UNRWA Textbooks
UNRWA TextbooksMiri Tzachi

As the new school year begins, the Center for Near East Policy Research (CNEPR) has published a comprehensive study of Palestinian Authority textbooks used in UNRWA schools.

The study found that incitement and the encouragement of violence remain widespread in PA textbooks.

The study was commissioned by CNEPR Director David Bedein following a conversation with a US State Department official who denied that there was any incitement in the PA textbooks used in UNRWA schools.

"Exactly two years ago, a senior official at the US State Department called me a liar, to my face. He informed me that all the work that we had done on the Palestinian Authority textbooks used by UNRWA was one great fabrication, that the US government had checked out the PA textbooks used by UNRWA, and that they met the highest standards of peace education," Bedein said.

"To respond to this, I asked my staff to purchase all PA textbooks used by UNRWA and to translate all the books, so that we could hand the results to the US Congress and to the Israeli Knesset."

Bedein also contacted officials with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Jerusalem, who informed him that the US government does not examine the PA textbooks used in UNRWA schools "as a matter of policy."

"In August 2016, officials of US AID in Jerusalem, which administers US financing of PA and UNRWA schools, informed the Center for Near East Policy Research that, as a matter of policy the US never examines the PA school books used in UNRWA schools and never vets PA or UNRWA teachers," Bedein said. He added that the USAID officials said on the record that the organization "continues as a matter of policy not to look at the books, not to examine the books, on orders from the State Department."

The US gives UNRWA $400 million in aid each year, approximately one third of UNRWA's annual budget.

Dr. Arnon Groiss and Dr. Ronni Shaked, two veteran journalists with PHD’s in Islamic Studies, translated all PA textbooks used by UNRWA schools over the last year into English and Hebrew. The report was written by Dr. Groiss, who worked at the Voice of Israel Arabic Radio station for 42 years.

Last year, a White House official replied to a US journalist who inquired about the US view on the PA and UNRWA curriculum.

“While there is still work to be done, the Palestinian government has made significant progress in reducing inflammatory rhetoric and revising official textbooks. Over the past few years, the PA has helped improve the Palestinian curriculum, including textbooks that discuss human rights and the Holocaust, which has contributed to a better education for young Palestinians. The Palestinian curriculum is transparent, and all textbooks are available for review in Arabic on the website of the official Palestinian Curriculum Development Center. The Government of Israel even approves of and utilizes the Palestinian texts for schools in East Jerusalem,“ the White House official stated in an email to the journalist.

The CNEPR report found numerous instances of incitement to violence, anti-Semitism, and the denial of Jewish history in the translated textbooks.

One seventh grade social studies textbook published in 2017 accused the 'Zionists' of stealing all of Jerusalem from the Muslims, including the Western Wall, and pretending that there is a Jewish connection to the city and its holy sites.

"They annexed the Islamic features to the Zionist heritage list, as they transformed the Al-Buraq Wall into the Wailing Wall; they destroyed the Mugrabi neighborhood and changed its Arab-Muslim nature; they removed some of the Jerusalem city wall and put instead other ones with Zionist decorations and forms; they opened Jewish synagogues in Jerusalem’s Old City," the textbook reads.

Another textbook published this year accused Israel of giving Palestinian Arabs cancer.

"For research: Studies indicate an increase of cancer cases in southern Hebron compared to other Palestinian areas. I will investigate the connection of that to its proximity to the Dimona reactor in the Negev desert,” the eleventh grade science textbook reads/

Bedein summarized the report's conclusions. "War education thrives in the official educational curriculum of the PA, as used in the UNRWA schools in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza, even though the professed theme of UNRWA remains; PEACE STARTS HERE."

For textbook excerpts, click here.