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New report on changes introduced by President Erdogan in Turkish curriculum shows radicalization, antisemitic messaging and demonization of Israel

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A new report of the current school curriculum in Turkey shows that the curriculum has been radicalized in recent years and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) has made significant changes in textbooks, including antisemitic messaging and demonization of Israel, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The report was carried by IMPACT-se, a Jerusalem-based research and policy institute that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula within the prism of UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance, in conjunction with the Henry Jackson Society.

“School books have been weaponized in Erdogan’s attempts to Islamize Turkish society and to harken back to a nostalgic age of Turkish domination. We note increased demonization of Israel and anti-Semitic aspersions that must make Turkish-Jewish school students feel unsafe,” said Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se.

The institute notes that this is the first time that President Erdogan has made significant changes to Turkey’s state approved school textbooks since taking power in 2003.

Here are the main findings of the report:

  • The Turkish curriculum has been radicalized in recent years.
  • There has been significant Islamization of the curriculum – jihad war is introduced as a central value; martyrdom in battle is glorified.
  • Islam is seen as political, using science and technology to advance its goals.
  • Jews are now characterized as infidels instead of previously being described as “People of the Book.”
  • The curriculum demonizes Israel and verges on antisemitic messaging, describing some post-WWI Jewish schools as hostile to Turkey’s independence. The curriculum continues past practices of showing respect for Jewish civilization and the Hebrew language.
  • For the first time, the Holocaust is specifically mentioned, albeit briefly.
  • An ethno-nationalist religious vision, combining neo-Ottomanism and Pan-Turkism, is taught.
  • Concepts such as “Turkish World Domination” and Turkish or Ottoman “Ideal of the World Order” are emphasized.
  • The curriculum adopts an anti-American stance and displays sympathy for motivations of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
  • Turkey is depicted as Anti-Armenian and Pro-Azerbaijani. The Kurdish minority’s identity and cultural needs are largely neglected. Pogroms against the Turkish-Greek community are ignored.
  • Religious studies are dramatically enhanced via the system of “mandatory elective” courses. Darwinian theory has been removed.
  • Subtle anti-democratic messaging is conveyed (e.g., condemnation of the Gezi Park protests).

Dr. Soner Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, commented in the foreword to the new report: “Education is a prime pillar in Erdogan’s efforts to throw a membrane of sharia over the country.”

"The Islamization of the curriculum by Erdogan is in line with his grand narrative of an Islamic Turkish revival. Jihad is inserted into religious studies and it is characterized as a nationalist pursuit. Democratic values are denigrated while Western civilization and non-Muslims are maligned as ‘infidels’ and funders of terrorism. Textbooks have become a primary vehicle for Erdogan’s Turkish revolution."

Israel

Israeli security services uncover finance network linking European NGOs to Palestinian terror group

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Israel’s Shin Bet said that it has uncovered a financing network for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) where the terror group stole millions of euro from European aid organizations and governments to fund terrorist activities, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

“PFLP institutions deceived aid organizations in Europe through a number of methods—reporting on fictitious projects, transferring false documents, forging and inflating invoices, diverting tenders, forging documents and bank signatures, reporting inflated salaries and more,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

The money, operating under the guide of humanitarian assistance under a “Health Committee,” was used to pay families of slain terrorists, recruit new operatives and spread its messaging throughout the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem, according to the Shin Bet.

Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said his group has been tracking the close links between several European-funded NGOs and the PFLP.

“For 20 years, European officials have been providing millions of euros to the Palestinian network of terror-linked groups under the facades of human rights and civil society. Employing heavy secrecy, the Europeans continued to turn a blind eye to the clear terror links, claiming ‘there was no ‘evidence’ or ‘we only fund projects, not NGOs,’ ” said Steinberg.

According to NGO Monitor, between 2014 and 2021, the governments of Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland Germany, France, Norway, Switzerland and the European Union provided more than €200 million (more than $240 million) to the PFLP NGO network, including to the Health Work Committees.

