'Our role model' -- Palestinians mock Abbas booklet
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)
A booklet promoted by the Palestinian education ministry hailing president Mahmud Abbas has received criticism and mockery online, prompting the government to stress it is not an official text.
The booklet, titled "Our role model, Our president," has a picture of Abbas on its cover and was said to contain quotes and thoughts of the 84-year-old leader.
A number of top Palestinian officials attended an event for its launch last week, and the education ministry had initially said it planned to distribute it to schools.
Critics mocked it and expressed fear it would become part of the Palestinian school curriculum.
Officials have since insisted it was the work of pupils at a school in the occupied West Bank and would not be added to the curriculum.
AFP was not able to obtain a copy of the booklet, despite requests to both the education ministry and the school where it was launched.
The booklet gained prominence when pictures were widely circulated of Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and a longtime Abbas ally, presenting it.
Its cover includes a picture of Abbas giving a speech at the United Nations.
In response Khaled al-Hroub, a Palestinian writer based in London, lined up a list of Palestinian literary figures and journalists opposed to the wider dissemination of the book.
"The publication of a book with a title like this implies paternalism regardless of the content," he said on his Facebook page.
"We want to build a society and a civil state based on freedom and the critical mind, not on paternalism."
Erekat said the criticism was unnecessary.
"I ask all those who consider that the efforts made by 10th and 11th graders at Al-Bireh Girls School to issue a booklet deserved mockery that they read it before condemning it," he said in a statement.
The education ministry said in a statement it was part of a wider project and would not be included in the curriculum.
One social media comment sarcastically said the phrase "security coordination is sacred" would be taught in schools.
The Palestinian Authority's security services coordinate with their Israeli counterparts, despite it being highly unpopular among Palestinians.
"Knowing him as I do, while I am not a fan, I don't think he would have proposed this," said Diana Buttu, a former Palestinian official and Abbas critic.
She said Erekat's willingness to champion it was more an indication of Abbas's leadership style, with officials seeking to praise him to gain favour.
Abbas, based in the West Bank, has been in power since 2005, but polls show most Palestinians want him to resign.
There has been no presidential election since then amid infighting between his secular Fatah party and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza.
? 2019 AFP