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For first time, EU senior official publicly states that Palestinian textbooks are ‘deeply problematic’ , ahead of EU Parliament meeting to discuss freezing funds

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The European Parliament’s Budget Committee will meet at the end of this month to vote on 2022 allocations to the Palestinian Authority. Several proposals have been tabled to freeze a portion of funding to the PA until the textbooks are changed, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Ahead of a crucial vote on next year EU funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA), a senior European Commission official stated that PA textbooks are deeply ‘’problematic’’ and can no longer be tolerated in their current form as they perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by promoting hatred and violence, alongside employing antisemitic tropes.   

At a meeting of the European Parliament’s Working Group Against Antisemitism on Thursday in Brussels to discuss EU study on Palestinian textbooks, Henrike Trautmann, head of unit at the European Commission Directorate General which oversees all aid to the Palestinian education sector, said: “It is very clear that the study does reveal the existence of very deeply problematic content…changes to the curriculum are essential…full compliance of all educational material with UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence must be ensured as must any reference of antisemitic nature need to be addressed and taken out.”

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The EU study, by German Georg Eckert Institute reviewing the Palestinian textbooks, was published last June.

At the EU Parliament meeting,  members of the committee condemned antisemitism and glorification of violence in the PA curriculum. EU Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer, a member of the liberal Renew Europe political group, clearly tied European funding to the PA to hate teaching:

“It hurts us to read about the content of textbooks that only exist thanks to an educational infrastructure that the European Union, together with other donors, enable the Palestinian Authority to have. Depicting Jews as dangerous, demonizing them, perpetuating anti-Jewish prejudices is just upsetting. But reading about schoolbooks – and here I speak as a mother – glorifying terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, presenting cold-blooded violence against civilians, including a lot of children as resistance leaves me speechless.”

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The European Parliament’s Budget Committee will meet at the end of this month to vote on 2022 allocations to the Palestinian Authority. Several proposals have been tabled to freeze a portion of funding to the PA until the textbooks are changed.

Two weeks ago, at a hearing of the European Parliament foreign affairs committee, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, acknowledged that Palestinian textbooks contain problematic material, while still insisting that the agency takes steps to prevent it from being taught, but without showing that how this is actually accomplished.

He also stated that antisemitism, intolerance glorification of terrorism is present in PA textbooks in UNRWA schools and affirmed that his agency had revised the textbooks used in its schools following allegations of antisemitic content.

But several members of the committee questioned him on continued teaching of hate, violence and antisemitism in the textbooks and UNRWA materials, citing a recent report by IMPACT-se,  an organization that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula for compliance with UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance. on the textbooks.

The EU is UNRWA’s largest and most consistent institutional donor.

In June, European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, whose department covers aid to UNRWA, issued statements calling to consider conditioning aid to the Palestinian education sector on “full adherence to UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, co-existence, non-violence” and a “need for Palestinian education reform”.

Holocaust

German Nazi war crimes suspect, 96, who went on the run goes on trial

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Irmgard Furchner, a 96-year-old former secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp, is pictured at the beginning of her trial in a courtroom, in Itzehoe, Germany, October 19, 2021. Christian Charisius/Pool via REUTERS

A 96-year-old German woman who was caught shortly after going on the run ahead of a court hearing last month on charges of committing war crimes during World War Two appeared before a judge on Tuesday in the northern town of Itzehoe, writes Miranda Murray, Reuters.

Irmgard Furchner (pictured), accused of having contributed as an 18-year-old to the murder of 11,412 people when she was a typist at the Stutthof concentration camp between 1943 and 1945, was taken into the sparse courtroom in a wheelchair.

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Her face was barely visible behind a white mask and scarf pulled low over her eyes. Security was heavy as the judge and legal staff made their way into the court.

Between 1939 and 1945 some 65,000 people died of starvation and disease or in the gas chamber at the concentration camp near Gdansk, in today's Poland. They included prisoners of war and Jews caught up in the Nazis' extermination campaign.

Irmgard Furchner, a 96-year-old former secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp, arrives in a wheelchair at the beginning of her trial in a courtroom, in Itzehoe, Germany, October 19, 2021. Christian Charisius/Pool via REUTERS
Judge Dominik Gross arrives in the courtroom for the trial against Irmgard Furchner, a 96-year-old former secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp, in Itzehoe, Germany, October 19, 2021. Christian Charisius/Pool via REUTERS

The trial was postponed after Furchner left her home early on Sept. 30 and went on the run for several hours before being detained later that day.

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Charges could not be read until Furchner, who faces trial in an adolescent court because of her young age at the time of the alleged crimes, was present in court.

She is the latest nonagenarian to have been charged with Holocaust crimes in what is seen as a rush by prosecutors to seize the final opportunity to enact justice for the victims of some of the worst mass killings in history.

Although prosecutors convicted major perpetrators - those who issued orders or pulled triggers - in the 1960s "Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials", the practice until the 2000s was to leave lower-level suspects alone.

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Anti-semitism

Antisemitic prejudices widespread in Greece, survey shows, but Greek MP insists the state has been fighting a lot antisemitism in the last few years

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A comprehensive survey of anti-Semitic prejudices in 16 European countries, which was released last week in the framework of a meeting of Jewish leaders in Brussels, shows that Greece is, along with Poland and Hungary, the country where the population has the most negative feelings towards the Jews and where antisemitic prejudices are widespread, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

According to the survey, commissioned by Action and Protection League (APL), a partner organization of the European Jewish Association, more than a third of Greeks  surveyed believe that “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into society”.

