Hamas maintains control over UNRWA Staff Union
The “Professional List” headed by senior Hamas activist, Suhail al-Hindi, won a landslide victory in the elections to the UNRWA Staff Union held in September 2012. With a high turnout of approximately 11,500 UNRWA employees who cast their ballot, the “Professional List”, affiliated with Hamas, won all 11 seats of the teachers sector, 6 out of 7 seats of the workers sector and 8 out of 9 seats of the services sector.
The “Karameh [dignity] List”, affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, took part in the elections.
Fatah, on the other hand, boycotted the elections arguing that Hamas controls UNRWA Staff Union and restricts the activity of its members.
Al-Kutla al-Islamiya activities in UNRWA’s schools
Al-Kutla al-Islamiya (a.k.a al-Kutla), literally the Islamic block, is Hamas’ official arm operating in all educational institutions in the Gaza Strip, from elementary schools to colleges and universities, including the educational institutions run by UNRWA. The Kutla’s strategy in elementary and middle school is focused on attracting students to its variety of activities, that are intended to strengthen the bonds with the students as well as their belief in Islam, and gradually exposing them to Hamas ideology in order to make them active members of the Islamic movement.
In each school, including those run by UNRWA, Hamas appointed a student to head the al-Kutla local branch. He operates as point of contact for Hamas and responsible for recruiting students to the Kutla and organizing activities inside school and after-school.
Media reports documented in recent years a fraction of al-Kutla’s activities in the premises of UNRWA’s middle schools or al-Kutla’s activities in which students of middle schools run by UNRWA participated. Here are some examples:
November 2008 – Al-Kutla held an event honouring students memorizing the Koran in Ahmad Abd al-Aziz middle school run by UNRWA. Al-Kutla’s representatives reviewed their activities in school that included strengthening the bonds between students and teachers, disseminating al-Kutla leaflets, posters and magazines to students, organizing a soccer tournament, supplying eye glasses with great discount for students and teachers and conducting a cleaning campaign in school with the cooperation of Khan Yunis municipality. Imad Abdin, the school’s principle, attended the event and gave a speech to the students.
July 18, 2009 – Al-Kutla held an event honoring close to 400 outstanding students of elementary, middle and high schools, including of schools run by UNRWA. Hamas senior officials attended the event. MP (Hamas) Ahmad Bahr, deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, praised the students saying: “the great excellence of the students of the Gaza Strip is the best proof and most appropriate response to the Zionist enemy, and a message that the Palestinian people grew and will grow scholars who will be able to liberate the holy land from the uncleanliness of the Zionists.” Wael Rashid, head of al-Kutla al-Islamiya in Palestine, expressed his wish that the “land of Palestine will be liberated from the Zionist occupation.”