council stated, “the parliament’s decision is outright blackmail, aimed at depriving Palestinian education of the financial support provided by European countries and international institutions, impeding the process of building the Palestinian state and its educational institutions, and most importantly to delegitimizing the Palestinian struggle, and preventing Palestinian generations from learning their history.”