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June 25, 2021 1:15 pm
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President Biden Makes History for Democrats by Condemning Palestinian Hate Education

avatar by Joan Lurie

Opinion

Palestinian schoolchildren sit inside a classroom at an UNRWA-run school, on the first day of a new school year, in Gaza City, Aug. 29, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem.

The Biden administration has declared it will restore funding to UNRWA — though the State Department has announced conditions on the resumption of this aid. Presenting his 2022 State Department budget to the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for reforms including “taking steps to ensure the content of all educational materials currently taught in UNRWA-administered schools and summer camps is consistent with the values of human rights and tolerance and does not induce incitement.”

Secretary Blinken is asking for a curriculum that will teach reconciliation and tolerance. Currently, Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews, to destroy the Zionist entity in order to achieve the Right of Return, and glorifies terrorists who kill innocent Jews and Israelis. The current curriculum also denies, in its texts and on its maps, the very existence of the State of Israel.

Secretary Blinken stated that UNRWA “disseminates antisemitic and anti-Israel material in its curricula.” The content of this curricula and the material often taught at UNRWA summer camps often constitutes child abuse.

Secretary Blinken’s statements are a very exciting and positive step towards improving the education and future lives of Palestinian children. The life of all people in the Middle East will be improved in many ways if young Palestinians are educated for careers in modern society, rather than being taught violence and hate with only martyrdom as an ambition. Improved textbooks are an excellent first step in helping Palestinians have better lives in the modern world.

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In addition to calling for improvement in educational materials, the State Department is demanding that UNRWA facilities not be used by terrorist organizations, and states that the facilities will be inspected and that inappropriate use will be reported. Further, the Biden administration is calling on UNRWA to take steps to improve its financial transparency. The behavior of staff, the staff’s impartiality, the neutrality of the facilities (including a no-weapons policy) will be examined to ensure legal requirements of the US laws governing foreign assistance are all met.

Secretary Blinken added that the State Department would be “looking very, very carefully” at the mechanisms UNRWA uses to address hateful educational materials.

The US ceased funding to UNRWA in September 2018, under President Trump. Secretary Blinken’s statement represents the first time that any Democratic administration in the US has acknowledged that UNRWA’s educational content contains antisemitism and messages which perpetuate the conflict.

David Bedein, who has studied the education provided in UNRWA schools and summer camps for 20 years, has called the Biden administration’s approach “surprising” and “revolutionary.”

This is a very timely moment since the European Union, after an investigation by the European Parliament, has condemned the teaching of hate in UNRWA schools.  Canada and Australia have also launched investigations into antisemitism and incitement in UNRWA textbooks.

The ‘UNRWA: Stop Teaching Hate’ organization has been working toward the conditioning of UNRWA funds for three years. We’re glad to have played a small role in this success.

Dr. Joan Lurie is co-chair of UNRWA: Stop Teaching Hate. She can be reached at [email protected] and you can learn more about this work at www.reformUNRWA.org.

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