OPINION – Marcus Sheff: UK has kept doggedly to same wrong path

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OPINION – Marcus Sheff: UK has kept doggedly to same wrong path

Head of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance responds to claims made in the JN investigation, that British aid is helping to radicalise young Palestinian minds

Marcus Sheff
Children are tested on addition with a question about ‘martyrs’ killed in the two intifadas
Children are tested on addition with a question about ‘martyrs’ killed in the two intifadas

You have to admire the British government’s tenacity. Once set on a path, nothing changes its course. 

Ministers have faced dozens of reports, parliamentary questions, Westminster Hall debates and media revelations about the use of UK aid to support teaching of the radical Palestinian curriculum, which has been shown to encourage antisemitism and erase peacemaking, encourage young Palestinian people to sacrifice themselves in violent jihad and to file lawsuits against Britain in international courts. Yet, despite this, ministers have stayed the course, doggedly trotting out the same lines. 

Former Foreign and Commonwealth Minister Alistair Burt came closest when he wrote to us in 2018 that he was “deeply concerned when I read the findings of the IMPACT-se report into the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s new curriculum, and discussed this with officials… I assure you the material you have presented is being acted upon”.

But it was not acted upon. The government received five separate reports from us between 2017 and 2021 detailing the hate in the PA curriculum, with hundreds of translated examples. MPs rained down questions on ministers. Joan Ryan and Jonathan Gullis led debates in Parliament about the textbooks. 

Marcus Sheff, CEO, Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance (IMPACT-se)

But as late as 10 November last year, the Department for International Development  stated that the PA has not violated the Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and the PA, which includes in it the curriculum. Meanwhile, four full years of UK aid has contributed to the racialisation of Palestinian children. 

Others have been less blasé. Following IMPACT-se policy work, the Norwegian Parliament cut aid to the PA, the European Parliament passed legislation condemning the Palestinian failure to remove hate, and the United Nations published a report for the Human Rights Council noting the extreme levels of hatred and incitement appearing in Palestinian textbooks. 

Around the Middle East, countries are making efforts to take out antisemitism and hate from textbooks. The United Arab Emirates has a remarkable unit that teaches peacemaking and respect for the ‘other’. Jordan has made great improvements and Morocco has begun to teach about the country’s Jewish history. Only the Palestinian curriculum has worsened over the past four years, supported by UK taxpayer funds. 


  • Marcus Sheff, CEO, Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance (IMPACT-se)


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