Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Tax Dollars at Work

Front Page Magazine has a report on how Palestinian children went back to school this year with texts books made possible by grants from the Canadian International Development Agency among others:

In terms of how the new Palestinian school books define the state of Israel, the Jewish state appears nowhere on the maps in the new PA school books, while series of three maps in the Palestinian Authority history atlas which show the “Jewish Zone” in the 1937 Partition Plan, the 1947 Partition Resolution and the 1949 armistice lines.

However, Palestinian children learn from their new schoolbooks that the Palestinian Arab entity is the sovereign state in the region, encompassing Israeli regions, cities and sites which are presented as part of the Palestinian Arab State. Israeli territory is referred to as “the lands of 1948” or “the Green Line”

The new Palestinian school books describe the Middle East conflict as “a confrontation between “Zionism backed by Imperialism” – and its victims – the Palestinians. Not one word is mentioned in these new textbooks about the UN Partition Resolution of 1947 or about the invasion of the nascent state of Israel by seven Arab nations on the day of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.

And how do the new textbooks of the Palestinian Authority explain the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948 to a new generation of Palestinian Youth? As nothing less than the “outcome of a premeditated plan by Zionism and British Imperialism to expel the Palestinian Arabs from their land”.
And what do Palestinian school children learn about Jerusalem?
Jerusalem is presented by the new Palestinian Authority as an Arab city from time immemorial. Its Jebusite founders are Arabized and the Israelite or Jewish historical ties to this city, both national and religious, are not mentioned. Jerusalem is declared to be the capital of Palestine.

After reading this article I thought I would visit the CIDA website and see how CIDA describes their activities in the Occupied Territories & Gaza:

What I found was this:

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is working with Canadian and international partners to help create an environment conducive to peace and in which development can flourish. Canada has a long-standing commitment to regional stability and progress in the Middle East.

CIDA supports the search for peace, democracy, and equity in the region.

CIDA’s OBJECTIVES: Since 2000, CIDA has spent an average of $13 million per year on sustainable development and technical assistance within the Palestinian Territories, strengthening civil society, and humanitarian assistance. CIDA works with a variety of partners, including multilateral organizations and international agencies as well as private Canadian organizations and non-governmental organizations. It continues to seek innovative ways to improve the effectiveness of its aid delivery despite the ongoing crisis, by encouraging local ownership, by developing new strategic partnerships and by increasing its field presence.

Residents of the West Bank and Gaza also benefit from a number of CIDA regional programs addressing issues such as the management of water supplies; fostering conflict resolution, dialogue, and cooperation among Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians; and improving living conditions for refugees in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

CIDA continuously monitors its humanitarian and development programs in the Middle East to ensure that assistance is delivered to the most vulnerable people by prudently selecting its partners in development and by working closely with other federal departments and agencies.

The Developmental Challenge for CIDA in the West Bank & Gaza: CIDA has also played a role in establishing electoral systems in the Palestinian Territories. Working with Elections Canada, CIDA funded a project that helped community-based organizations develop and distribute election information. CIDA also provided technical assistance to the Palestinian Electoral Commission and Canadian observers for the elections in 1996. In another CIDA-funded project, Oxfam Quebec helped communities in five refugee camps organize, and build or revitalize community resources such as three libraries, a playground, and a women's centre.
Reflecting Canadian Values: Canada's role in the world—including CIDA's work in the West Bank and Gaza—reflects the Canadian values of a free and open society that respects and celebrates its diversity, and strives for the universal realization of human rights and a high standard of living for all.

I have to ask myself how hard or expensive could it possibly be to purchase textbooks for Palestinian school children that are historically accurate and at the very least-neutral? If CIDA is to persist in the myth of fostering Canadian values does it not have an obligation to the taxpayers of this country to ensure that all goods or services purchased with Canadian taxpayers dollars do not promote prejudice, resentment and delusions? I maybe naïve but I would suspect that if the standard fare in Palestinian school children’s textbooks were not used to support prejudicial and delusional thinking it would go considerable further in promoting peace and a realization of human rights. How does the awarding of grants for this kind of a syllabus promote conflict resolution skills that don’t start with the cry "Kill the Jews"?

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