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July 1, 2013 10:35 am

UNRWA Under the Knesset Spotlight

avatar by Batyah Rubashkin, Liviah Landau and Michael Kuttner

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Palestinian boys raise their hands during one of the first classes of the new academic year at a school in Gaza supported by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Sept. 5, 2011. Photo: UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), which serves half a million Palestinian pupils in UNRWA schools, now seeks new funding for UNRWA summer camps and for the new school year.

UNRWA received 1.2 billion dollars in donations last year from more than 20 western countries.

The Center for Near East Policy Research, which has examined UNRWA policies over the past 24 years, asks donor nations to place conditions on the funding ….because of the UNRWA curriculum.

The Center, directed by David Bedein, held an informal briefing for foreign diplomats and reporters at the Knesset on June 24th  on the subject of the UNRWA curriculum.

Dr. Arnon Groiss, a senior journalist and PHD in Islamic Studies, was the presenter.

Dr. Groiss served as Director of Research for the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) between 2000 and 2010, during which time he translated textbooks from the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran.

At the briefing, attended by officials from Canada, Norway, Australia, Egypt, and Great Britain, together with senior officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International Christian Embassy, Dr. Groiss presented the findings from his decade-long research in translating and analyzing Palestinian Authority schoolbooks used in UNRWA classrooms.

The event, hosted at the Bayit HaYehudi Conference Room, welcomed Ayelet Shaked, Knesset member of  the party, which is part of the government coalition.

At the briefing, Shaked read a prepared statement, in which she noted that many Knesset members feel that UNRWA policies present an obstacle to any peace building process in the region, and asked that donor nations carefully monitor the funds that they contribute to UNRWA schools, because these schools are the place where the next generation is being incited to continue the war against Israel.

Dr. Groiss’s briefing on UNRWA education could not have been more timely, coming four days after  Catherine Ashton,  the E.U. Commissioner on Foreign Relations appeared at an UNRWA school in Gaza, on World Refugee Day, where she declared that the E.U. must continue to be UNRWA’s “strongest supporter.”

UNRWA is now conducting an energetic YouTube campaign in donor countries in which  it presents itself as promoting an innocuous curriculum filled with summer sports.

Few decision makers of donor nations  to UNRWA can see through this misleading campaign –  including Catherine Ashton, who lauded UNRWA summer camps in her June 20th speech.

However, Dr. Groiss unmasked  realities of UNRWA education when he shared recently published PA textbooks , now used in UNRWA schools in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

A short film was screened entitled “INSIDE THE UNRWA CLASSROOM,”  produced by The Center for Near East Policy Research,  reporting from UNRWA schools located in Jerusalem, Nablus, and Gaza.

Dr. Groiss also presented inflammatory materials taken from the PA books and used by UNRWA, illustrating demonization of the other, non-recognition of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel within any border, historically (Israelite period) or present-day 1948 borders, and indoctrination for an Arab ‘right of return,’ through violence and bloodshed.

Dr. Groiss emphasized that the concept presented in the PA textbooks is that the ‘Zionist entity’ has only greedy ambitions and none of the books show any fact-based historical identification of the Jews to Israel, either in the past or in the present.

According to PA history texts used by UNRWA, the characters of the Bible and the Holy Places mentioned there, are Palestinian, and only Palestinian.

In maps distributed in all UNRWA schools, there was no ‘Jewish’ Holy Temple and no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, but rather, only a ‘temple’ with no attributes of Jewish-ness…Dr. Groiss showed how all Jewish holy sites are  transformed in PA texts into Islamic holy sites.

Current maps used for teaching in UNRWA schools portray Jerusalem’s Old City showing no “Jewish Quarter” .

All students from UNRWA schools are taught about the Arab claim to a ‘right of return’ as non-negotiable and as a human right.

Dr. Groiss read from a poem taught to fifth grade UNRWA students: ‘We Shall Return,’ in which children are encouraged to return “under the flag of glory, Jihad and struggle, with blood, sacrifice, fraternity and loyalty.”

