State Dept misled Congress on Palestinian textbooks, according to gov’t report

A new report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) blames the U.S. State Department for misleading Congress in recent years on the steps the Palestinian Authority was supposed to be taking to reduce incitement in PA-sanctioned textbooks.

The report — directed to Sen. James Risch, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism — has been declassified. The push for the document’s declassification was led by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) in the House.

The State Department “submitted required reports to Congress, but one contains inaccurate information, and reports do not include some information that could be useful for Congressional oversight,” the GAO report charges. “We found that State/Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) 2017 report inaccurately described certain UNRWA actions to address textbook content not aligned with UN values.”

Jewish Insider also obtained a copy of the State Department’s reply to the GAO report where they acknowledged their shortcomings. “We agree with GAO’s recommendations that the Department must take additional steps to ensure that its reporting to Congress is accurate, with thorough and relevant information to support effective Congressional decision-making and oversight.”  

The State Department admitted to including inaccurate information received orally from UNRWA that they believed to have been accurate at the time but did not verify.

A Congressional staffer familiar with the report told JI that “oversight committees are going to be looking for the specific people who have been lying to our bosses on behalf of anti-Israel activists at UNRWA.”

Palestinian textbooks have long been scrutinized by Israeli and U.S. politicians. While serving as U.S. Senator, Hillary Clinton accused  PA textbooks of poisoning the minds of children. More recently, Sen. Ted Cruz has pointed to incitement in the Palestinian education system.

The report details a specific complaint involving a math textbook that U.S. officials raised with the Palestinian Minister of Education. While the textbook in this instance didn’t demonstrate a direct call for violence against Israel, it did ask students solve a math problem using the number of Palestinian casualties in the First and Second Intifadas, a lesson the report labeled ‘problematic’ and ‘clearly objectionable.’  

According to the report, UNRWA identified 203 ‘issues’ in Palestinian textbooks during the 2017-2018 school year. In a breakdown of textbooks, mathematics was fourth behind social studies, Arabic grammar, and Islamic education with the most number of such ‘issues.’ The inaccuracies include nonhistorical maps, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Palestine, not listing other religions connected to Arab culture, and other political messages.  

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