La. Senator Kennedy calls for accountability in Palestinian schools

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana introduced the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act to address whether Palestinian students are being taught inaccurate or racist content about Israel and the Jewish people.

“The Middle East will never experience peace until Palestinians stop teaching their kids to hate Israel, and American dollars should not fund this anti-Jewish propaganda. The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act would give us a closer look at what Palestinian schools are teaching and whether or not American money is supporting antisemitism,” said Kennedy.

The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act would require the Secretary of State to submit a report within 180 days, and then annually for two years, examining the curriculum Palestinian schools are using to teach students. The reports will review whether Palestinian curricula encourage racist violence against the Jewish people and whether U.S. foreign aid is supporting such material.

The review will also assess steps the PA takes to reform the curricula to conform to “standards of peace and tolerance adopted by Member States of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization” in 1995.

According to the bill, modified curricula published by the Palestinian Authority for grades 1 to 11 “include graphics portraying violence against Israeli soldiers, positive portrayals of individuals who have committed attacks against citizens of Israel, and references to Palestinian efforts to target the ‘Zionists’.”

Currently, Kennedy noted, America provides significant funding to the Palestinians, and this funding may be supporting antisemitic propaganda in school curricula.

The Senate bill is a companion piece to one introduced earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), which has gained 27 co-sponsors. A previous iteration of the bill in the last Congress was unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The House version of the bill has been publicly endorsed by AIPAC, ADL and Hadassah.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which maintains the refugee status of Palestinians, runs schools in Palestinian-administered areas and uses PA-provided curriculum. On Nov. 16, a gathering of donor nations to UNRWA was to convene.

UNRWA, which has been criticized lately for its school curriculum and questionable fiscal accountability, runs 59 refugee camps for the descendants of original Palestinian refugees from 1948. The other UN agency responsible for refugees, the High Commissioner, is charged with resettling all other refugees around the world, rather than maintaining their status quo.

The watchdog group IMPACT-se said it has been working with U.S. lawmakers and officials in the Biden administration to educate them on concerning trends in the Palestinian curriculum.

“The United States is now the most significant supporter of UNRWA, having recently restored $318 million in annual aid — 60 percent of which will go towards education,” said IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff. “Clearly, that amount of funding brings with it a great deal of leverage, a duty of care to Palestinian children in UNRWA schools and a responsibility to demand change to the textbooks UNRWA teaches. As we have discussed with the administration, transparency, oversight and accountability to ensure compliance with international standards are paramount.”

According to the Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem, which examines PA textbooks, the curriculum taught in UNRWA schools “incorporates principles of Jihad, martyrdom and ‘right of return’ by force of arms,” teaching that the goal is the eventual elimination of Israel.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan has warned that the agency helps to “perpetuate” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Zionist Organization of America praised Kennedy and Sherman, saying “There will never be an end to the Arab war against Israel and the Jews until the Palestinian Arabs begin to teach their children to value peace and stop teaching violence against the Jewish State and its inhabitants. ZOA salutes Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Sherman for this legislation that will help make the peaceful outcome possible.”

Act Reaffirms Jerusalem Embassy

On Nov. 17, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana signed on to Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff’s bill, Upholding the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Law Act of 2021. The legislation prohibits the use of governmental funds for any U.S. diplomatic facility in Jerusalem other than the U.S. Embassy.

In 1995, Congress passed legislation calling for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Israel was the only country where the embassy was not in the capital. While all presidents after that delayed the law’s implementation, in 2018, the Trump administration finally moved the embassy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

There had previously been a consulate in Jerusalem that dealt with Palestinian affairs, but those services were merged into the embassy in 2019. The Biden administration has been discussing reopening the consulate as a separate installation.

Ramallah, six miles north of Jerusalem, serves as the capital for the Palestinian Authority, but the Palestinians have insisted that Jerusalem will be the capital of their future state.

(Sean Savage of JNS contributed to this report)