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Another textbook scandal exposes EU's selective outrage

EU flags flying half-mast outside headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium on December 04, 2020 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]
EU flags flying half-mast outside headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium on 4 December 2020 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

Another textbook scandal has broken out but this one has the potential to expose double standards and selective outrage within the EU, Israel's largest trading partner. A top EU official backed tougher action against the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Monday including conditioning aid and financial assistance following the release of a report which claims to have found evidence of incitement and anti-Semitism in Palestinian textbooks.

The latest scandal comes as far-right Israeli groups have marched through Arab streets calling for genocide by demanding "death to Arabs". It also follows landmark reports by Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem which concluded that Israel is practicing apartheid and has imposed a "regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean." None of these recent findings and open display of hate and incitement against Palestinians has prompted a response from the EU.

On the other hand. details of a report on Palestinian textbooks release by German newspaper Bild has sparked a series of articles with racist undertones suggesting that Palestinian children are being taught to hate from an early age. It has also prompted calls to defund Palestinians. "The conditionality of our financial assistance in the educational sector needs to be duly considered," the European commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement Oliver Varhelyi said on Twitter, following the report's publication.

Many of the usual anti-Palestinian groups jumped on the bandwagon. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, urged the UK Government to act and "make sure British taxpayer money no longer goes towards the teaching of hate".

Martin Konecny, who is running for the European Middle East Project (EuMEP), an independent NGO in Brussels specialising in European and international policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict debunked the claims made in anti-Palestinian media outlets.

READ: 'Death to the Jews' would have caused an international scandal, yet Israel's incitement gets a free pass

Sharing the findings of the report on Twitter Konecny said an EU-funded study "just concluded the Palestinian textbooks adhere to UNESCO standards & found virtually no instances of antisemitism". This is mentioned nowhere in series of articles which appear to have misrepresented the report. Konecny insists that the report on the textbooks doesn't claim "incitement" and that it had found just one chapter in one textbook (across 150+ reviewed textbooks) with ant-Semitic motifs – which has since been altered.

Konecny's Twitter thread also debunked reports that Palestinian children were being taught to hate. "The report found various shortcomings & biases in the textbooks but I don't think it found a single case across the whole PA curriculum of as blatant disinformation" Konecny said pointing to an article in the Jerusalem Post which he claims misrepresented the report.

A few years ago, Israeli Professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan carried out an important academic study on "Palestine in Israeli School Books." Details of her interview were published on MEMO. The dissident Israeli scholar found that when Israeli textbooks mention Palestinians at all, the official schoolbooks teach a "racist discourse", which quite literally wipes Palestine off the map. Maps in the schoolbooks only ever show "the Land of Israel", from the river to the sea.

Of the rare times that Palestinians are mentioned, it is in an overwhelmingly negative and stereotypical fashion: "all [the books] represent [Palestinians] in racist icons or demeaning classificatory images such as terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers — the three 'problems' they constitute for Israel."

This is the latest textbook scandal on the issue of Israel and Palestine. Earlier this month a textbook slammed as "propaganda" for Israel was withdrawn by an examining board. The BBC also sparked outrage for removing content from its educational videos about Palestine and the origins of the ongoing Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing following pressure from pro-Israel lobby.

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EUInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestine
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