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Jewish Journal

Opinion: Revisionist history

by Micah D. Halpern

November 9, 2011 | 4:51 pm

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is attempting an end around. 

Momentum in the Security Council and in the U.N. General Assembly has shifted away from support for the Palestinian declaration of statehood and the Palestinian dream of becoming a full member of the United Nations. So, the Palestinians are adopting a new tactic. Now they are trying to line up 16 U.N. agencies willing to recognize them as full members. They began with UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

UNESCO accepted Palestinians as members, but the acceptance came at a very high price. Because UNESCO chose to elevate the Palestinians to this new status, the United States has downsized its contribution to UNESCO. The United States cut the $70 million per year that it contributes to the budget of UNESCO. That is 23 percent of UNESCO’s annual budget. As of Nov. 1, the United States was going to pay up on the $60 million that it still owed — but did not. 

Canada is considering aligning with the United States and pulling its funding, as well. And in the aftermath of this fallout, Israel cannot in good conscience deliver the funds it pledged to help UNESCO.

UNESCO’s Palestinian-sponsored problems are not just monetary. A reputable watchdog of UNESCO is asserting that the organization violated its own tenets by even permitting the Palestinians to stand for membership, let alone by accepting them as members.

According to the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE), UNESCO did not investigate nor did it issue a report on the hatred and anti-Semitism that exists in the educational systems under the PA and Hamas.

The group looked at 117 textbooks geared for various ages and discovered that almost all of them glorify death and war, avoid mention of any options for peace with Israel and obscure history. These are the texts Palestinian children are taught from in their schools.

And it is not just IMPACT-SE that has come to these conclusions. Every outside, non-Palestinian group that has studied the textbooks of Palestinian school children has determined that these texts are filled with hatred and that they glorify hatred and killing, especially the killing of Israelis and Jews. 

Part of UNESCO’s charge is that members must both embrace peaceful interaction with their neighbor nations and recognize their neighbor nations. And yet, neither PA nor Hamas textbooks even identify Israel on their maps. And when Israel is mentioned, this neighbor nation is derided and degraded.

None of this information was considered before UNESCO members voted to give the PA member status. Had it been considered, the PA would have been given the opportunity to correct its texts and rework the problematic sections and then been re-evaluated. Now we have two gross wrongs. 

The PA is in the wrong for rewriting history, and UNESCO is in the wrong for willfully closing its eyes to what was plainly printed and available for it to see and read. 

This flagrant violation of principles by one of the most renowned agencies within the United Nations must be brought to light, and the process must be reversed. 

The sad truth is that this is not a new issue.

The U.S. Congress has been aware of the failure of Palestinian texts to honestly and appropriately deal with history and the Palestinian relationship for more than a decade. The U.S. Congress actually allocated the transfer of $30 million to correct the textbooks. Specifically, the PA was to put Israel on its maps, cleanse the text of hateful language when mentioning both Israel and Jews, and eliminate sections that glorify suicide bombers. Congress and UNESCO share a principle: that in order to begin to live together, schools must begin the process of re-educating and move toward cooperation and mutual coexistence. That is why there are ground rules in UNESCO. That is why the United States allocated money to fix Palestinian textbooks.

The PA took the money and agreed to make the changes. In reality, all it did was take the money. 

In international arenas, Palestinian representatives often talk about coexistence and cooperation and peaceful interaction. They sound very convincing. But seldom have any real changes taken place in educational curricula. And, now they are members in full standing in UNESCO.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

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