Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee met to consider the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act. While the name of the legislation represents something all schools should aspire to, it is in actuality a thinly veiled attempt to de-legitimize the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and demonize the teaching of the Palestinian narrative. There are real and problematic examples cited by supporters of the bill, which UNRWA takes seriously and is working to address. However, we believe that it is incumbent on schools to teach tolerance and avoid bias in their curriculum on both sides of the Green Line.
One of the most widely referenced talking points when discussing Palestinian textbooks is the absence of Israel and the Green Line on Palestinian maps. These maps are held up, as they were in yesterday’s markup, as evidence of an effort to “completely erase Israel” as Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) stated.
Entirely ignored in yesterday's markup is the current controversy around the Municipality of Tel Aviv’s distribution of maps that include the Green Line to schools throughout the city, a direct challenge to the Ministry of Education’s 55-year ban imposed on such maps. The media buzz around this matter exposed the fact that the maps Israeli school children see do not show the Green Line and portray sovereign Israel as including the occupied territories. Despite the recent media coverage and the half-century-long ban on maps that show the Green Line, there has been no mention in Congress of Israeli maps having the same issue as the Palestinian ones, let alone talk of reporting requirements or the conditioning of US aid.
Hadar Susskind, Americans for Peace Now President and CEO said:
“Fighting bias is important. As the sponsor of this legislation, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) stated yesterday, ‘peace depends on how people are educated and how they think.’
We urge Congress to consider the parallels in Israeli education when addressing this important subject."