September 20, 2021

EU’s new low point on Palestine

Because the EU struggles to weigh in on difficult developments in its neighbourhood, the very last thing it wants is diverting its focus to wholly misguided priorities. A case in point is the EU’s present preoccupation with Palestinian textbooks, promoted by European commissioner Olivér Várhelyi and Israel-aligned lawmakers within the European Parliament.

The new Israeli authorities has explicitly vowed to proceed constructing unlawful settlements and to not permit the two-state answer, the cornerstone of EU coverage on the battle.

But Brussels establishments are devoting extra time to a completely totally different, peripheral challenge: an EU-funded examine of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks, revealed in June by the Georg-Eckert Institute in Germany.

A number of committees of the European Parliament are concerned in discussing the problem throughout this month, following closed door conferences of EU-27 diplomats earlier in the summertime.

The examine was meant to evaluate allegations that the Palestinian curriculum promotes hatred and violence in opposition to Israel. Israel advocates have made such claims for a few years, utilizing cherrypicked examples with a heavy dose of spin. Some Western politicians have at all times taken such assertions at face worth as an alternative of treating them critically as part of Israel’s personal nationalist narrative.

Though earlier worldwide research, equivalent to a 2013 examine funded by the US authorities, disproved the sweeping allegations, the EU agreed in 2019 to fund a new examine.

However in contrast to the US-funded examine, which in contrast each Israeli and Palestinian textbooks (and located broadly comparable ranges of bias on each side), the EU got down to look at schoolbooks on the Palestinian aspect solely.

This went in opposition to the report of the Georg-Eckert Institute, which had hosted bilateral German-French, German-Czech and German-Polish textbook commissions to accommodate conflicting narratives via mutual dialogue – however now agreed to take a unilateral method.

As Israeli researcher Assaf David commented, “[t]he very notion of examining only Palestinian textbooks with a fine-tooth comb, while completely ignoring their mirror image in Israeli textbooks, is fundamentally tendentious.”

In line with US political scientist Nathan Brown, “[t]he analysis is written as if Palestinian textbooks cannot be understood except by relying heavily on how Israelis might view them – but without giving Israeli textbooks the same treatment.”

Regardless of these flaws, the ensuing examine as soon as once more significantly tempers the allegations. It neither claims nor exhibits proof that the Palestinian textbooks incite hatred or violence. It paperwork debatable traits, equivalent to omissions of Israel from Palestinian maps or constructive portrayals of Palestinian armed wrestle many years in the past – however these mirror comparable phenomena in Israeli society and schoolbooks.

Throughout a overview of greater than 150 PA textbooks, the examine supplies two examples characterised as antisemitic – however provides that each of them have been positively altered or eliminated in newest editions of the books.

Undeterred, proponents of the allegations got down to spin and misrepresent the examine as if it “proves” their exorbitant claims.

Commissioner Várhelyi, answerable for the EU’s neighbourhood, has additionally sought to play up the problem. Regardless of the examine’s average findings, he pledged to step up strain on the PA to amend the textbooks “in the shortest possible timeframe” on the idea of a “roadmap” with “incentives” and a means of “screening and monitoring”.

The Hungarian Commissioner’s curiosity in amplifying the problem can’t be seen in isolation from his nation’s particular alliance with Israel beneath Viktor Orbán. During the last years, Hungary blocked virtually each EU international coverage assertion vital of Israel.

There’s an additional hypocrisy right here. Final 12 months, Orbán’s authorities launched a controversial new college curriculum in Hungary, which incorporates obligatory studying of antisemitic authors. Imre Kertész, a world-renowned author on the Holocaust, was in flip scrapped from the studying listing.

This doesn’t appear to concern the MEPs professing outrage concerning the Palestinian curriculum.

Actual issues with Palestinian Authority

In the meantime, there are actual, critical issues with the PA that require EU consideration.

Following the cancellation of Palestinian elections scheduled for Might, president Mahmoud Abbas is taking the PA down an authoritarian path, suppressing protests, and deepening intra-Palestinian divisions. To make textbooks – reasonably than these basic points – a central matter in EU-PA relations can be completely misplaced.

Antisemitism and direct incitement of hatred and violence ought to be purple strains – however the examine discovered hardly any. So what is going to the EU push to alter? Will it ask to tone down emotive depictions of Israeli troopers taking pictures at Palestinian youngsters reasonably than work to finish Israel’s occupation? Eleven youngsters have been killed and over 500 injured by Israeli forces solely within the West Financial institution since Might. There’s a point the place textbook “improvements” flip into censorship, deciding for Palestinians what they’ll say about their historical past and lived experiences.

The entire concept that Palestinian anger in the direction of Israel is pushed by textbooks reasonably than the day by day injustices Palestinians endure beneath its occupation exhibits an absence of fundamental empathy.

Whereas each side are likely to omit the opposite from their schoolbook maps, Israel’s increasing settlements are erasing any risk of a Palestinian state on the bottom. This leaves in place open-ended Israeli occupation and ethno-domination over the Palestinians – just lately certified by the Human Rights Watch as assembly the authorized definition of apartheid.

Getting the EU slowed down in one-sided textbook revisions is an ideal technique to deflect from that chilling growth.

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