Espanol / English

Middle East Near You

Attack on UN agency exposes Israeli charge of Palestinian ‘incitement’

A Palestinian girl leans on sacks of flours on back of a horse-drawn carraige during a food aid distribution by UNRWA in Rafah, Gaza on January 22, 2017 [Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu Agency]
A Palestinian girl sits on the back of a horse-drawn carriage during a food aid distribution by UNRWA in Rafah, Gaza on 22 January 2017 [Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu Agency]

Last month saw yet another attack on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the body supporting Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and wider region.

“New UNRWA textbooks for Palestinians demonize Israel and Jews” ran the headline in The Jerusalem Post on 28 September, in a piece on a new “study” funded, carried out and published by the Los Angeles-headquartered Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the anti-Islam, Daniel Pipes-led Middle East Forum, and the Jerusalem-based Centre for Near East Policy Research (CNEPR).

There was one problem, however: almost 90 percent of the books cited are not being used in UNRWA schools. As UNRWA pointed out, the “inaccurate and misleading” report included books that “were phased out when the Palestinian Authority changed their curriculum and textbooks starting in 2016”. Some of the books are for grades not even taught in UNRWA schools in the oPt.

The shoddiness of the research should be a source of embarrassment for the groups behind it, but that is unlikely. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre regularly disseminates ludicrous smears against anyone or any entity that threatens Israeli impunity, while the CNEPR is headed by David Bedein, a West Bank settler obsessed with attacking the UN.

Accusations that Palestinian schoolchildren are ‘taught to hate’ are a staple of pro-Israel propaganda. As far back as 2001, American political scientist Nathan Brown wrote that “the charges against it [the Palestinian curriculum] are often wildly exaggerated or inaccurate”.

Read: Israel teams with US officials to dissolve UNRWA

The “myth of incitement” has long since been rebutted by the PA itself, and even a US government-funded study in 2013 – boycotted by Israeli authorities for including their textbooks too – “undermine[d]” claims “by the Israeli government that Palestinian children are educated ‘to hate’”.

Just last month, the UK government rebuffed Israel lobbyists seeking to follow up an April 2017 report on the Palestinian curriculum, which generated familiar headlines about incitement and hatred. The report, a government minister noted, was “not objective in its findings”.

While the Palestinian education system in the oPt faces constant accusations and smears, Israeli textbooks are rarely subjected to anything like the same scrutiny. Yet it is Israeli textbooks that use maps showing the West Bank as Israeli territory, disappear the Green Line, and erase Palestinian population centres.

In 2016, Israel’s Education Ministry unveiled a new high school civics textbook that closely ties “Israeli statehood to Jewish teachings”. It contains “little more than a few dismissive references to Arab culture”, while Muslims, the majority of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, are mentioned in “two short sentences” – which “mainly accuse them of discriminating against and oppressing women”.

A protester holds a placard reading ‘End the occupation of Palestine’ during a BDS rally

In 2011, Israeli academic Nurit Peled-Elhanan, published a major study of Israeli textbooks, concluding that Palestinians are systematically dehumanised. “The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don’t pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don’t want to develop”, she told The Guardian.

The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer,

she added.

After studying the content of Israeli school books for five years, Peled-Elhanan’s conclusion was grim: “Students leave high school knowing nothing about the history and borders of the state, and seeing Palestinians as intruders, and then have to go out and control and sometimes kill them”.

There are two main elements to the political context for the new ‘report’ on Palestinian textbooks and UNRWA. First, are ongoing efforts to target UNRWA and the UN more widely, on account of alleged ‘anti-Israel’ bias.


The Simon Wiesenthal Centre report was discussed on Capitol Hill with Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado). Lamborn subsequently wrote a piece for pro-settler news site Arutz Sheva, insisting that “all funding for UNRWA should be cut until reform conditions are met”.

Second, the charge of Palestinian ‘incitement’ continues to be a central plank in the Israeli government’s propaganda talking points, repeated ad nauseam internally, in the Israeli media and parliament, and externally, to foreign diplomats and journalists.

