Following recent terror attacks in Israel including the brutal murder of five people at a Har Nof synagogue in west Jerusalem, attention has been drawn to Palestinian incitement that includes fabrications, such as that the al Aqsa Mosque is under threat of Jewish “desecration” (see previous blog post). Many may be surprised to hear that even more extreme incitement is coming from several staff members, some in influential roles, who work at a UN agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an organisation funded by Western countries including Australia.

UNRWA is dedicated to Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war as well as their descendants, who inherit refugee status. In contrast, all other refugees in the world are the responsibility of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and children of refugees do not inherit refugee status.

Among UNRWA’s responsibilities is the education of Palestinian children. At a time when intentional attention is rightly be drawn to Palestinian incitement (see Palestinian Media Watch), and the indoctrination of children to hate, UNRWA appears to have a lot to answer for, with many teachers and administrators at UNRWA schools openly praising both terrorist groups and terror attacks on innocent Israelis.

As the Algemeiner reported:

“Popular Jewish blogger Elder of Ziyon has amassed evidence of UNRWA employees lauding the Jerusalem [synagogue] attack, among them Maha al Mosa, an UNRWA teacher in Syria who prayed for the two terrorists to be accepted in ‘paradise’ as ‘martyrs,’ Ibrahim Hajjar, another teacher based in Hebron, who published a poem praising the terrorists, and another Syrian-based teacher who, using a pseudonym, posted a celebratory picture of Adolf Hitler on his Facebook page.

The latest outrage centers on Naief al-Hattab, school director of UNRWA’s Zaitoun Elementary School Boys ‘B’ and former school headmaster of Shijia Elementary School Boys “A” for Refugees. Writing on his Facebook page, al-Hattab congratulated the terrorists on their ‘wonderful revenge.’ Al-Hattab, who shook hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on his visit to Gaza in October, has previously posted inflammatory statements and images, among them one of a young child brandishing a sub-machine gun. It is not clear whether this child is related to al-Hattab, or whether he attends the Zaitoun Elementary School which al-Hattab runs.”

Elder of Ziyon also documented other examples of UNRWA principals and teachers supporting terrorism, including:

  • Mohammed Abu Sheda, a teacher at an UNRWA school in Gaza, who on his Facebook page published a picture of a gun with the caption, “what is taken by force can only be restored by force”, wrote a congratulatory message when three Israeli boys were kidnapped, posted a cartoon illustrating the genocidal Hadith “Oh Muslim, Oh, Servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him”, and a cartoon celebrating the murder of religious Jews by showing a cartoon of Palestinian burying a cleaver in the bloodied head of a Jew. The Jew in the picture is actually Yisroel Dovid Weisse, a leader of the anti-Israel Neturei Karta group.

  • Moreover, an online UNRWA teachers group on Facebook, reportedly posted a picture of Hitler with the caption, “I could have killed all the Jews in the world but I left some of them (alive) so that the world knows why I am killing them”, as well as other pictures endorsing violence.

  • UNRWA school principals Mamoun Abunaser, whose profile picture on Facebook states, “when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes our duty”; Luay Shehab who posted a photo celebrating dead Israelis with the caption “Oh Allah, make the numbers of their dead as [every time a Muslim says] ‘Amen’!”; Adanan Melhem who posted a photo of mass murderer Dalal Mughrabi; and Abu Mohammed al-Madhoun who has a picture on Facebook showing a caricature of a religious Jew being imprisoned in a box that is locked with the symbolic Palestinian Arab Key.

While the UN Security Council condemned the Har Nof massacre as a “despicable” terrorist attack, that message is clearly not shared by some UNRWA employees.

UNRWA was also recently embroiled in controversy when during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, rockets were found in three UNRWA schools. While UNRWA pledged to investigate why the rockets were placed in schools, according to the Times of Israel, such an inquiry has not taken place. It commented,

“how these weapons got into the schools and what happened to them afterwards remains somewhat unclear. UNRWA says it returned the rockets to ‘the local authorities,’ which Israeli officials charge means they found their way back to Hamas and might have been fired at Israeli civilians.”

