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 working example is the EU’s present preoccupation with Palestinian textbooks, promoted by European commissioner Olivér Várhelyi and Israel-aligned lawmakers within the European Parliament.
The brand new Israeli authorities has explicitly vowed to proceed constructing unlawful settlements and to not enable the two-state resolution, the cornerstone of EU coverage on the battle.
But Brussels establishments are devoting extra time to a wholly totally different, peripheral concern: 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 difficulty 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 all the time 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 brand new examine.
However in contrast to the US-funded examine, which in contrast each Israeli and Palestinian textbooks (and located broadly related ranges of bias on either side), the EU got down to look at schoolbooks on the Palestinian facet solely.
This went in opposition to the file 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 strategy.
As Israeli researcher Assaf David commented, “[t]he very notion of inspecting solely Palestinian textbooks with a fine-tooth comb, whereas fully ignoring their mirror picture in Israeli textbooks, is essentially tendentious.”
In line with US political scientist Nathan Brown, “[t]he evaluation is written as if Palestinian textbooks can’t be understood besides by relying closely on how Israelis may view them – however with out giving Israeli textbooks the identical remedy.”
Regardless of these flaws, the ensuing examine as soon as once more drastically tempers the allegations. It neither claims nor reveals proof that the Palestinian textbooks incite hatred or violence. It paperwork debatable traits, equivalent to omissions of Israel from Palestinian maps or optimistic portrayals of Palestinian armed wrestle many years in the past – however these mirror related phenomena in Israeli society and schoolbooks.
Throughout a evaluate 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, in control of the EU’s neighbourhood, has additionally sought to play up the difficulty. Regardless of the examine’s reasonable findings, he pledged to step up stress on the PA to amend the textbooks “within the shortest attainable timeframe” on the idea of a “roadmap” with “incentives” and a technique of “screening and monitoring”.
The Hungarian Commissioner’s curiosity in amplifying the difficulty can’t be seen in isolation from his nation’s particular alliance with Israel underneath Viktor Orbán. During the last years, Hungary blocked virtually each EU international coverage assertion crucial of Israel.
There may be an additional hypocrisy right here. Final yr, 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 checklist.
This doesn’t appear to concern the MEPs professing outrage in regards to 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 – relatively than these elementary points – a central subject in EU-PA relations can be fully misplaced.
Antisemitism and direct incitement of hatred and violence must 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 relatively 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 level the place textbook “enhancements” flip into censorship, deciding for Palestinians what they will say about their historical past and lived experiences.
The entire concept that Palestinian anger in direction of Israel is pushed by textbooks relatively than the each day injustices Palestinians undergo underneath its occupation reveals an absence of primary empathy.
Whereas either 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 approach to deflect from that chilling growth.