Following the truck-ramming in which four Israelis were killed and 13 injured, footage emerged of Palestinian youths handing out sweets and attending celebratory rallies. Fireworks were set off in Jabel Mukaber, the terrorist’s home neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
David Bedein, the head of a think tank that focuses on Palestinian education, also claimed that teachers at several UN-run, UK-backed schools in East Jerusalem organised events to celebrate the terror attack.
He said there was “a crying need for an overhaul in UK policy” towards the schools, which “implement a war-brainwashing curriculum”.
The UK is the third-biggest donor to Unwra, which manages several schools in the West Bank and Gaza.
Mr Bedein’s think tank, the Centre for Near East Policy Research (CNEPR), last week presented at the Knesset an in-depth report on the extremism being taught in Unwra classrooms, with a focus on the textbooks used.
The CNEPR cited one textbook which asked students to solve a maths problem by adding up the number of Jews killed in intifadas, and contained a poem about a Palestinian militant which says: “Whoever asks for a noble death — this is it”.
“Are UK officials so blind that they have never glanced at a textbook issued by the Palestinian Authority and used by Unwra?,” Mr Bedein asked.
He added: “Whether or not MPs are sympathetic to Israel… all MPs and British policymakers should be outraged.
“When we went to the school in Shuafat [in Jerusalem] there was a sign thanking the British government. If the British government is funding this school, then it should be checking the education there.”
A spokesman for the Department of International Development said: “The UK does not tolerate learning materials that promote violence or intolerance and we expect partners to have robust quality assurance systems in place to identify and remove inappropriate content.
“We regularly monitor partners’ work to make sure these systems are working and will take action if they are not.”
Half a million Palestinian children in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem study in UN schools.
Arnon Groiss, one of the scholars who analysed the Palestinian textbooks for the CNEPR, said that aside from the general demonisation of Israelis and Jews, Israel was absent from maps; the books referred to all Israelis as occupiers; and there was no recognition that certain sites in Israel are sacred to Jews.
Dr Groiss said: “Most of the messages are implicit — they never say, ‘let’s kill the Jews’, but they do say, ‘let’s make an effort to liberate Palestine’.”
He admitted there were also failings in Israeli education, but said that the difference was that on the Palestinian side there was nothing to temper the critical views.
“Demonisation is quite common among nations in conflict, and you can also see this in Israeli schoolbooks regarding Arabs. But in Palestinian schoolbooks you don’t also have objective information on the ‘other,’ as you do in Israeli schoolbooks.”
Mr Bedein said: “Unwra is an adherent to the values of the United Nations and if it uses a textbook that eliminates a UN member state, this is inappropriate.”
Christopher Gunness, spokesman for Unwra, played down the problem, insisting that “a robust programme of human rights, tolerance and non-violent conflict resolution” was implemented in all schools.
He admitted Unwra was limited to using the PA’s curriculum because it had resolved to teach in line with guidelines of its “host country” and takes the view “a UN agency cannot act unilaterally on this issue by replacing this curriculum”.
Mr Gunness argued that PA books did not pose problems, citing a US-funded 2013 study which, he said, attested to the “absence of incitement to terrorism and no presence of dehumanisation of the ‘other.’”
Dr Groiss had been on the advisory panel of this study but became disillusioned with it, along with many other Israelis, claiming that it reached distorted conclusions because it cherry-picked texts.
Mr Bedein was not, however, in favour of the UK cuttting off its funding to Unwra. He said: “If the UK or any other Western nation were to cut off funding, nations such as Qatar would move in immediately with replacement money.”