Read: Is Israel really a safe haven for journalists?

As settlements expand, under the watch of an Israeli government run by an alliance of bashful and proud opponents of Palestinian statehood, claims of ‘incitement’ and Palestinians being ‘taught to hate’ play an important role as a distraction, a way to divert attention from Israeli rejectionism.

Yet perhaps what is particularly striking in this regard is the content of this latest ‘report’, with textbooks criticised for simply giving an account of historical events, such as the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Nakba and the colonisation of Palestinian land.

It would seem that the likes of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and Middle East Forum will not be satisfied until every Palestinian class starts the day with Hatikvah, and every Palestinian schoolchild heads home praising the Zionists for making the desert bloom.

The continued attacks on UNRWA, or the Palestinian education system, are delusional or disingenuous. Palestinian refugees’ rights aren’t dependent on an agency, and there is no occupation without resistance. Palestinian children get their ‘lessons’ in military court rooms and at checkpoints; their ‘teachers’ are the soldiers who kill and jail their relatives. Israeli and Palestinian textbooks alike simply reflect the reality on the ground – that of coloniser and colonised.

ArticleAsia & AmericasDebatesInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUNUS
  • Fasdunkle

    what’s so bad about being anti-islam?

    • charliematerne

      “anti-Islam” would be bigotry. Anti-Islamic terrorist”, which is what ” Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the anti-Islam, Daniel Pipes-led Middle East Forum, and the Jerusalem-based Centre for Near East Policy Research (CNEPR).” are, is intelligent self-preservation and includes many Muslims

      • Fasdunkle

        Bigotry in what way? Are we supposed to be pro or neutral on all ideologies?

        • charliematerne

          There are more than 1.4 Billion Muslims who have no desire to harm anyone. Hating them for being Muslim (non-violent Muslim) is just as wrong as hatred for Catholics for being Catholic or Jews for being Jewish. Being “Anti-Islamic terrorist” probably fewer than a few million simply shows a reasonable reaction to a threat.

          • peepsqueek

            Muslims are just people. On the other hand, Islamism is a politely far right as you can go. It is an Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized Islamic moral conservatism and literal interpretation of the Qur’an. There are more than enough people supporting, funding, and arming these groups—

            Abdullah Azzam Brigades

            • Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Forces

            • Abu Nidal Organization

            • Abu Sayyaf

            • Ajnad Misr

            • Al-Abbas Fighting Division

            • Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

            • Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya

            • Al-Ghalibun

            • Al-Muhajiroun in East Africa

            • Al-Muhajirun

            • Al-Mulathamun Battalion

            • Al-Qaeda

            • Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

            • Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

            • Al-Qassam Brigades

            • Al-Shabaab

            • Ansar al-Dine

            • Ansar al-Islam

            • Ansar al-Sharia (Libya)

            • Ansar al-Sharia (Tunisia)

            • Ansar Allah al-Awfiya

            • Ansar Bait al-Maqdis

            • Ansaru

            • Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya

            • Army of Islam

            • Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq

            • Badr Organization

            • Boko Haram

            • Caucasus Emirate

            • Fatah al-Islam

            • Fawj al-Imam al-Hujja

            • Faylaq al-Karar

            • Faylaq al-Wa’ad al-Sadiq

            • Green Battalion

            • Hamas

            • Harakat al-Abdal

            • Harakat al-Nujaba

            • Harakat al-Sabireen

            • Harakat al-Shaheed al-Awal

            • Harakat Ansar Allah (Yemen)

            • Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya

            • Harakat Sham al-Islam

            • Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami

            • Harkat-ul-Mujahideen

            • Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham

            • Hezbollah

            • Hezbollah al-Abrar

            • Hezbollah al-Ghalibun

            • Hezbollah al-Tha’irun

            • Hezbollah the Mujahideen in Iraq

            • Hezbollah- The Islamic Revolution in Iraq

            • Hizb-ut-Tahrir

            • Imam Ali Fighting Division

            • Imam Bukhari Battalion

            • Indian Mujahideen

            • Islamic Army in Iraq

            • Islamic Jihad Union

            • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

            • Islamic Muthanna Movement

            • Islamic State

            • Ja’afari Force

            • Jabhat al-Nusra

            • Jabhat Ansar al-Din

            • Jabhat Fatah al-Sham

            • Jaish-e-Mohammed

            • Jamaat al-Itisam bil-Kitab wa al-Sunna

            • Jamaat al-Murabiteen

            • Jamaat Bait al-Maqdis al-Islamiya

            • Jamaat Jund al-Islam

            • Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz

            • Jamaat Jund al-Sham

            • Jaysh al-Jihad

            • Jaysh al-Mu’ammal

            • Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar

            • Jaysh al-Mukhtar

            • Jaysh al-Ummah fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis

            • Jaysh Muhammad in Bilad al-Sham

            • Jaysh Wilayat al-Faqih

            • Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid

            • Jemaah Islamiyah

            • Jund al-Aqsa

            • Jundallah (Iran)

            • Junud al-Mahdi

            • Junud al-Sham

            • Kata’ib A’imat al-Baqi’

            • Kata’ib Ahrar al-Iraq

            • Kata’ib al-Ahad al-Sadiq al-Jadid

            • Kata’ib al-Aqila Zainab

            • Kata’ib al-Difa’ al-Muqaddas

            • Kata’ib al-Fatah al-Mubin

            • Kata’ib al-Ghadab

            • Kata’ib al-Imam al-Gha’ib

            • Kata’ib al-Imam al-Hussein

            • Kata’ib al-Imam Ali

            • Kata’ib al-Imam Musa bin Ja’afar

            • Kata’ib al-Jaysh al-Fatimi

            • Kata’ib al-Muqawama al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq

            • Kata’ib al-Qiyam al-Husseini

            • Kata’ib al-Sabirun

            • Kata’ib al-Shaheed al-Awal

            • Kata’ib al-Shaheed al-Awal: Quwat al-Buraq

            • Kata’ib al-Shaheed Zayd al-Tha’ir

            • Kata’ib al-Tayyar al-Risali

            • Kata’ib al-Zahara’

            • Kata’ib Ansar al-Hijja

            • Kata’ib Ansar al-Hijja (2)

            • Kata’ib Ansar al-Madhhab

            • Kata’ib Ansar al-Wilaya

            • Kata’ib Ansar Allah

            • Kata’ib Assad Allah al-Ghalib

            • Kata’ib Assad Allah in Iraq

            • Kata’ib Dir’ al-Wilaya

            • Kata’ib Hezbollah

            • Kata’ib Jund al-Imam

            • Kata’ib Jund Allah al-Ghalibun

            • Kata’ib Rayat al-Huda

            • Kata’ib Rijal Allah al-Ghalibun

            • Kata’ib Ruh Allah

            • Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada

            • Kata’ib Thawrat al-Abbas

            • Kata’ib Zaynab al-Kubra

            • Katibat al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad

            • Katibat Jabal al-Islam

            • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

            • Lashkar-e-Taiba

            • Libyan Islamic Fighting Group

            • Lions of the Caliphate

            • Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas

            • Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas: Iraq Formation

            • Liwa al-Baqir

            • Liwa al-Fatemiyoun

            • Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein

            • Liwa al-Imam al-Mahdi

            • Liwa al-Imam al-Qa’im

            • Liwa al-Imam Muhammad al-Jawad al-Awal

            • Liwa al-Imam Zain al-Abidin

            • Liwa al-Karama

            • Liwa al-Mu’ammal

            • Liwa al-Muntaẓar

            • Liwa al-Qa’im

            • Liwa al-Sadiqeen

            • Liwa al-Shabab al-Risali

            • Liwa al-Shahada

            • Liwa al-Tawheed

            • Liwa al-Youm al-Maw’ud

            • Liwa Ali al-Akbar

            • Liwa Ansar al-Marja’iyya

            • Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib

            • Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib (Iraq)

            • Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar

            • Liwa Fatyan Bani Hashim

            • Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk

            • Liwa Youm al-Qa’im

            • Liwa Zainebiyoun

            • Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen (Gaza-Sinai)

            • Manẓamat Ansar Allah

            • Martyr Sadr Forces

            • Martyr Sadr Forces Formations

            • Moro Islamic Liberation Front

            • Mujahideen Army (Iraq)

            • Mujahideen of Iraq Brigade

            • Muslim Brotherhood

            • Naqshbandi Army

            • National Ideological Resistance in Syria

            • Palestine Liberation Front

            • Palestinian Islamic Jihad

            • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

            • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — General Command

            • Quwat al-Kadhimain al-Qitaliya

            • Quwat al-Ridha

            • Quwat Zaynab al-Kubra

            • Rapid Intervention Regiment

            • Saraya al-Ashtar

            • Saraya al-Imam

            • Saraya al-Jihad

            • Saraya al-Khorasani

            • Saraya al-Mukhtar

            • Saraya al-Salam

            • Saraya Ansar al-Aqeeda

            • Saraya Aqa’idiyun

            • Saraya Ashura

            • Suqur al-Izz

            • Taliban

            • Tanẓim Ansar al-Tawheed fi Bilad al-Hind

            • Tashkil al-Hussein al-Tha’ir

            • Tashkilat Asad Baghdad

            • Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan

            • Turkestan Islamic Party

          • Fasdunkle

            I don’t hate muslims. I dislike islam

          • charliematerne

            That’s better

          • Fasdunkle

            Better than what?

          • peepsqueek

            What is your academic position of political Islam, Islamism, and Islamic sharia in the 21st Century? Just asking for a little intellectual honest!

          • charliematerne

            They are all the same thing, a threat to those who have no desire to be Muslims or dhimmi.

          • peepsqueek

            Nice dodge! What is your personal position, risking the idea that what you say my be considered bigotry.

          • charliematerne

            That was no dodge. They are the same as every other supremacist hate group. White groups like the KKK, Arian Nation etc., black groups like Black Lives Matter, Black Panters etc

          • peepsqueek

            The dodge is that you are talking about hate groups, and Islamism and Islamic sharia are not a groups, it is an ideology. With the exception of Israel, all Middle East governments are signatories to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights:

            Article 19: “There shall be NO crime or punishment EXCEPT as provided for in the Sharia.”

            Article 24: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia.”

            Article 25: “The Islamic Sharia is the ONLY source of reference for the explanation or clarification of ANY of the articles of this Declaration.”

          • charliematerne

            Since Sharia states that only some (not all) Muslim Males (no females allowed) have rights, no Jews, no Christians, no Hindu, etc. YOU have proved my point very well. Thank you.

    • peepsqueek

      As opposed to being what?

  • Vinegar Hill

    The perverted Israeli attempts to undermine the indigenous Palestinian people knows no limit. It does, however, demonstrate the paucity of Israeli efforts.

    • peepsqueek

      Just for balance, what is your historic cultural identity, and whose land are you living on today?

  • John Cardella

    Go to youtube and watch Obama burns Quran—
    Muslims Can Never Be Trusted, Islamic law allows, encourages and even demands lying and deceit by its Muslim followers to protect and advance Islam. To win the war on terrorism, The United States and all Non-Muslims countries need to do is stop selling, trading, and giving arms to Muslim countries and stop all Military, Humanitarian, and Economic Aid, do not Sell, Trade, or Buy Anything from Them, and Stop all Muslims Immigration and Refugee Resettlement Programs.

    • Helen4Yemen

      All World and Middle East conflicts and terrorism
      happened after 1948, i.e. after the arrival of European
      Jews to Arab Palestine to colonize it.

      There were:

      • no radical Islam
      • no ISIS
      • no Al Qaeda
      • no Taliban
      • no El Shabab
      • no Hezbullah
      • no Hamas