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EU Study Confirms Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks


A study commissioned by the European Union examined 156 Palestinian Authority textbooks and 16 teachers’ guides. Eighteen texts are from 2020, the rest from 2017-2019. The report said they present “ambivalent – sometimes hostile – attitudes towards Jews and the characteristics they attribute to the Jewish people” and their “frequent use of negative attributions in relation to the Jewish people...suggest a conscious perpetuation of anti-Jewish prejudice, especially when embedded in the current political context.”

The EU provides funding for the Palestinian education system and, according to the Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov, who obtained a copy of the report, did not want to publicize the study’s results.

She and Tobias Siegal provide several examples in the report illustrating the incitement in PA texts.

One religious studies textbook asks students to discuss the “repeated attempts by the Jews to kill the prophet” Muhammad and asks who are “other enemies of Islam.” A math text showed a picture of Palestinians hitting Israeli soldiers with slingshots to describe Newton’s second law of motion. Another textbook “promotes a conspiracy theory that Israel removed the original stones of ancient sites in Jerusalem and replaced them with ones bearing “Zionist drawings and shapes.”

Terrorists are praised, and those killed are referred to as martyrs. Such references appear in science and math books unrelated to the conflict with Israel. One “martyr,” Dalal al-Mughrabi, who was involved in the 1978 coastal road massacre in which 38 Israelis, including 13 children, were killed, is cited as an example of female empowerment.

As in the past, most maps in the texts replace Israel with “Palestine.”

“Instead of educating for tolerance, coexistence, peace, and non-violence, as is required under UNESCO’s mandatory standards, Palestinian textbooks include anti-Semitic components, deny the existence of the State of Israel, and glorify violence as a method of resolving the conflict,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

Israel has long complained about incitement in PA textbooks and EU funding them without monitoring their content.

The European Commission said it “takes this study seriously and will act on its findings as appropriate, with a view to bring about the full adherence to UNESCO standards in all Palestinian education materials.”

Henrike Trautmann, Acting Director of the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, which oversees aid to the Palestinian education sector, said, “It is very clear that the study does reveal the existence of very deeply problematic content…changes to the curriculum are essential...Full compliance of all educational material with UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence must be ensured as must any reference of anti-Semitic nature need to be addressed and taken out.”

In October 2021, Britain announced it would cease direct funding to Palestinian education in the PA. The government denied it; however, the decision was related to the EU report. According to an investigation by the Jewish News [UK], roughly $137 million was spent by Britain in the previous five years, including on the salaries of the Palestinian civil servants and teachers responsible for drafting the PA textbooks. 

In 2022, a group of European Union lawmakers called on the European Commission to reduce funding to the PA if it continues refusing to purge its K-12 curriculum of materials that “incite schoolchildren to hate Jews and emulate terrorists.” In a letter to the commission’s president, 32 members of the European Parliament wrote, “This situation is simply intolerable, even more so as the EU is paying the salaries of the school teachers using this hateful material.” They said, “This is a glaring violation of the most basic EU values and contradicts our common goal of working toward peace and the creation of a democratic Palestinian state.”

In June 2022, the European Union restored funding to the Palestinian Authority frozen because of the textbooks. It also announced it was funding a second study of Palestinian textbooks and would take “appropriate measures” if the texts were not free of anti-Semitism, hatred, and incitement to violence. “What starts with incitement to hatred and violence, becomes terror and prevents co-existence,” said E.U. Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.

Sources: Lahav Harkov and Tobias Siegal, “EU study finds incitement in Palestinian textbooks, kept from public,” Jerusalem Post, (June 9, 2021).
“MFA Spokesperson response to the publication in the Bild newspaper,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (June 9, 2021).
“Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research. Report on Palestinian Textbooks,” (2021) urn:nbn:de:0220-2021-0020, published by the Georg-Eckert-Institute under the creative commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DE.
Michael Starr, “EU Commission directorate condemns antisemitism in Palestinian textbooks,” Jerusalem Post, (September 10, 2021).
Jenni Frazer, “UK ends direct funding of Palestinian teachers amid covid cost-cutting,” Jewish News [UK], (October 27, 2021).
Dion J. Pierre, “EU Lawmakers Slam Palestinian Curriculum for Inciting Students to ‘Hate Jews, Emulate Terrorists,’” Algemeiner, (March 3, 2022).