Diplomats from the five nations represented at the briefing were attentive and open to Dr. Groiss’s report. They promised to bring these issues to the discussions of their respective governments.

A Norwegian representative asked Dr. Groiss to comment on the call of some Israeli politicians to annex Judea and Samaria-the West Bank.

Dr. Groiss pointed out that political positions taken in Israel have nothing to do with an UNRWA educational system that is molding the minds of half a million pupils to prepare them for war to “liberate” all of Palestine.

Dr. Groiss emphasized that the donor governments must take full responsibility for what UNRWA teachers impart to their students.

The Norwegian Government, whose representatives from their consulate in Jerusalem and their embassy in Tel Aviv attended the briefing , has come under intense pressure over its unconditional funding of UNRWA and PA activities.

In that context, the Center plans to conduct additional audiovisual briefings on UNRWA during  the Fall of 2013 in the U.S. Congress and the Parliaments of the EU, Norway, Australia  and  Canada.

The Center for Near East Policy Research will also now make its UNRWA videos and documentation of UNRWA indiscretions available to legislative staffers of all UNRWA donor countries, in  the hope that the irrefutable evidence will counter any attempt to whitewash or distort the actual UNRWA educational policies.

This report was prepared by  Batyah Rubashkin,  Liviah Landau and Michael Kuttner, staffers at The Center for Near East Policy Research, Jerusalem.

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  • Harry Orenstein, FRICS

    Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky of the Middle East Forum [] ask some very interesting questions on UNRWA:

    Are any of the missions UNRWA now claims for itself found in UNRWA’s original charter [United Nations General Assembly Resolution 393 (V) of December 2, 1950]?

    Joffe and Romirowsky ask if there exists a mandate for UNRWA ‘advocating’ :
    – for Palestinian refugees, who, according to the United Nations, now have their own ‘state’ called Palestine?
    – for any sort of resolution to the conflict, much less about UNRWA being part of a mechanism that solicits the refugees’ agreement for a peace deal?
    – “empowering human development work”?

    Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky go on to say that the above are mandates that UNRWA has assumed for itself. And by demanding that UNRWA have a part in ‘consulting’ with refugees about a settlement, UNRWA explicitly aligns itself with the rejectionist mainstream in Palestinian society.

    The true purpose of UNRWA is as stated in UN GA Resolution 393:
    “without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 11 of General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, the reintegration of the refugees into the economic life of the Near East, either by repatriation or resettlement, is essential in preparation for the time when international assistance is no longer available, and for the realization of conditions of peace and stability in the area.”

  • Harry Orenstein, FRICS

    Your readership should note that the Palestinians are by far the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid, having received more than $12 billion over the past 15 years. Through UNRWA the international community, (meaning mostly the U.S. and the European Union,) also provides another $500 million a year to support Palestinian health, education and welfare services.

    A recent report by World Bank [], March 2013, shows that this largesse has predictably bred Palestinian dependence and under-development rather than prosperity. Mariam Sherman, World Bank Director for the West Bank and Gaza said “… much bolder efforts to create the basis for a viable economy need to be made to prevent the continued deterioration that will have lasting and costly implications for economic competiveness and social cohesion.”

    • Noevil9

      Did you know that Israel is the recipient of the most aid from the US and Germany in the world, even it consider it self as a big success ? While all the aid to other third world countries combined do not equal that amount?, including the Palestinians? Do we only see what is wrong with other people and places ,but not Israel?
      This switch of ,on and off , of honesty, integrity and telling the truth should be addressed when it comes to Zionist Israel defenders. What happened to ethics and sense of justice on equal bases? How can we reach an understanding and resolve ,if there is no acknowledgement of the real justice and truth? Stop this notion of being the victims while you are victimizing the Palestinians for 65 years or more.

  • Gabrielle

    Catherine Ashton should be personally presented with the evidence of UNRWA’s duplicity. She is a powerful but very busy person who may not notice the video and documentation noted in this article. Teaching hatred to the Palestinian children has been going on for decades and is the worst thing that can happen if peace is desired.

  • The jewish Reform Movement and their youth group NIF supports Arab groups. They have betrayed Israel.

