Palestinians furious over Unwra plan to amend school textbooks

According to leaks, UN agency wants to remove references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities


After years of wrangling over the content of Palestinian school textbooks, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unwra) has taken the unprecedented step of reforming its curriculum - and the Palestinians are furious.

So furious, in fact, that the Palestinian Education Ministry has suspended ties with Unwra “until the positions are corrected”, and has called the proposed changes “an affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles”.

There has been no formal announcement from Unwra as to the content of its changes, which would affect more than 312,000 school students in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

However, informed leaks in the Arab media suggest that Unwra is going to change the map of “historic Palestine” to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities — a phenomenon that numerous Israeli studies of Palestinian textbooks has described as “incitement.”

The Israeli Defence Ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, Cogat, says that part of the proposed reforms will present “a balanced representation of Jerusalem, as having religious significance to the three major monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and mentioning that Muslim believers have access to the holy sites.”

“Uunwra additionally sought to amend textbooks in cases where the content showed gender bias, lacked objectivity and incited violence against Israel,” Cogat added.

The UN agency has often been under fire for its alleged involvement with militant organisations. In Gaza especially, it has been criticised by Israel and Western watchdog NGOs for employing Hamas members in its workforce. Israel has in the past accused it of failing to prevent Hamas and other groups in Gaza from storing weapons and explosives within its buildings. 

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive