“Peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people."
This poignant statement made by John F. Kennedy to the United Nations General Assembly is an important reminder of why if, if we want to foster peace and democracy in the Middle East, we must be careful about the effects of our aid spending in the region. This weekend £19m was earmarked for the Palestinian territories by the Department for International Development as part of a long standing arrangement to give £100m in aid from 2006-11. That is just one way British taxpayers' money finds its way to the territories.
Part of our aid to the region lands in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's (UNRWA) bank account. UNRWA was designed explicitly to provide assistance for over four hundred thousand Palestinian refugees in the region. The money is earmarked for health and social projects, emergency aid and crucially, education.
In 2008, the TPA released a report, Funding Hate Education, which outlined how aid money provided by the UK Government is supporting hate education and radicalisation. The more recent report, Palestinian Hate Education since Annapolis, found that incitement is taking place in the official media and even in schoolbooks. And yet our government continues to fund the territories to the tune of millions each year without action on radicalisation.
But we’re not the only ones speaking up on this. Encouragingly, then Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Michael Gove stated in 2008, "It is certainly the case the PA has produced or has allowed to be produced textbooks, which in their detail… go beyond the offensive and are just downright evil."
This has been echoed by President Obama, "[The Palestinians] have to deal with incitement issues," and as a result of a concerted international effort by organisations such as the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Israeli government recently launched the ‘Incitement Index’ to monitor Palestinian Authority broadcasts, statements and crucially, textbooks – which include statements like this:
“O heroes, Allah has promised you victory… Your enemies seek life while you seek death. These drops of blood that gush from your bodies will be transformed tomorrow into blazing red meteors that will fall down upon the heads of your enemies.” [PA Schoolbook, Reading and Texts Part 2, Grade 8 pg. 16]
Should we continue to write cheques each year without proper scrutiny and accountability as we recommended in a report on EU aid policy? I think most British taxpayers would want more effort put into ensuring our aid supports efforts to build a lasting peace in the region, not creating the conditions for further violent confrontation. As far as John F. Kennedy was concerned, peace lies in the hearts and minds of the people. To achieve peace, we have to put a stop to the hate-filled messages that are being taught; driven into their hearts, and branded into their minds.