  • Noevil9

    Why are you surprised? Assuming all you said is true( which ,I suspect it might not be,because you are Jewish Israelis and demonizing the Palestinians is one of the first priorities of the state of Israel, even imbedded in the law of the land ,not just educational material) There was another study done by a Jewish /Israeli educator, about the Israeli books and educational material, since 1948 ,and she came out with the same conclusion ; Arabs /Palestinians, are barely mentioned in their books, and the few times they were, they were described as terrorists, peasants, or primitive farmers, and in a couple of occasions ,as street cleaners.
    Having said that, I think both culture are as equally guilty of such poisoning the soft mind of the new generations. I spoke one time together with a rabbi colleague of mine ,in a school that belonged to temple Sinai in Los Angeles, years ago, to student between the age of 8 and 11. I was blown away in shock about the level of brain washing and racism, that I encountered there, to the point, were the rabbi apologized to me, as he himself did not expect that. We all should remember the saying, if you live in glass houses, don’t throw stones. This is a tragedy, and justice should be achieved, and not the strongest impose their will on the not so powerful .

    • Herb Grossman

      It is nonsense that Jews teach the same hatred against Arabs as Arabs teach against Jews, as for example that they will get to paradise by trying to murder innocent civilians. But even if that were the case, which it isn’t, why would that justify the international community’s funding of genocidal propaganda in Arab schools and camps?

    • A Zionist

      You are calling “Jewish Israelis” liars and that because we are “Jewish Israelis” we demonize Palestinians as our “first priority” “imbedded” (you mean embedded)in the “law of the land”. Please explain which “law of the land” because the Basic Law explicitly demonstrates equality before the law of ALL its citizens. This is enforced by the Supreme Court which frequently sides with Palestinians if they feel there is any discrimination.
      How do you explain, therefore, that there are Arab MKs, Arab lawyers, Arab judges and an Arab Supreme Court Judge who sent a Jewish Israeli ex-President to prison? Name one Arab country that allows this kind of freedom and human rights for Jews? No Jew can be a citizen of Jordan. Hamas (GAZA) wants to annihilate every Jew. Fatah/Abbas has declared that the West Bank be Judenrein and currently NO JEW is allowed in any country’s diplomatic entourage ie they refuse to allow any Jew from any country as part of a diplomatic team. This is racism. This is antisemitism.
      Please cite which Israeli educational books, your counter-claim and the description therefore. Your words are libellous and require evidence to support your accusations.
      Finally your story of a rabbi you know: note the absence of evidence throughout your diatribe. What this supposed US rabbi did or did not do has no connection with Israel or what is taught in Israel. Instead, you imply that all Jews work in consort and if you were aware of the European Working Party’s Definition of Anti-Semitism you would know that this is an example of antisemitism. You can look up exactly the definition on the internet. What is shocking is the level of your ignorance, animosity and hatred. You indict yourself.
      Were you to do some research (I suggest you read the Israeli-Arab-Moslem journalist Khaled Abu Toameh) the conclusion is that the Israeli Arabs have more freedom and human and legal rights in Israel than throughout the Middle East. The shocking fact is that the Arabs do not care about their Palestinian brethren, only in destroying the “Zionist entity” which means using the Palestinians as “political pawns”. In Lebanon, there is a system of “apartheid according to Khaled Abu Toameh. Palestinians are denied education and cannot become doctors, lawyers etc only menial workers. They are denied citizenship (Jordan as revoked their citizenship many times under Kings Hussein and Abdullah – Abdullah I was assassinated for wanting to work with Israel, just like Sadat was assassinated for wanting peace with Israel). In Jordan, 70% of the population are Palestinians but are not represented in Parliament; there is a semblance of democracy but there is no democracy anywhere other than in Israel. The shocking fact is that 5 Arab armies (trained either by the British or the NAZIS) attacked the nascent Jewish state in 1948, the majority of whom were Holocaust survivors and Israel lost 1% of her population. The fact is that violence and terrorism has been the response from the Arabs for the last 120 years. This includes pograms against Jews from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in 1920 and 1929. The fact is that the Palestinians and Arabs allied with the Nazis during WW2 and emulated the Nazi policies of extermination against the Jews. In 1948, the Arab countries confiscated goods and lands and expelled 856,000 Jews and two weeks before the partition vote, the Secretary General of the Arab League promised a war of extermination and massacre worse than Ghengis Khan and Adolf Hitler. If the Arabs really wanted a 22nd Arab country, they could have had it in 1948 (and in 2000 where Barak offered 90% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and instead Arafat ordered the Second Intifada murdering 1,000 Israelis; and in 2008 when Olmert offered even more to Abbas, who is a Holocaust Denier). The problem is Arab rejectionism as in Khartoum in 1967: NO Recognition, NO Negotiation and NO Peace.
      The fact is that the Palestinians are discriminated against by their own brothers, they have no human rights in countries such as Lebanon, Syria and even in Jordan. I respectfully request you educate yourself before writing such ahistoric, tendatious nonesense.

