Palestinian School Curriculum: Radicalisation — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 10th March 2020.

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Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North 2:30 pm, 10th March 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered radicalisation in the Palestinian school curriculum.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard.

I am grateful to be leading my first Westminster Hall debate on such an important and timely subject. I am delighted to see so many Members present, and I am mindful of ensuring everyone has time to speak, so I will limit the interventions I take. I refer hon. Members to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests of a fact-finding visit I made to Israel and the Palestinian Authority last year.

During my trip, I was struck by the national pride that both the Israelis and Palestinians hold so dear, and faced the difficult reality that peace remains a distant dream. Zionist pioneers made the desert bloom, and Palestinian olive groves are world renowned. The potential for the land and the people is immense, yet no matter what land borders have been proposed in peace negotiations in the 73 years since the UN partition plan of 1947, the Palestinian leadership has rejected every option. I found myself wondering how that could be the case, when a two-state solution is clearly the only way to reconcile Jewish and Arab aspirations of self-determination in the land. It became apparent that the answer is not especially palatable: over many decades, Palestinian children have grown up in an environment of institutionalised radicalisation.

In schools named after suicide bombers, schoolchildren are taught from the age of six that Israel is a temporary construct that will,

“disappear as the fog over the sea”.

Palestinians are rightly proud of their youth literacy rate, which is among the highest in the world, but it is undermined by the more harmful material within the curriculum, which plays a significant part in indoctrinating the population. Eight-year-olds learn poetry from the following verse:

“I vow I shall sacrifice my blood, to saturate the land of the generous and will eliminate the usurper from my country, and will annihilate the remnants of the foreigners.”

As a former secondary school teacher myself, I know just how impressionable young minds are and the impact that such messaging can have on pupils’ development, values and world view.

A report published by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education in September 2019 found that the most recent Palestinian Authority school textbooks are even more extreme than previous editions. Despite promises from the PA to review and remove unacceptable content, the report concludes that there is a “clear deterioration” in content meeting UNESCO-derived standards for peace and tolerance in school education. After examining 202 textbooks from the current curriculum, IMPACT-se found,

“a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects”,

where,

“the possibility of peace with Israel is rejected”.