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Watchdog Emphasizes Hate Speech in Palestinian Curricula as Refugee Agency UNRWA Faces Donor Cuts

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avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

As the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA faces financial strain following cuts in aid from the UK and other donor nations, an Israel-based watchdog group emphasized US and EU opposition to hate speech and incitement in the agency’s educational materials.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said that a 50 percent cut in aid from the UK, along with reductions by the Gulf Arab states, have had a devastating effect, according to a Guardian report Friday. “I have nothing in my bank account. I do not know how I will cover the costs and salaries,” he said.

IMPACT-se, which analyzes Palestinian and UNRWA educational materials, highlighted on Tuesday the “frustrations” from American and British officials over the continued use of antisemitic and anti-Israel content by the UN agency.

“US and European policymakers are lining up to decry the hate in the Palestinian Authority textbooks that UNRWA uses,” commented Marcus Sheff, CEO of the watchdog group. “Lazzarini stood before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in September and admitted that antisemitism, intolerance, and glorification of terrorism are a part of the Palestinian Authority textbooks that are taught in UNRWA schools.”

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“Of course, the obvious remedy would be to remove the hate and create a curriculum of peace and tolerance, rather than deflect and blame others,” he said. “But change is unlikely to happen while, left to their own devices, UNRWA teachers produce extremist materials just as dreadful as that of the PA.”

Citing a written response to a question from a Labour Party MP, the group recently revealed that the UK government had stopped all direct funding of Palestinian education in the wake of a damning official EU report on the subject, though the government did not give an explicit reason for doing so.

In September, Acting Director Henrike Trautmann of the EU Commission said that the EU study had revealed “very deeply problematic content.”

“Full compliance of all educational material with UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence must be ensured as must any reference of antisemitic nature … be addressed and taken out,” he said.

EU Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer said of the materials’ contents, “Depicting Jews as dangerous, demonizing them, perpetuating anti-Jewish prejudices is just upsetting. But reading about schoolbooks — and here I speak as a mother — glorifying [Palestinian] terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, presenting cold-blooded violence against civilians, including a lot of children, as resistance leaves me speechless.”

The long-awaited report — released in June and produced the Germany-based Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research  — analyzed 156 textbooks and 16 teacher guides published between 2017 and 2019 by the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

It found that PA textbooks trafficked in antisemitic tropes, removed previously-included references to Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements, and “glorified” as heroes terrorists convicted of killing Israelis.

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