UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

DFID forced to publish report on Palestinian Authority textbooks

DFID has finally released an “inception report” dated 12 April 2019 by the Georg Eckert Institut for a study of Palestinian school textbooks following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from UKLFI. The report describes the methodology proposed by the Georg Eckert Institut for its examination of Palestinian Authority school textbooks 

Newton’s 2nd law illustrated by Palestinian youths using slingshots to confront the soldiers of the Zionist Occupation 

The results of the review are to be used to identify the steps necessary to ensure such books promote peace and tolerance and do not demonise or encourage violence. Serious concerns have been raised over a number of years that these textbooks promote violence and intolerance.

Work on the textbook review began in March 2019, and it was estimated that the results would be available to the Palestinian Authority, the British government and its “international partners” in September 2019.  However, UKLFI has been informed that the Interim Report of the Georg Eckert Institute review of the Palestinian Authority textbooks has not yet been delivered and is now expected later this year.

According to a Parliamentary answer by Dr Andrew Murrison MP, Minister of State for International Development, on 29 January 2020 to a question by John Spellar MP:

The UK commissioned the Georg Eckert Institute to produce an inception report. I can confirm that we will place a copy of this inception report in the Library and I will write to the Right Honourable member once this has been done.”

On 19 May 2020 UKLFI made an FOI request to the soon to be abolished Department for International Development (DFID) for the document, drawing attention to this Parliamentary answer.

On 17 June UKLFI wrote a follow up letter to DFID, stating that unless a substantive response to the request was received by 5pm on 19 June 2020 the matter would be referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

DFID replied, refusing the request on the basis that the report “will be published in the House of Commons Library website in the near future. As this information is intended for future publication, it is exempt from disclosure at this point under section 22 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The reasons they gave for not publishing the report immediately were:   “the strong public interest in making the best use of public resources by pulling the information together; ensuring that it is accurate and publishing it in a consistent and comprehensive format as planned.”

UKLFI pointed out that none of the reasons given by DFID for withholding the report applied:

  • There was no need to pull information together, since the document requested is simply the inception report commissioned by DFID from, and already provided to DIFD by, the Georg Eckert Institut.

  • There was no need to ensure that the information is accurate, since UKLFI requested the report as it is, not as modified by DFID. In any case, DFID must have reviewed the report already, since its statement of 19 March 2019 stated “The UK will play a central role in the review process, and intends to commission the Georg Eckert Institute to produce an initial scoping report to expedite the production of the full review.” (emphasis added)

  • And there was no need to arrange a consistent and comprehensive format since the report should be disclosed in the format in which it was provided to DFID by the Georg Eckert Institut.

Less than 12 hours after UKLFI disputed the reasons why DFID had refused to release the document,  DFID made it public, and it is available here:

Georg Eckert Inception Report 12 April 2019

Jonathan Turner commented: “DFID has a track record of non-compliance with the Freedom of Information Act in order to avoid scrutiny of its funding of activities that promote terrorism.  

It is possible that DFID was trying to delay any scrutiny of the methodology proposed by the Georg Eckert Institut for its study of Palestinian textbooks until the study is completed and is a fait accompli.”