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UNRWA and miseducating Palestinians

Mar 5, 2024 | Tammy Reznik

UNRWA's school for girls in Gaza (Image: Shutterstock)
UNRWA's school for girls in Gaza (Image: Shutterstock)

Proof that UNRWA employees were actively involved in the violent October 7 massacre should have triggered moral outrage, yet somehow, the virtue signalers remained quiet.

 

Jerusalem Post – 5 March 2024

 

For about the umpteenth time since October 7, I am completely flummoxed by the total silence of Western “humanitarians” in the wake of the most recent scandals involving the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

Proof that UNRWA employees, including teachers and school staffers, were actively involved in the violent October 7 massacre – yes, some UNRWA teachers were doubling as terrorists – should have triggered moral outrage, yet somehow, the virtue signalers remained quiet.

Then came the discovery of Hamas’s main data centre underneath a UNRWA office, the entry to which was on the grounds of a UNRWA school, but still nothing.

While the deeply ingrained terrorist ideology that forms so much of the educational model in UNRWA schools has been known for some time, the fact that Palestinian students studied in buildings storing weapons and grenades and used them as entrances to Hamas military facilities should have elicited an uproar. Yet those who care so much about equality in education and those who obsess over access to unisex toilets and change rooms were suddenly nowhere to be seen.

It has been proven repeatedly that education, even early education, can profoundly influence our future thinking. It is hypocritical to claim that you care for children but then conveniently ignore proof that UNRWA schools not only indoctrinate children to hate and glorify murderous martyrdom but also allow them to become human shields daily.

 

UNRWA WAS ESTABLISHED in 1949 to serve Palestinian refugees displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. This narrow ethnic focus contrasts sharply with other UN agencies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which serves all other refugee populations worldwide.

From the outset, UNRWA’s mission was flawed. It inherited lists of aid recipients from its predecessors but with no clear definition of what constitutes a “genuine” refugee. So, it invented its own, which stands in complete contrast to that used by all other UN bodies.

Even Arabs who resided in Palestine for only two years before the ‘48 war were classified as refugees – as were all their children, their children’s children, and all future generations. The result is that the number of “refugees” whom UNRWA serves has ballooned from 700,000 in 1950 to 5.9 million today.

The “rehabilitation” and resettlement of said refugees were removed from UNRWA’s role; rather, the Arab world has been using them as a weapon against Israel by keeping them in perpetual limbo pending a “return” to the Jewish state. UNRWA has built an education system that reflects this mentality of victimhood and determination to overturn the outcome of the 1948 war and undermine the very existence of the State of Israel.

UNRWA’s extensive education system employs over half of all UNRWA staff and oversees 183 schools in the Gaza Strip alone.

Despite UNRWA’s claims to be the primary provider of essential aid to Palestinians, the agency lacks a proper system of accountability. It does not recognize Hamas as a terror organization and appears to have often worked closely with the Hamas “authorities” ruling Gaza, which includes allowing the diversion of much aid.

Numerous reviews by specialized bodies, including studies by IMPACT-se and UN Watch, have exposed hate-filled educational materials in UNRWA schools that directly promote violence and jihad against Israel.

The European Parliament has expressed concern over UNRWA’s educational materials for years. In 2020, a European Parliament resolution denounced UNRWA’s materials and said EU funding would be conditional on adherence to UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence, and non-violence. Further resolutions were passed to this effect in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Nonetheless, the agency has failed to implement meaningful changes.

Addressing these issues, as well as forcing UNRWA to answer for years of corruption, would require Western democracies like Australia to push for a level of accountability that remains completely lacking at UNRWA, which does not even have a board of directors to oversee it.

Israel now says it has intelligence that more than 30 of the organization’s employees, including many from the education sector, actively participated in the murder spree on October 7 – coordinating abductions, supplying ammunition, and taking photographs at massacre sites.

This intelligence also indicates that 12% of the 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza were members of terrorist organizations. Investigations into social media activity have uncovered UNRWA teachers praising terror attacks, sharing photos of dead Israelis, and glorifying Hamas terrorists.

UNRWA teaching material contained antisemitic messaging

UNRWA’s teaching of hate seems to be spreading. In my home state of Victoria, Australia, the Teachers for Palestine movement has been trying to promote UNRWA-like materials in schools. I heard an audio recording of a session this group held in January in which leaders pushed “lessons” on Palestine that were full of historical holes; maps that described unilateral annexation by Israel with no mention of the numerous wars instigated by Israel’s Arab neighbors; and a total rewrite of history that ignored the inconvenient truths of 1948, 1967, and 1973. Organizers encouraged the 100 attendees to “infect the classroom with these ideas.”

Doubtless, this is also happening in other Western countries. Is it any wonder then that there is a level of apathy around the UNRWA scandals, as we have our teachers of hate and classroom promoters of violence?

Let’s remember the adage, “Give me a child at seven, and I will show you the man.” We now know that the “men” created by UNRWA’s education system look like the thousands of bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists who committed mass atrocities on Israeli civilians on October 7.

Any hope for peace, any hope of avoiding a repetition of the current Israel-Hamas war, demands that UNRWA not be allowed to do the same to future generations of Palestinian children.

The writer is a researcher and policy analyst with AIJAC, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. 

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