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February 2, 2017 1:59 pm

UN Watchdog to Congress: Demand UNRWA Donors Hold Relief Agency Accountable for Staff Members’ Social Media Antisemitism, Incitement to Terrorism Against Israelis

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Students in a school in Gaza supported by the UNRWA. Photo: UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

Students in a school in Gaza supported by the UNRWA. Photo: UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

The head of a Geneva-based monitoring organization testified before the US Congress on Thursday, presenting an extensive and scathing report on the promotion of terrorism against Israelis by employees of an internationally funded UN body.

Hillel Neuer — director of UN Watch — provided evidence before a joint subcommittee hearing of dozens of new cases of incitement to violence on the social media pages of educators employed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which receives the bulk of its funding from the United States and Europe. The report covers UNRWA staffers — including teachers and principals — in Lebanon, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Syria.

The more than 40 incidents highlighted in the current report — which Neuer presented before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Joint Hearing of the Subcommitee on Middle East and North Africa and the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organization — are in addition to the previous year’s antisemitic and pro-terrorist posts revealed by UN Watch at the end of 2015.

Examples include the celebration of the terrorist kidnapping of Israeli teens; the cheering of rocket-fire aimed at Israeli population centers; and the lauding of Hitler.

According to Neuer, “Regrettably, when we exposed 30 similar cases of online incitement last year, the response of UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness was to lash out at UN Watch, and to deny or downplay the problem. Only after months of sustained media attention did the UN spokesman in New York announce quietly that a few employees had been suspended. The identities of the perpetrators, or the duration of their suspensions, were never disclosed.”

The report’s executive summary stated: “UNRWA itself has never issued any statement on the matter, neither on its website or elsewhere. That so many UNRWA employees continue to publicly display Facebook posts which celebrate radical Islamic terrorism and incite antisemitism demonstrates that UNRWA —  despite its claims to have established disciplinary systems — is failing to take the issue seriously, and that its employees know that. Likewise, the senior UNRWA echelon’s daily political advocacy targeting Israel — an anomalous practice and breach of neutrality among humanitarian agencies worldwide — creates an overall atmosphere in the organization where teachers clearly feel comfortable erasing the Jewish state from the map.”

UN Watch used the 130-page document — titled “Poisoning Palestinian Children: A Report on UNRWA Teachers’ Incitement to Jihadist Terrorism and Antisemitim” — to:

[U]rge all donor states — and in particular the US, the EU, the UK and Canada — to: (a) Demand that UNRWA be in full compliance with its obligations, including each of the provisions outlined above, prior to donor states releasing any further funds to UNRWA; (b) Demand that UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl immediately condemn their employees’ incitement to terrorism and antisemitism; and (c) Demand that UNRWA adopt a zero tolerance policy for employees who incite racism or murder by immediately terminating them, and prominently post on its website these and other actions it is taking to root out this insidious conduct by UN staff.

The original mandate of UNRWA — created by UN General Assembly Resolution 302(IV) in December 1949, in the wake of Israel’s War of Independence — is specified on its official website as:

…to carry out direct relief and works programs in collaboration with local governments; to consult with the Near Eastern governments concerning measures to be taken preparatory to the time when international assistance for relief and works projects is no longer available; and plan for the time when relief was no longer needed. UNRWA’s contemporary mandate is to provide relief, human development and protection services to Palestine refugees and persons displaced by the 1967 hostilities in its fields of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, West Bank and the Gaza Strip. UNRWA’s mandate has been repeatedly renewed by the UN General Assembly. The current mandate runs until 30 June 2017.

As was reported in The Algemeiner in June, a 10-minute online video produced by the Jerusalem-based Center for Near East Policy Research showed that many of the Palestinians who murdered Israelis during the “stabbing intifada,” which began in September 2015, were educated in schools run by UNRWA.

In the clip, called “The UNRWA road to terror: Palestinian classroom incitement,” one student said that his UNRWA educators “teach us in school that Jews are fickle, bad people…I am ready to stab a Jew and drive [a car] over them.” Another student interviewed added, “We have to constantly stab them, drive over them, and shoot them (the Jews).”

Another child said that he was taught that “Zionists are our enemy, and [we] must fight them.”

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