European Parliament to make UNRWA funds conditional on textbook incentives

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The European Parliament, one of the three legislative branches of the European Union, on Tuesday proposed an amendment that would make more than $ 23 million in EU funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees conditional on changes to textbooks. the Palestinian Authority, who have often been accused of inciting violence.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets adopted a amendment to its 2022 budget to withhold funds unless revisions are made to the PA curriculum. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) uses the official manuals of the government under which it operates, which means that it uses the manuals of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza.

Brussels is the PA’s largest donor – paying the salaries of its officials, including those who design PA programs – and has sent more than $ 157 million in aid to UNRWA in 2021.

The amendment obliges UNRWA to use textbooks that “promote coexistence and tolerance with the Jewish-Israeli ‘other’ and peace education with Israel in accordance with the goals of the two-state solution.”

If such changes are not made by the start of the Palestinian school year 2022, the funds in reserve will be used to fund Palestinian NGOs “with a proven track record in promoting coexistence with Israel,” the report said. amendment.

After being adopted by the Brussels Budget Committee, the amendment is expected to be put to a plenary vote along with the rest of the 2022 budget package in the coming days.

European Parliament resolutions of recent years have stated that “hate speech, anti-Semitism and incitement to violence” have not been removed from the PA and UNRWA textbooks, despite numerous reviews.

“The [European Parliament] the rulings insisted that the EU-funded salaries of education officials who write Palestinian textbooks must be subordinated to material reflecting the values ​​of peace, tolerance, coexistence, ”added the amendment in its justification.

At the same time, the EU budget for 2022 – although it has not yet been adopted – is expected to see UNRWA funding increase from $ 157 million to $ 167 million.

Illustration: Palestinian children sit in a classroom after school begins at a school in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, July 16, 2018 (Abbas Momani / AFP)

The Budgets Committee is expected to approve the ratified budget for 2022 after its adoption by the European Parliament next month.

The amendment was presented by committee vice-chairman Olivier Chastel of the left-wing Renew Europe party, with the support of co-vice-chairman Niclas Herbst of the centrist European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament.

Chastel and Herbst have come under pressure from the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), an Israeli monitoring body that analyzes Palestinian school curricula.

“This is a crucial step that speaks volumes about the continuing frustration felt by European lawmakers, who are simply no longer prepared to fund the teaching of hate in Palestinian classrooms. They rightly demand that Palestinian children learn tolerance, coexistence and respect, ”IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said in a statement.

In his address to the United Nations last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced what he accused of a “double standard” applied to Palestinians, but not Israel.

As an example, he cited Palestinian textbooks, which critics have accused of inciting violence against Israeli civilians and glorifying avowed terrorists.

“We are made to explain and justify what appears in our educational materials, even if it explains our story and our national identity. Meanwhile, no one is demanding to review Israeli programs and media, so that the world can see the real incitement of Israeli institutions, ”Abbas said.

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