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EU makes UNRWA aid conditional on textbook changes

A Palestinian man carries on his shoulder sacks of flour received from a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) distribution centre in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern of Gaza Strip , on 29 January 2020 [MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images]
A Palestinian man carries on his shoulder sacks of flour received from a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) distribution centre in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern of Gaza Strip , on 29 January 2020 [MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images]

The European Parliament decided on Tuesday to block €20 million in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) if immediate changes promoting "tolerance with the Jewish-Israeli 'other'" are not made to Palestinian school textbooks, news agencies have reported. According to the amendment agreed by members of the parliament, the textbooks must not include anti-Israel rhetoric and should promote the two-state solution.

"The reserve of €20 million will be released by the next academic school 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," says the approved amendment.

"Should there be no change, appropriations in reserve shall be used for funding Palestinian NGOs that have a proven track record of promoting educational initiatives in school settings for children designed to foster tolerance, coexistence and respect towards the Jewish-Israeli 'other'."

The MEPs voted through the amendment which claimed that "hate speech, anti-Semitism and incitement to violence" are all found in Palestinian Authority and UNRWA textbooks. "EU-funded salaries of education civil servants who draft Palestinian textbooks must be made conditional on material reflecting values of peace, tolerance, coexistence."

READ: Palestine warns of financial crisis unless Israel releases tax revenues 

In April, the European Parliament for the first time in its history passed a resolution condemning UNRWA for inciting hatred in its curricula and demanding that the content be "removed immediately."

The decision was made under pressure from the pro-Israel lobby. It alleges that UNRWA is teaching Palestinian students in its schools to reject the peace negotiations with Israel while promoting anti-Semitism, encouraging jihad and glorifying terrorists and terrorism.

According to journalist and seasoned EU-watcher David Cronin, though, the pro-Israel lobby has been claiming for at least 20 years that Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews. The evidence produced to back up its claims, he insists, has been flimsy.

"That's putting it charitably," explained Cronin. "The textbook issue is a scandal manufactured by the pro-Israel lobby. In my view, these allegations distract from the real scandal, which is that European governments and institutions effectively pay the bills for Israel's military occupation."

Under international law, Israel is required to meet the needs of Palestinians living under occupation, he pointed out. "The European Union, as the largest donor to Palestine, is thus relieving Israel of its responsibilities. And by having a very close trading relationship and even cooperation with Israel's military in some cases, European governments abet Israel's crimes. That's the real scandal."

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