Moreover, UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness appears to have made some false claims during an Australian interview with reporter Kristina Kukoljawi on SBS Radio on November 4, as AIJAC’s Allon Lee noted in this month’s Australia/Israel Review:

“Gunness claimed that ‘over’ 100,000 homes were destroyed in the recent Gaza war. In fact according to the UN’s official figures, 18,000 homes were destroyed. He also alleged that since the war the Strip’s only power station is ‘non-functional’. Wrong. While the plant was reportedly damaged on July 28 in unclear circumstances (Israel denied firing anything in the vicinity at the time), the plant’s manager announced it had been completely repaired on Sept. 13. It is today out of action only because Hamas is deliberately refusing to accept or pay for the fuel necessary to run it.

Gunness also criticised Israel for closing its border crossing with Gaza ‘because a rocket came out of Gaza. From our point of view while we condemn the rockets, it is clearly an illegal collective punishment to shut these crossings down because one person fires a rocket.’ Remarkably, not once did Gunness mention ‘Hamas’ which has often sanctioned rocket fire from Gaza. Furthermore, just days before Gunness’ comments, Egypt announced the indefinite closure of its Rafah border crossing point with Gaza in response to a terror attack allegedly from Gaza and Egypt’s closure persists until today while Israel’s lasted two days. But Egypt was not mentioned – apparently it’s only ‘collective punishment’ if Israel does it.”

While UNRWA fulfils an important role in providing education, health, and social services to assist Palestinians, there is clearly a case to be made that foreign donors should require more accountability and transparency for their dollars. It clearly does not promote Palestinian welfare to educate children to be rejectionists and terrorists.

Furthermore, many analysts are concerned that UNRWA is contributing to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by making much of the Palestinian population permanently aid dependent, and making refugee status intergenerational.

Dr. Einat Wilf, a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute and a former member of Knesset, is a prolific writer on this issue, and wrote in Fathom last year:

“Why does this matter for peace? Because if millions of Arabs who are citizens of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, or inhabitants of Syria and Lebanon, claim to be refugees from what is today Israel, even though they were never born there and never lived there, and demand that as a result of this refugee status they be given the right to relocate to Israel (‘the right of return’), then the whole basis for peace by means of two states for two people crumbles. If Israel with its 6 million Jews and more than 1.5 million Arabs has to absorb between 5 and 8 million Palestinians then the Jews will be relegated again to living as a minority among those who do not view them as equals; the only country in which the Jews are a majority and can exercise their right to self-determination would be no more…

Even more absurd is that UNRWA is funded by countries who support two states for two peoples. The United States, the EU, Canada, Japan and Australia fund 99 per cent of UNRWA’s annual budget of over $1 billion, whereas the 56 Islamic countries who supposedly grieve for their Palestinian brethren supply only a few million dollars…

If the West truly wants to promote a coherent policy that supports a two-state solution and does not favour one side over another, it should use its power as the financial supporter of UNRWA to steer its practices along a more constructive path. The welfare, education and health services provided by UNRWA could continue and even be expanded, but their provision should be based on need, not refugee status…

A first effort in this direction was taken in 2012 when the US Senate, acting on the initiative of Senator Mark Kirk, introduced an amendment to the budget bill, requesting that UNRWA report ‘on the number of refugees that it services separate from their descendants.’ The US Senate Appropriations Committee asked for nothing more than information and transparency in reporting in return for the 250 million dollars of US taxpayers money that it supplies UNRWA annually. It did not ask for aid to be cut. It did not call for cessation of services to the millions of descendants; it only asked for transparency in numbers. Even though the amendment did not go through, given that the budget bill as a whole did not move forward, the US Senate sent out a powerful message for peace in that the attainment of a two-state solution cannot be congruent with UNRWA’s practice of inflating the number of refugees…”

Dr Einat Wilf will be in Australia in February as a guest of AIJAC.