SEATTLE, Washington — On December 18, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act. The full House must now take it under consideration. The bipartisan bill takes issue with the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) modified curricula for Palestinian schoolchildren published in 2016-2017. According to the bill, the content of the curricula does not meet the internationally-accepted UNESCO standards for peace and tolerance and “encourages violence, antisemitism, hate and intolerance.”
The IMPACT-se Report
The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act is based on a September 2019 report from the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se). IMPACT-se monitors textbooks throughout the Middle East and assesses whether they promote the values of peace and tolerance. According to the Jerusalem Post, the IMPACT-se study “found that all textbooks in social studies, history, Arabic and national education for grades two to 12 contained problematic content.” This includes content that incites violence, promotes hatred of “the other” and is disturbing or inappropriate in some other way.
The IMPACT-se report draws attention to several passages in various Palestinian textbooks that do not meet international standards for peace and tolerance in school education. The report is based on the new curriculum that was to be put in place since 2016. While IMPACT-se expected the Palestinian curriculum to have become more moderate, in fact, the report finds that the curriculum is more radical than it was in its previous restructuring in 2000.
Most notably, the report notes that the new Palestinian curriculum contains a “systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects.” It encourages embracing “a full spectrum of extreme nationalist ideas and Islamist ideologies that extend even into the teaching of mathematics and science.” The curriculum rejects the possibility of peace with Israel along with a total lack of acknowledgment of any historical Jewish presence in modern-day Israel and Palestine or even of current Jewish presence in Israel.
The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act
H.R. 2343: Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act would require the State Department to submit annual reports to Congress on the school curricula that the Palestinian Authority or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provides for Palestinian students in the West Bank and Gaza. The State Department’s publicly-available report would focus specifically on:
whether the educational materials “encourage violence or intolerance toward other nations or ethnic groups,”
how the PA and UNRWA have sought to reform the curricula
whether U.S. foreign aid has contributed to the dissemination of the problematic school materials
Status of the Resolution
Representative Brad Sherman [D-CA-30] introduced the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act on April 18, 2019. Rep. Lee Zeldin [R-NY-1], who is the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and 17 other cosponsors also supported the bill. The House Foreign Affairs Committee ordered a report on the bill to be sent to the entire House chamber on December 18, 2019. Only 25 percent of bills make it out of committee. According to Skopos Labs, H.R. 2343 has a 2 percent chance of being enacted.
The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act encourages the U.S. government to promote teaching peace and tolerance in Palestinian schools. If passed, the four-page bill would require the Secretary of State to submit annual reports to Congress and to make them available to the public.
– Sarah Frazer