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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:14 pm on 10th March 2020.

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Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Conservative, Bury South 3:14 pm, 10th March 2020

I congratulate my hon. Friend Jonathan Gullis on securing this debate, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend James Cleverly on his new role. I, too, refer hon. Members to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, because I also went to Israel and the west bank on a fact-finding mission last month.

Hon. Members have highlighted the truly appalling content of Palestinian textbooks in Gaza and the west bank, where textbooks on radical Islamism are being used that are more extreme than previous versions. My hon. Friends have cited extracts that are certainly damning in their divisive nature. However, reform is possible. For instance, Jordan comprehensively reviewed its curriculum in 2015 in response to concerns about radicalisation in the country, and terrorism is now depicted as killing innocent people and having devastating consequences. That is not the case in the textbooks that we are discussing, however. Although it is not perfect, Jordan’s curriculum can generally be seen as an indication that reform is possible. I wholeheartedly hope that the Palestinian Authority review the textbooks and reflect on their own curriculum to try to encourage future peace with the state of Israel.

Does my right hon. Friend the Minister agree that Jordan’s education reforms show that an alternative approach is achievable and desirable? Is the Minister aware of any ongoing discussions between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority about the content of their respective curriculums? We should not lose hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. There is already extensive security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and there are some fantastic NGOs on the ground in Israel and the west bank laying the groundwork for peace. My right hon. Friend Stephen Crabb has already referred to the fantastic work that Fleur Hassan, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, is undertaking on the ground in the east of the city.

I will skip forward in the speech that I prepared and ask the Minister a few questions. I hope he will agree that a new approach will empower those who support peace and the two-state solution, rather than the radical voices that benefit from the status quo and continued resentment. That will allow us to support the moving forward of the peace deal. Ultimately, we are not, and nor should we be, in a position to dictate how the Palestinians can and cannot educate their children. Can the Government truly be committed to stamping out antisemitism in our own country when they fund it in a foreign nation? Is it right that we fund divisive, antisemitic, anti-Israeli propaganda?