Norwegian language version of John Solskik’s article:
Here is the English Translation:
UNRWA curriculum in Human Rights Comes Under Fire
Subtitle: “Dagen” – first foreign news outlet to receive the new books on human rights used in the UNRWA schools which Norway has financed.
Dr. Arnon Groiss says that content will have no effect on children’s views on the conflict in Middle East.
By: John Solsvik
Dr. Arnon Groiss is an Arabic language expert and has taught Arabic at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Dr. Groiss holds a PhD in Arabic language from the Princeton University and a masters degree from Harvard University and has been senior journalist at the Arabic language Department of the Voice of Israel Radio since 1973.
His conclusion is negative, regarding the content of the curriculum in Human Rights developed by the UNRWA schools in Gaza and The West Bank which Norway has financed.
In the words of Dr. Groiss. “The books – if they are indeed used in school, which I could not ascertain – contribute to the creation of more tolerant atmosphere within Palestinian society (save for Muslim-Christian relations). Their contribution to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is nil, if not negative, says Groiss to Dagen.
Dr. Arnon Groiss has thoroughly perused the curriculum for grades 1-6 and has studied the material for several days. He notes that the new UNRWA human rights curriculum has several items that has nothing direct to do with Human Rights. In addition, there are rights in the Declaration that are not mentioned. – What is also missing from this list – with no justification – are freedom of religion, religious equality and religious tolerance. In fact, the books are devoid of any mention of religion, according to Dr. Groiss.
The Middle East conflict is absent in the books. None of the values mentioned: peace, tolerance, peaceful resolution of conflicts, non-violence, etc. is given an interpretation in connection to the conflict. The few references to aspects of the conflict are all presenting the Palestinians as victims, Dr. Groiss says.
For example, a picture of two girls sitting next to a tent with a demolished house in the background has the caption: “A family whose house was demolished lives in a makeshift tent”. In another picture, children of Gaza “fly kites in spite of the (Israeli) siege”.
“Withholding the books”
For four months, Dagen tried to acquire the new curriculum that is financed by Norway.
No one in the Norwegian Foreign Department or at The Norwegian Representative Office to Palestine has seen these books and no one knows the content of the curriculum.
The Director Tor Wennesland at the Norwegian Representative’s Office to the Palestinian Authority personally promised to deliver the books to Dagen but never was able to fullfill the promise.
UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness several times over the past month promised to deliver the books. Each time something stopped the delivery.
Just a few days ago an UNRWA worker handed over the material to the Dagen correspondent in Jerusalem.
In 2010 Norway offered 34 million kroner (6 mill. US$) to develop the Human Rights curriculum for grades 1 to 9 in the UNRWA schools. So far the material for 1-6 level is produced, though some of the material still seems unfinished.
Dagen is the first Western press outlet that has got the books. Israel has asked for the material but has been refused by UNRWA so far. The leaders of the UN and the UNRWA believe this is great material.
Yet UNRWA has so far not showed the books to Israel because they do not want the Israeli government to see what is written in them, says David Bedein, director of The Center for Near East Policy Research.
UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness explains that he had “a terrible fight” to obtain authorization to free the books for delivery. He admits that he does not know Arabic and does not know the content of the books. Still, he has no doubt that this material is excellent and that is held up to all the international standards.
The process behind the development of these books is comprehensive, where all the different bodies has been involved. “I am one hundred percent sure that the books are prepared according to Western values and Human Rights”, Gunness says.
He confirms that the material with the curriculum in Human Rights are now used in all the UNRWA schools.
SIDEBAR: UNRWA schools.
Jerusalem correspondent Dagen
Questioning Store About UNRWA schools
The Norwegian Parlamentarian Hans-Olav Syversen is skeptical about the curriculum in the UNRWA schools and will question Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre how Norway follow up the aid money.
MP Hans-Olav Syversen (Christian Democratic Party) is worried that the Norwegian authorities have not seen the UNRWA books and that the Norwegian press organ Dagen is the only entity which knows the content of the curriculum.
There are all the reasons to take this case seriously and ask the Foreign minister about the project. The Control Commission has criticized the Norwegian funding of UN institutions, which, according to the Commission, there has been no strict control with and no sufficient follow up.
It is necessary that Foreign Department get engaged and set some requirements to the aid money and that the projects Norway finance have to follow the values of the UN, Syversen says.
He adds that the curriclum in the UNRWA schools must be constructive in regards to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
David Bedein, driector of Center for Near East Policy Research, claims that the content of the new curriculum in Human Rights is almost similar to the books five years ago.
“We examined the books used in the UNRWA schools five years ago and what we see in the new books is almost identical with what we found then”. To cover up the real content that was directly frightening, UNRWA launched a comprehensive disinformation campaign which they do to change the focus from the content to other questions in order to smear us that reveal the truth about them, Bedein says.
He claims that UNRWA has delayed delivery of the books to avoid press attention these days in advance of the UN renewal of the UNRWA mandate on June 30th.
Bedein notes that the “Human Rights concept” in the new UNRWA curriculum is only applied to internal Palestinian relations.
“Educated to kill”
Regarding Israel and the Jews, Palestinian kids are taught in the new Palestinian school books they have the right to take over all Jewish homes and kill those who live there.
Norwegian politicians must know that they support a system where they know that those behind that system teaches kids the art of war and killing.
“I thought that Norway had other and more peaceful intentions for their foreign policy”, David Bedein says.