The PFLP is designated as a terror group by the United States, European Union, Canada, Israel and others.

As a result of the investigation, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it has summoned the ambassadors of several European countries to present the findings, including evidence that European governmental funds went to the PFLP terrorist organization.

The Israeli officials “demanded that funding transfers be frozen immediately to those institutions which, acting under the guise of humanitarian organizations, recruit funds for the terrorist organization. The MFA emphasized the need for close supervision, which will prevent the continuation of funding for this organization.”

They also insisted: “European countries establish a dialogue, intended to improve control measures and supervision of the funds transferred to Palestinian non-governmental organizations, in order to ensure that these funds do not end up in the hands of terrorists.”

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Palestinian Authority (PA)

Will postponement of Palestinian elections affect the EU-Palestinian Authority relationship ?

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According to Kobi Michael, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, the Europeans and the Biden administration do not understand all the complexities which are related to the Palestinian arena.” - writes Yossi LEMPKOWICZ

The decision to postpone the planned Palestinian elections, including the legislative elections originally scheduled for 22 May, is deeply disappointing,’’ stated EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Friday.

His statement followed the decision of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to  postpone indefinitely the election for the 138-member Palestinian Legislative Council, the first in 15 years, a decision that, political analysts say, may affect the EU-PA relationship.  The EU is the PA main financial donor.

‘’The EU has consistently expressed its support for credible, inclusive and transparent elections for all Palestinians,’’ added Borrell.

‘’We firmly believe that strong, inclusive, accountable and functioning democratic Palestinian institutions based on respect for the rule of law and human rights are vital for the Palestinian people, for democratic legitimacy and, ultimately, for the two-state solution,’’ he said.

‘’We strongly encourage all Palestinian actors to resume efforts to build on the successful talks between the factions over recent months. A new date for elections should be set without delay,’’ he added.

‘’We reiterate our call on Israel to facilitate the holding of such elections across all of the Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem,’’ Borrell said.

‘’The EU continues to stand ready to work with all those involved to facilitate EU observation of any electoral process.’’

Abbas declared that the decision to postpone the elections, schedule for May 22,’’came after the failure of all international efforts to persuade Israel to allow the inclusion of Jerusalem in the elections.’’ ‘’The elections will not be held without East Jerusalem,’’ he said.

There is widespread belief among the Palestinians and the international community that the issue of voting for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem was only a pretext used by Mahmoud Abbas to avoid elections which would endanger his legitimacy already eroded by internal divisions within Fatah and the probable win of Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling in the Gaza Strip.

‘’The issue of East Jerusalem provided the justification for the PA’s decision to postpone the elections,’’ said Ghait Al-Omarin, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former foreign policy advisor to Mahmoud Abbas.

‘’Abbas has never been clear on the reasons and urgency of these elections,’’ he explained during a briefing for journalists organised by Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA). ‘’The situation is such that Fatah would end at the third or furth position in these elections.’’ Beside legislative elections, a presidential election was also originally scheduled in July.

While Abbas charged that his postponement decision was linked to the fact that elections could not be held in East Jerusalem, Israel’s foreign ministry’s political director Alon Bar met lasy week with 13 ambassadors from European Union countries and urged them not to heed claims of Israeli interference in the election made by officials close to Abbas.

“During the meeting, Alon Bar emphasized to the ambassadors that the elections in the Palestinian Authority are an internal Palestinian issue, and that Israel has no intention of intervening in them nor preventing them,” said a statement issued by the Israeli foreign ministry.

A request by the Palestinians, sent to Israel, had asked that 6,300 East Jerusalem residents be permitted to vote in the election at local post offices. Israel has not responded to the demand but in former elections in 1996, 2001 and 2006, Israel allowed the participation of East Jerusalem residents.

During the meeting with the European diplomats, Alon Bar reminded of the EU mission’s remarks to the U.N. Security Council last week particularly the importance of meeting the ‘’Quartet Principles’’, and the problematic nature of the terrorist organization Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian Authority elections.