The belief in a “secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” is shared by 58% of Greeks. In addition, some 36% of Greeks  have ‘’rather negative feelings” towards Jews.

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The survey globally shows that in  Western European countries, there is more anti-Israel sentiment while in Eastern European countries (including Greece) there is more traditional anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism.

“Greece stands out as the country where antisemitic prejudices are the most present although I do not believe that Greece is the least safe country for Jews,” said Rabbi Shlomo Koves, leader of the APL, during a presentation of the survey.

“The worrying results of the survey show that anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in Europe,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, President of the EJA, who presented a 10-point action plan to the Jewish leaders at the conference.

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Asked by European Jewish Press to comment the results regarding his country, Konstantinos Karagounis (pictured), a member of the Greek parliament and former minister, stressed that since the 1980s, a period of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the Greek state has made a huge turn which has resulted in making Israel one of its most important allies.

‘’The results of the survey are quite distrurbing but we have been fighting a lot antisemitism in the last few years by making the law more strict which seems to be very effective,’’ he said.

‘’We show zero tolerance for Neo-Nazis and extremists,’’ he added

He noted that the survey shows that the percentage of antisemitic prejudices is very high especially for Greek people that are more aged (more than 50/60 yea old). ‘’This has to do with perceptions. ‘’The optimistic part is that is that for the younger generation the percentage is very low. That makes me optimistic and shows that if we give more education  and if we inform more the population, especially the youths, I think that our fight will be very effective,’’ Karagounis said.

‘’Another good thing is that we have no violent incidents against Jews in Greece but of course we still have a lot of work to do,’’ he added.

He described the ties between his country and Israel (and Cyprus) as ‘’veryu strong’’. ‘’We share the same values,’’ he added.

‘’Now we can speak of a country that has embraced its Jewish heritage, recognized the destruction of its Jewish communities by the Nazis, recognized its inherent faults. Greece is now a country that is actively fighting antisemitism through education, through law-making and of course through public statements,” said Karagounis.

Last Sunday, the European Commission Vice-President, Margaritis Schinas, visited  the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki (Salonika). During his visit, Schinas, who is from the northern Greek city,  reassured Jewish communities of Europe that the European Union will support them in the face of modern threats.

“As Vice President, I want to assure the Jewish communities in Europe that the EU will not leave them unprotected from the many modern threats that are overshadowing their lives today. We will guarantee their safety, we will strengthen their education and culture, we will do everything to preserve the historical memory of the Holocaust, especially now that the last survivors are leaving us without their personal stories,” he said.

His visit to the Jewish Museum of Salonika came a few days after the presentation of the EU’s first strategy on combating antisemitism and preserving Jewish life.

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Anti-semitism

French Jewish leader: ‘While the European institutions and politicians devote significant resources and spare no effort in the fight against anti-Semitism, the situation in Europe is not improving. Worse, it is deteriorating’

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"While the European institutions and politicians devote significant resources and spare no effort in the fight against anti-Semitism, the situation in Europe is not improving. Worse, it is deteriorating," said Joel Mergui (pictured), president of the Central Israelite Consistory of France as he addressed on Tuesday (12 October) a conference in Brussels of Jewish leaders organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA), writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

"It is time to face the facts. Combating anti-Semitism cannot be reduced to isolating and penalizing anti-Semitic acts. This penalty is of course essential. Perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts should not never go unpunished. But for it to be truly effective, the fight against anti-Semitism must get to the root of the problem," he added.

Mergui said that Europe must launch concrete initiatives in the field of education to combat anti-Jewish stereotypes. "It must also value the heritage and the contribution of Judaism and remind ceaselessly that Jewish spirituality is an integral part of European culture."

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His remarks came as a new comprehensive survey of antisemitic prejudices in 16 European countries was unveiled ahead of the conference. The survey results appear to be rather disturbing. The Action and Protection League (AP)– partners of the EJA – commissioned the survey with IPSOS SA, under the leadership of Professor András Kovács of Central European University in Vienna-Budapest, taking in 16 European countries and asking respondents direct questions, and following up where seemed necessary. The countries polled are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Amongst the disturbing figures are: Nearly one third of respondents in Austria, Hungary and Poland said Jews will never be able to fully integrate into society. Nearly one third agreed that there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world. (Romania – 29%; France – 28%; Czech Republic – 23% ). In Spain, 35% said Israelis behave like Nazis towards the Palestinians; 29% said the same in the Netherlands; and 26% agreed with the statement in Sweden. In Latvia, just over a third – 34% – said Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes; 23% agreed in Germany; and 22% agreed in Belgium. A quarter of all those surveyed agreed with the statement that Israel’s policies make them understand why some people hate Jews.

“Jews around Europe need to propose specific action-plans to their governments as well as on the EU level,” said Rabbi Shlomo Koves, founder of APL and initiator of the survey. “We need to take our fate into our hands if we want our grandchildren to be able to live in Europe in 20-50 years from now,” he added.

The two-day Brussels conference was attended by dozens of prominent European Jewish leaders, parliamentarians, and diplomats from across the continent, including EU Commission Vice-President Margiritis Schinas, as well as the President of Israel Isaac Herzog and the Minister for Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai who will address the gathering from Jerusalem. The European Commission last week presented the first-ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.

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With antisemitism worryingly on the rise, in Europe and beyond, the strategy intends to set out a series of measures articulated around three pillars: to prevent all forms of antisemitism; to protect and foster Jewish life and to promote research, education and Holocaust remembrance.

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