Two years have passed since the horrific massacre of eight young yeshiva students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. With the turning of administrations in Washington, and a renewed effort by the Obama administration to focus on "moving peace forward" between the Israelis and Palestinians, we are left to examine the status quo on the ground.
Part of the original — circa 1994 — Oslo agreements was the commitment on both sides to refrain from incitement, as well as the agreement to amend the educational systems to reflect the new reality of peaceful coexistence. Clearly this was turned squarely on its head with the "election" of Hamas in Gaza several years ago. But what has happened in the territories under Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority on the West Bank? Has the PA turned over a new leaf in educating its young people to be progressive in the pursuit of coexistence alongside Israel?
Emphatically, not at all.
In a recent Jerusalem Post report (Feb 2, 2010) Ben Hartman writes that a British taxpayer watchdog group unveiled two reports detailing the role of European foreign aid in the transmission of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic narratives in Palestinian Authority schools and media in Jerusalem.
The reports, "Palestinian Hate Education Since Annapolis" and "Funding Hate Education," detail what the Taxpayers' Alliance refers to as a campaign of "demonizing Israel" largely funded by European taxpayers — a policy it says diminishes long-term hopes for peace.
The Taxpayers' Alliance said it has taken up the issue of incitement against Israel in the Palestinian territories because it believes there must be greater scrutiny of aid programs for the PA, so that taxpayer money from the UK and the EU no longer funds programs that harm the peace process and the national interests of British and EU citizens.
Matthew Sinclair, research director for the Taxpayers' Alliance, said at a press briefing in Jerusalem, held with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, that in Palestinian society, "we're looking at a population where 42 percent are under the age of 15. You have a huge younger generation whose views are going to shape the situation for a long time.
"Peace lies in the hearts and minds of people and it's vital that the right attitudes are encouraged in people and the right conditions are created for peace," Sinclair continued.
"It's rare we see it [foreign aid] doing as much harm to the British taxpayers as we do in this case," he said.
It's not just British taxpayers' money going to fund hate in the Palestinian Authority. In October of last year, USAID invested almost $65 million in infrastructure in the West Bank — money that included the establishment and construction of four new schools. Since 1994 (and the signing of Oslo), USAID has invested more than $2.5 billion in the Palestinian areas via projects intended to "reduce poverty, improve health and education, build infrastructure, create jobs, and promote democracy and good governance."
One might be unsurprised, if appalled, by the persistence of hate in Hamas-sponsored curricula. But from the Palestinian Authority, improvements in the state of the educational curricula should not only be anticipated; they should be expected and required. Unfortunately, the PA's uncooperativeness was cheered by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who said (after transferring $200 million in aid to the PA in June 2009) she had been assured that President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad "have put in place the foundations of a responsible, transparent, accountable government."
Yet, according to the most recent study commissioned by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Herzliya, a new generation of Palestinian students is being inculcated in rejectionism. For example, here is a listing of just a few items:
1. Israel does not appear on any maps of the world in the new PA textbooks, while maps of Israel replace the name Israel with Palestine in all of the new Palestinian Authority school books.
2. The new Palestinian school books "annex" sites in Israel to Palestine.
"Haifa is a Palestinian seaport," (p. 7) (Lughatuna al-Jamila (Our Beautiful Language) Vol. 2, 5th grade textbook, p. 86). "Galilee, Nazareth and Beit She'an are regions in Palestine," (p. 7) (Al-Iqtisad al-Manzili (Home Economy), 10th grade textbook, pp. 36-37).
3. The new Palestinian school books mention Israel only as an enemy, in reference to "occupation of lands" in 1948 and 1967:
"There is no doubt that the Israeli occupation has a negative impact on [Palestinian] agriculture and its export," (Lughatuna al-Jamila (Our Beautiful Language) Vol. 1, 10th grade textbook, p. 102).
