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Germans Take Aim at Anti-israel Material in Palestinian Schoolbooks

August 30, 2001
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German representatives to the European Union’s legislative branch are urging the European Union to halt funding for the Palestinian Authority until schoolbooks with anti-Semitic material are withdrawn and replaced.

The first of several discussions on the topic took place Tuesday during the opening session of the E.U. Parliament in Brussels.

The question of withholding tens of millions of dollars in funds to the Palestinian Authority was addressed by the Foreign Affairs Committee and will be addressed in other committees during coming weeks.

In one of the Palestinian texts in question, Jews are described as “treacherous and disloyal.”

In another, it is suggested that the Zionist cause benefited from successive persecutions and the Holocaust.

“Martyrdom in the struggle against Israel” is placed as the highest goal for young Muslims, and the state of Israel does not appear on any maps in the texts.

As a funder, the European Union is indirectly responsible for the texts’ content, said Amin Laschet, a member of the E.U. legislative body and Germany’s representative to its economics committee.

The European Union needs to “send a signal to the Palestinians that E.U. money is meant to support the peace process,” said Laschet, a member of the Christian Democratic Union Party. “But when it goes for hate and violence, then we can stop it.”

Laschet said concern about the texts transcended party lines in Germany.

But the current charge against the Palestinian Authority texts appears to have been led by Laschet and fellow CDU member Elmar Brok, head of the European Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee.

Brok told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag last weekend that the European Union’s “goal is to finance programs in Palestine that further the cause of reconciliation, not of hate.”

Meanwhile, officials with the Palestinian Authority’s Education Ministry have denied publishing anti-Semitic texts.

According to the German press agency DPA, the ministry also said it had only published textbooks up to the sixth grade. Until books are ready for other grades, Palestinian schools are using Jordanian and Egyptian texts, the ministry said.

The ministry added that Israel is described in the books as an occupier — “as it is by the United Nations.”

Though European nations have tended to side with the Palestinians in the current crisis, Laschet told JTA he expects broad agreement that the European Parliament shouldn’t fund the offensive texts.

He suggested that it was about time the European Union put pressure on the Palestinians, considering the enormous financial contribution Europe makes to them.

The European Union has provided nearly half a billion dollars to the Palestinians since 1993 toward improving infrastructure and education, Laschet said.

The schoolbooks in question reportedly are funded through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which receives money from the European Union and the United Nations.

About 30 percent of the annual contribution to the Palestinian Authority comes from German taxes, a fact that prompted Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to appeal to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder about the texts.

These books “sow the seeds for bomb attacks,” Spiegel said.

Officials at the German Foreign Ministry say they plan to analyze the texts.

Laschet said he took up the cause this summer after reading English translations of Palestinian school texts provided by the New York- and Jerusalem-based Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.

Laschet and other members of the E.U. Parliament met in July in Israel with representatives of the Center, and later met with P.A. President Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Laschet said Arafat confirmed that the English translations of the texts are accurate and explained that they were reprints of Jordanian schoolbooks that would be used until new Palestinian texts are ready in 2005.

The reprints were funded by Holland and Finland, which clearly did not know the content, Laschet told JTA.

“But everyone who reads them thinks it is the opinion of Holland and Finland,” he said.

He said Belgium already had withdrawn its unintended support of anti-Semitic texts this summer.

Laschet has cited several egregious examples of anti-Semitism in Palestinian texts, including:

A fourth-grade religion textbook that calls Jews “the enemy of the prophets and true believers.”

A 12th-grade history book that says Jews are hated around the world because of their greed and money-changing. Furthermore, says the text, “European Jews were hated because of their anti-Christian Jewish faith.” A teacher’s guide for this textbook urges discussion of the following point: “The persecution of Jews was desirable and advantageous to the Zionist movement, and remains so today.”

In no text is Israel mentioned as a state. Cities within Israel are described as Palestinian cities.

Recalling his meeting with Arafat, Laschet said the Palestinian leader assured the European Parliament members that new schoolbooks do not contain hate material.

But “martyrdom is included in the new books, and Israel does not exist in the new books,” Laschet told JTA. “Israel is the occupier” in these books and “suicide attacks are described as good.”

“We criticized this, and Arafat said, ‘Israel is the occupier and our children are experiencing occupation,’ ” Laschet said. “We told him we do not expect him to be teaching that Israel is their friend, but they should not be teaching violence.”

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