The Quartet – made up of the US, UN, EU and Russia – has set criteria in the past for Palestinian election candidates, stating that they must abandon violence, recognize Israel and recognize agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. Hamas still vows the destruction of the State of Israel. The Biden administration reaffirmed its commitment to those conditions last week.

According to Kobi Michael, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, the Europeans and the Biden administration do not understand all the complexities which are related to the Palestinian arena.”

‘’They are still captured in some naïve paradigm rooted in the norms of the Western world about democracy, human rights….,’’ he added. ‘’They still believe that they can engineer the Palestinian political system…’’. ‘’In order to reach democracy, human rights,….first of all you have to reach stability, security and any sort of political agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,’’ said Kobi Michael.

According to Ghait Al-Omari, who follows closely the Washington political scene, the Biden administration was not interested at all in having the Palestinian elections. ‘’ For them it was a bit of a sight of relief to see the postponement,’’ he said.

The approach of the new administration, he explained, is not to have a ‘’big’’ diplomacy’’  but rather short steps to re-engage the Palestinian Authority,  such as  relaunching the financial assistance, re-opening the PLO office in Washington….

So elections threatened to derail the American approach. Moreover, a victory of Hamas would have been problematic for the U.S. as by law they couldn’t   engage with a government led by the Islamist group which is on the terror list both in the EU and the U.S.

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Israel

‘Israel will not prevent elections from taking place in the Palestinian Authority’

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In a meeting with European ambassadors, the Israeloi foreign ministry political director reminded those present of the EU mission’s remarks regarding the importance of meeting the Quartet Principles, and the problematic nature of the terrorist organization Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian Authority elections. The Quartet – made up of the US, UN, EU and Russia – has set criteria in the past for Palestinian election candidates, stating that they must abandon violence, recognize Israel and recognize agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. The Biden administration reaffirmed its commitment to those conditions last week, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

“Israel will not prevent elections from taking place in the Palestinian Authority. Hamas’ strengthening in the elections, and the impact of this on security stability, is concerning,’’ said Alon Bar, the Israeli foreign ministry’s political director, during meeting Tuesday in Jerusalem with European ambassadors to discuss the elections planned in the Palestinian Authority. Ambassadors from the EU, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Ireland and others have stressed “the importance of democratic elections in the Palestinian Territories to strengthen political participation and accountability as well as democratic checks and balances”.

During the meeting, Alon Bar emphasized to the ambassadors that the elections in the Palestinian Authority are an internal Palestinian issue, and that Israel has no intention of intervening in them nor preventing them. He reminded those present of the EU mission’s remarks to the U.N. Security Council last week particularly the importance of meeting the Quartet Principles, and the problematic nature of the terrorist organization Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian Authority elections.

The Quartet – made up of the US, UN, EU and Russia – has set criteria in the past for Palestinian election candidates, stating that they must abandon violence, recognize Israel and recognize agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. The Biden administration reaffirmed its commitment to those conditions last week. ‘’The United States and other key partners have long been clear that participants in the democratic process must accept previous agreements, renounce violence and terrorism, and recognize Israel’s right to exist,’’ the U.S. representative said during the Security Council debate.

“Hamas is involved in the escalation in violence in Jerusalem and shooting rockets from Gaza at Israeli civilians,” Bar told the EU countries ambassadors. He reminded those present of Hamas’ role in encouraging increased violence in Jerusalem, as well as the firing rockets from Gaza at Israeli civilians. He warned of the possibility of Hamas’ strengthening in Judea and Samaria and the implications this could have on the ground for security stability in the region, the promotion of civilian projects in Palestinian Authority areas, as well as attempts to advance contact between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

At the end of the meeting, Bar emphasized that Israel is acting cautiously and responsibly to prevent the situation on the ground from deteriorating, and expects that the European countries will act in the same manner.

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