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EU Parliament moves to condition UNRWA aid over PA incitement


clock 3 min read

Palestinian students sit in a classroom on the first day of school in Nablus, West Bank, on September 6, 2020.
Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90Palestinian students sit in a classroom on the first day of school in Nablus, West Bank, on September 6, 2020.

Amendment states that funds will be redirected unless curriculum changes to promote coexistence, tolerance

The European Parliament Committee on Budgets on Tuesday advanced an amendment to condition more than $23 million (20 million euros) in financial aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees on the removal of anti-Israel incitement from Palestinian Authority textbooks.

Amendment 4083 states that the funds will be released by the next academic year "if substantive positive changes are made in the Palestinian Authority curriculum that promote coexistence and tolerance with the Jewish-Israeli 'other' and peace education with Israel in alignment with the goals of the two-state solution."

If there is no change to the "hate speech, antisemitism and incitement to violence in Palestinian Authority and UNRWA textbooks," then the funds will be redirected to NGOs with a proven track record of promoting coexistence and tolerance.

The amendment next heads for a plenary vote with the rest of the 2022 budget package. 

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“This is a crucial measure which speaks volumes about the ongoing frustration felt by European lawmakers, who are simply no longer prepared to fund the teaching of hate in Palestinian classrooms. They are rightly demanding that Palestinian children are taught about tolerance, coexistence, and respect," Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), an Israeli organization that monitors the content of Palestinian textbooks, said in a statement.

IMPACT-se lobbied for the inclusion of the amendment, which was introduced by Olivier Chastel, a vice chair on the budget committee from the liberal Renew Europe party, with support of co-vice chair, Niclas Herbst of the center-right European People's Party.

The issue of anti-Israel incitement runs deeper than the textbooks, according to UN Watch, an NGO based in Geneva that monitors the international body for bias against the Jewish state.

UN Watch this past summer released a report highlighting more than 100 UNRWA educators and staff who have publicly promoted violence and antisemitism on social media.

The report revealed that staff in schools in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan have utilized their personal social media channels to propagate antisemitism and terrorism. 

Former president Donald Trump cut US funding for UNRWA which the administration of President Joe Biden has since restored.

The US gave $135 million (114 million euros) to UNRWA after an agreement was signed over the summer which for the first time, condemns anti-Israel hatred.

For the first time, the agreement contains a paragraph condemning antisemitism, including stating that: "The United States and UNRWA unreservedly condemn all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnicity or religious belief, including antisemitism."

The United States is the largest donor to the organization, which cares for 5.7 million people it says are Palestinian refugees; in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.