      • Noevil9

        Mr Zionist,(sad how that is the best choice to describe oneself among all the other choices. It’s very telling )Zionsim,had more than one fold; One,to establish a home land and creat the new Jew- which I have no problem with- then the second fold, dispossessing and up rooting the Palestinian people of their homes ,land and freedom ,and replace them with Jews. I don’t know where do you live, but it sounds like you are in a floating bubble up in the space some where. Or at least you wish to be in total denial about the real nature of your beloved Zionist state. Remember, i dont deny the right of any people to have a home land and live in security, but this is including the Palestinians ,and not just limited to the Jewish/ Zionists people. If crimes are committed by others, and they mistreat the Palestinians, that does not wash out the crimes of Israel against the Palestinians, nor does it legitimizes the crimes themselves ,any crimes. Projecting ,is a perfect pattern that Zionists use and you are not an exception. Israel after whipping out almost 500 Palestinian villages and expelling their inhabitants, approx.700,000 of Palestinians. Israel applied the Marshal law on all the Palestinians that stayed in their homes and land ,for I believe 24 years. Even the law was lefted on paper,Some of the practices are still in affect till today. Just to shorten the answer. Then,things kept going down ward from there. as its indicative of where they are now. Occupation, expelling ,arrests, assassination /target killing, home demolition ,land theft, water theft, olive trees ,in the hundreds of thousands being up rooted and burned,enclosures and over 550 check points, restriction on trade and movements, the siege on Gaza of 1.6 Million people ,60 0/0 under the age of 18. Then the Massacare of 1400 people ,half are children and women, and so on and so fourth. I know ,you will probably blame the Palestinians for trying to resist, but tell me what kind of people will not resist an invasion of Russians, Germans, Polish, Hungarian, Austrians, then later, English, and Americans loaded with arms, ready to wage a war to seize some ones else’s land. Your denial of reality and reliving the lies and deception is not a good way to reach a resolution.Good luck to you in reaching peace. Remember ,justice first, then real peace. I would address all your other points, but I have seen this from many blindly defenders of Israel and Zionism, and I lost the patience for them. And don’t call me ,anti Semite and stuff like that, this is such a cheap shot that is getting too old. No one said we all should be in love with any particular race or people including Jews, just because they are Jewish,and people are allowed to be judged on their actions, and not just the chosen religion . I love and admire few people and they happen to be Jewish, but that is not why I love them. Maybe, They celebrate their humanity first and don’t call me names and give me labels ,when I disagree with them?

        • Mel

          The goal of the Zionists was to create a utopian model state where people of all beliefs could live together in quiet harmony, gradually learning from each other in order to germinate (as opposed to Germanize) World Peace. Islam responded by deporting from Muslim states everywhere Jews they had not slaughtered first. Since that time, Muslims that held their ground became some of the wealthiest citizens of the fledgling state. Not content with a personal status that places them light-years ahead of their brethren in Muslim states, many of these non-Jewish Israelis work to obliterate their ‘golden egg’ from the map. Either ‘No-evil-o’ is selectively ignorant, or he is ‘Much-evil-o,’ playing Taqiyya against Jews as skillfully as Perlman plays fiddle.