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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:53 pm on 10th March 2020.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak 2:53 pm, 10th March 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I declare an interest as the new chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and I refer hon. Members to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I congratulate Jonathan Gullis on securing the debate and on an excellent speech. I also pay tribute to former Members Joan Ryan and Dame Louise Ellman, who did so much to lead debate on this subject in the previous Parliament. Like the hon. Gentleman, I strongly support a two-state solution. That is precisely why I believe that we must urgently tackle the issue of radicalisation in the Palestinian school curriculum. As we have heard, it seeks to pass on old hatreds and prejudices to a new generation of young people. It is a barrier to reconciliation and co-existence. It is pernicious and simply unacceptable.

However, as we have also heard, this is not an issue just for the Palestinian Authority; our Government share some of the responsibility. UK taxpayers fund the salaries of some 30,000 teachers and officials in the Palestinian education authority. Those are the people involved in the implementation and delivery of this curriculum. Let us be clear: we are paying the salaries of those who designed and administer the curriculum and those who teach it. As we have heard, the memorandum of understanding that governs British aid states clearly that the Palestinian Authority should abide by principles of non-violence. I think that the hon. Gentleman quoted the provision about incitement in the educational curriculum, so I will not repeat that, but we know that it has existed for many years. Every year Ministers claim that DFID’s annual reviews—reviews that are not published, incidentally—show that the PA are upholding their commitments. I have to ask: how do they show that?

Last year, former Minister Alistair Burt admitted that the content of textbooks is not covered in the reviews and that DFID plays no role in relation to textbook material. I therefore say to this Minister that, whatever has happened in the past, surely now we have to have some commitment that we will look at that if it is to be possible, in all honesty, to say that the PA are complying with the memorandum of understanding.