Proposed changes to textbooks by UN agency, welcomed by Israel, reportedly include revised maps, a ‘balanced representation of Jerusalem,’ and excision of messages seen as incitement
Palestinian children at a school in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah.
(Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry on Thursday announced it was suspending ties with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over plans by the international agency to reform its curriculum.
The Palestinian ministry, in a statement published on its official website, called the possible revisions to the curriculum an “affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles,” and said the suspension would continue until the UN agency’s “positions are corrected.”
UNRWA has over 312,000 students in its schools across the West Bank and East Jerusalem (together, 50,000) and the Gaza Strip (262,000).
The UN agency has not formally published any plans to alter its curriculum, but leaks to the Arab press of possible changes have led to outrage over recent weeks in Gaza and the West Bank.
The changes, according to Arab media reports, include revisions to maps of Palestine to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities, a practice that numerous studies of Palestinian textbooks have labeled as “incitement.” Other changes were reportedly planned to tone down praise for Palestinian prisoners and improve Israel’s image.
According to a March report by COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, part of the reform to the UNRWA curriculum “is a balanced representation of Jerusalem as having religious significance to the three major monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and mentioning that Muslim believers have access to the holy sites.”
“UNRWA additionally sought to amend textbooks in cases where the content showed gender bias, lacked objectivity, and incited violence against Israel,” COGAT added.
The Israeli government, US State Department, and independent organizations have for many years accused the Palestinian education system, including UNRWA schools, of educating Palestinian children to hate Israel and support violence.