4. The new Palestinian school books present Zionism only as an enemy movement:
"The Palestinian people are under an oppressive siege, limiting their movement and way of life," (p. 9) (Al-Tarbiyah al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Education), Vol. 1, 5th grade textbook, p. 49). Accusation against settlements [from 1948!] of damaging water sources "the influence of settlement on sources of water in Palestine," (p. 9) (Ulum al-Sihha wal-B'ia (Health and Environmental Sciences), 10th grade textbook, p. 122).
"The Palestinian family has problems … stemming from the occupation … it loses father, mother or son to death or imprisonment … endures the difficulties of life …," (p. 11) (Al-Tarbiyah al-Wataniyya (National Education), 5th grade textbook, p. 23).
5. The new Palestinian school books teach that the only ancient inhabitants of Israel were Arabs, ignoring any ancient Jewish presence.
"Concentrated … in the land of Al-Sham [Greater Syria] … was the culture of the Canaanite and Aramaic peoples who migrated there from the Arab peninsula," (p.14-15) (Tarikh al-Hadarat al-Qadima (History of Ancient Civilizations), 5th grade textbook, Foreword).
6. The new Palestinian school books teach that Palestinians must use war and violence — especially martyrdom — to accomplish their goals:
The heroic mother, "who incessantly presents one sacrifice [fida'] after another." (Lughatuna al-Jamila (Our Beautiful Language), Vol 2, 5th grade textbook, p. 31).
"The warrior goes to war faced with one of the good options: victory or martyrdom in battle for the sake of Allah." (Ibid. Vol. 1, 5th grade textbook, p. 70).
"Allah gave the people of this land (Al-Sham and Palestine) an important task: they must stand on the forefront of the Muslim campaign against their enemies, and only if they fulfill their duty to their religion, nation, and land will they be rewarded as stated in the scriptures." (Al-Tarbiya al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Education), Vol 2, 10th grade textbook, p. 50).
Ironically, there may actually be more oversight of U.S. funds currently spent in Hamas' Gaza — at least those funneled through the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA). Following a firestorm of outrage over American funds being funneled into terrorist-sponsored activities, several key U.S. congressmen authored a bill requiring transparency for those monies.
As recently as last October, U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ) said:
UNRWA has come a "long way" in redressing gaps in how it spends its money in Palestinian areas …[revamping] its vetting processes and mechanisms, firing more than 100 employees over the past 10 years that have been found to violate U.S. and UN policies regarding associating with Hamas or other terrorist groups.
Rothman is a leader of congressional demands of more accountability for UNRWA.
In addition, lists of UNRWA's employees and beneficiaries are now being crosschecked for terrorist connections by both the U.S. and Israel. …I am encouraged by these improvements, but I will continue to make certain that not one cent of U.S. taxpayer dollars provided to UNRWA is redirected to terrorists or to activities that support terror or promote a culture of hatred.
UNRWA's activities and dubious ties to terrorism have not escaped the eyes of its stakeholders. Consequently, Canada has gone as far as to officially declare that it would stop contributing to UNRWA following a report commissioned by the European Parliament, which documented that Hamas terrorists have been chosen by the UNRWA labor union to actually administer UNRWA facilities.
Finally, education is a key ingredient to any kind of transformative change that will occur within Palestinian society. We would do better to follow the example of our Canadian neighbors and use our tax dollars to promote independent Palestinian organizations and private-sector growth. UNRWA does not work towards a resolution. In fact, the opposite is true. UNRWA perpetuates the problem.
At the end of 2009, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview that he rejects violence: "I will not accept violence, terrorism, gunfire or a military intifada." This is an important step toward establishing trust between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Yet in order to achieve a lasting coexistence, the next generation must be educated in a way that supports peaceful conflict resolution. Thus far, the groundwork of a grassroots infrastructure for future peace has not been laid within Abbas' Palestinian territories.
The memory of the eight boys murdered in Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav on March 6, 2008 — Yochai Lifshitz (18); Yehonatan Yitzchak Eldar (16); Yehonodav Haim Hirschfeld (19); Neria Cohen (15); Segev Peniel Avihail (15); Avraham David Moses (16); Roi Roth (18); and Dorno Meherete (26) — would be well-served by a true commitment from the Palestinians to a new vision of education that fosters peace, not terror.