by David Bedein
The United States government has announced the renewal of aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which the U.N. created as a “temporary” entity in the wake of the Israel War of Independence, to help half a million Arabs displaced as a result of these hostilities.
Seventy-two years later, in texts taught in the UNRWA schools, Israel does not exist and is replaced by an entity known as “Palestine.”
In its defense, UNRWA claims that it has a robust system in place to ensure that the education it delivers in its classroom, including through the use of textbooks, is in line with U.N. values and principles.
As a journalist who has commissioned experts to examine 1000 books used in UNRWA schools in the West Bank and Gaza since their first appearance in 2000, I beg to differ.
UNRWA “education” is instead based on:
- De-legitimization of both the existence of the State of Israel and the Jews’ very presence in the country. Israel does not appear on the map and is replaced by Palestine as the sovereign state in the region. The Jews are presented as colonialist settlers and their cities — including Tel Aviv — do not appear on the map as well. The Jews’ holy places in the country are not recognized as such but rather presented as Muslim holy places usurped by the Jews (the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem).
- Massive demonization of both Israel and the Jews, with the latter being presented as enemies of Islam since its very beginning. Israel is depicted as an entirely evil entity with exclusive responsibility for the conflict, while the Palestinians are portrayed as the ultimate victim. No objective information is given by UNRWA about Israel and the Jews that would balance this picture even slightly. Nor is there any reference in the books to Jewish-Israeli individuals as ordinary human beings. Rather, they are dealt with as a group, with the accompanying connotations of alienation and existential threat to the Palestinians.
- Absence of education for peace and coexistence with Israel. Instead, the books feature a call for a violent struggle for “the liberation of Palestine.”
All this begs the question: Will UNRWA continue to confine millions of these descendants of 1948 refugees to the indignity of life in 59 “temporary” refugee facilities for yet another 70 years?
While UNRWA acts under the aegis of the UN General Assembly, which will never allow a change in the UNRWA mandate to keep Arab refugees in refugee perpetuity, nothing prevents UNRWA donors such as the U.S. from adopting policies that would solve the plight of five million people confined to the indignity of refugee life for perpetuity. In that context, the U.S. could lead the 67 UNRWA donors to make the following reasonable conditions to renew aid to UNRWA:
- Cancel the new UNRWA curriculum, based on Jihad, martyrdom and the “right of return by force of arms,” which have no place in U.N. education. UNRWA contracts for exclusive use of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza. Like all U.N. agencies, UNRWA is supposed to run schools based on the U.N. slogan “Peace Begins Here.” Palestinian Authority education, however, runs schools based on the ideology of the Palestine Liberation Organization: Conquest of Palestine by force of arms. The time has come for UNRWA donor nations, beginning with the U.S., to ask for a cancellation of that UNRWA-PA contract.
- Cease paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools, an absurdity that our news agency and think tank has filmed and documented and shared with all UNRWA donor nations.
- Insist that UNRWA dismiss employees affiliated with Hamas — in accordance with laws on the books in western nations that forbid aid to any agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.
- Demand that UNRWA advance resettlement of fourth and fifth generation refugees from the 1948 war, who have spent seven decades relegated to the indignity of refugee status, passed down from one generation to another.
- Facilitate an audit of $1.5 billion in donor funds that emanate from 67 nations, much of it in cash, which has resulted in wasted resources, duplication of services and an undesired flow of cash to the UNRWA-based terror groups that have dominated UNRWA operations for years.
David Bedein has covered UNRWA since he pioneered an independent news agency and think tank in Jerusalem in 1987. With UNRWA as his news focus, Bedein has produced 24 films shot on location in the UNRWA refugee camps, authored two books along with hundreds of in-depth articles that appear on his websites, unrwa-monitor.com and israelbehindthenews.com. He has made numerous presentations about UNRWA for the U.S. Congress, the Canadian parliament, the British parliament, the Swedish parliament and the German Bundestag.