Complaint about anti-Palestinian homework

Birmingham2

Northline General Enquiries

52-60 Merry Street

Motherwell

ML1 1LZ

Tuesday 04 March 2015

Dear Sir / Madam,

Complaint about anti-Palestinian Homework

We are writing with regard to a worksheet distributed to Primary Seven children in your constituency as homework by North Lanarkshire Council, which presents all Palestinians as terrorists. It is outrageous that you are attempting to present an entire community who live under occupation and brutal oppression as such. Their situation as imposed by the state of Israel has been condemned by the United Nations and countless human rights campaigners and organisations, as well as high profile members of the Scottish Parliament. That this is the narrative presented to young children is particularly alarming. You have a responsibility to ensure knowledge is disseminated in an honest and measured way and without a political agenda, and in this instance you have failed to do so.

In one worksheet you have managed to erase the very real experiences of Palestinians, with the risk of this skewed narrative being passed on to generations after them.

The worksheet says ‘they [the Palestinians] have turned to terrorist methods for over 30 years’. It then gives the example of ‘SUICIDE BOMBINGS’ as terrorist activity. This establishes the connection that all Palestinians are terrorists, and potentially also that all Palestinians are suicide bombers. Further, it presents a consensus that all Palestinians support suicide bombings. It also says a ‘solution to this extremism is hard to find’, which in the context of the worksheet presents the Palestinians as the problem and any Palestinian action as arbitrary violence rather than a sustained campaign to resist the occupation of their land.

This worksheet also negates the legitimacy of armed resistance against external domination and oppression. The United Nations recognises this right in the Palestinian context, and as such, suicide bombing at military targets would be categorised as legitimate resistance. However, you have deemed to label all suicide bombing as ‘terrorism’ in contradiction to international law (in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3246 (XXIX), and reaffirmed in subsequent resolutions). Similar armed resistance could be seen within the concentration camps under Nazi control in the mid-20th Century. We would assume your worksheets on this period in history does not frame those imprisoned in these camps as ‘terrorists’.  

Further, there is no discussion of the Zionist terrorism that led to the creation of Israel or of the brutality the Israeli state imposes on Palestinians as a way of presenting balance to your narrative. This could have been the history of the occupation, the refugee camps, illegal settlements, the siphoning of Palestinian resources, child detention, torture in prisons, indiscriminate killings at the hands of the military, periodical bombardments of Gaza, or the use of chemical weapons against a civilian population to name just a few things that make conditions for Palestinians so harsh.

The questions overleaf then ask for two reasons as to why ‘Palestinians feel that they have the RIGHT to use terrorism against the Israelis’. As the children are encouraged to ‘use the information to help’ them, the only answers they can give is because Palestinians believe ‘it is THEIR land’ (without being able to understand why they think this), and because they were defeated in the ‘Wars’ (implying that Palestinian resistance is centred on a vendetta rather than legitimate grievances). Violence by Israeli settlers, spurred on by their belief that Palestine belongs to them, is completely ignored.

The second question asks for two examples of ‘Palestinian terrorist activity’, the illustration indicating that the answer will be bombing, and also hostage taking.

There is also no presentation of the diversity of resistance strategies employed by Palestinians, including the internationally supported Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which, in light of this we recommend your council members consider engaging with.

Again, to suggest that all Palestinians are ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ is wholly incorrect and offensive, and a misrepresentation of the situation. We expect the worksheet to be retracted fully, a public apology made, and steps taken to rectify the false impression you have given the young children within your constituency of the Palestinian situation. Work must be done to present a more nuanced account of contemporary and historical situations to ensure that your children are able to acknowledge and understand such nuance when they eventually leave school. Further, in order to foster greater understanding of the occupation of Palestine, we would suggest North Lanarkshire Council twin with a city in Palestine. Dundee and Glasgow have already done so and we are certain North Lanarkshire will benefit greatly from such a move.

Yours faithfully,

Massoud Shadjareh

Chair