by David Bedein
UNRWA has faced a difficult week.
On Sept. 9, the UNRWA donor nations gathered for a conference in Amman to launch a new school year for half a million students who learn in UNRWA schools located in 59 72-year-old “temporary” UNRWA refugee camps.
UNRWA’s official site reports that UNRWA allocates 58 percent of its $1.5 billion budget to education, whose focus is the Palestinian “right of return” to villages that existed before 1948.
A diplomat who attended the UNRWA donors conference described to the Bedein Center how the upbeat atmosphere at the gathering turned sour, when UNRWA Commissioner Phillipe Lazzarini welcomed renewal of U.S. support cut off by President Trump three years ago, but announced that the U.S. had not fulfilled its commitment to supply $135 million promised to UNRWA in April.
The reason: UNRWA did not fulfill commitments promised to the U.S. — to revamp the UNRWA curriculum and provide proof of transparency.
In July, Lazzarini’s spokeswoman told a Swiss media outlet that UNRWA would not change its school curriculum, which relies on texts from the Palestinian Ministry of Education.
Senator James Risch, ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has led an effort to delay U.S. funds to UNRWA, until a change in the curriculum used by UNRWA and proof of transparency.
On Sept. 14, when representatives of the Bedein Center made its annual visit to the Palestinian Ministry of Education to purchase new school text books that the PA would hand over to UNRWA for the new school year, the message they got was that UNRWA did not have funds this year to pay the cost of printing this year’s text books, so Qatar will now foot the bill, and PA texts for UNRWA will instead be printed in Jordan.
Such a development gives Israel and the representatives of the donor nations the opportunity to examine objectionable PA/UNRWA school books at the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and Israel, before these texts are delivered to UNRWA.
This is an opportune time for the U.S. Congress and U.S. citizens to hold UNRWA accountable.
David Bedein is director of the Center For Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem.