Not too long ago, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stated in a Democratic primary debate that he supports being tougher on Israel: “It is not good enough to be pro-Israel. We must treat the Palestinian people with the respect and dignity that they deserve.” Around the same period of time, 106 House Democrats signed a J-Street petition calling upon US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to nix his recent announcement regarding the legality of Jewish communities over the Green Line, claiming that such a move endangers the prospects for peace. However, these same individuals, who jump to call for the US to be tougher on Israel, are virtually silent about the Palestinian war indoctrination in UNRWA schools.
The Center for Near East Policy Research and the Israel Resource News Agency recently produced a new documentary titled “The UNRWA War for Return: From Bethlehem to Jerusalem, which was screened in Jerusalem and the US Congress not too long ago. The film claims that UNRWA, which presides over 2 million Arab refugees and their descendants in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, has a $1.2 billion budget yet “operates with little oversight and a Wild West mindset that is best known for corruption.
It uses its schools as a platform to indoctrinate children. Children are imbued with a mix of political and religious propaganda that encourages jihad or holy war. They are taught that Israel must be destroyed and replaced by a Palestinian country. Recently, there has been a subtle shift in Palestinian politics. Students are now being taught that education is central to their future but their narrative remains the same. Palestinian children are taught that their real homes are in modern-day Israel.”
For example, at the entrance of the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, a massive key is on display, the symbol of the Palestinian right of return. Inside of the UNRWA school in the Aida Refugee Camp, both an UNRWA teacher and the children told the Center for Near East Policy Research and the Israel Resource News Agency that even though they were born and grew up in Bethlehem, they are actually from Malha, a Jerusalem neighborhood that now hosts the Jerusalem Stadium and the largest shopping mall in the Israeli capital city.
Malha is no longer a Palestinian area at all yet in the UNRWA school in Bethlehem, the schoolchildren and the UNRWA teacher still claim that they are from Malha and that one day they will return there. Not too far from the UNRWA school at the entrance of the Aida Camp, a demonstration was held against the US and the peace process, where gigantic effigies of US President Donald Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence were burned. Some of the UNRWA schoolchildren attended that demonstration.
At a children’s center in the Aida Camp, students learn how to use computers and to dance but they are also educated to support jihad. As a poem on the wall in the children’s center declares, “Here we will remain; In Lydde, in Ramle and in the Galilee; we shall remain; Like a wall on your chest and in your throat; Like a shard of glass, a cactus thorn; And in your eyes; a sandstorm.” In the Palestinian refugee camps, there is no curriculum for peaceful coexistence for Israel. Instead, children are taught to support armed struggle until the destruction of the State of Israel.
The indoctrinating atmosphere adversely affects the prospects for peace. It teaches youngsters that instead of building homes, families and careers for themselves in Bethlehem, they should fight to return to Malha and the other areas in Israel, where their grandparents used to live. Nermin Abu Srir, a UNRWA schoolchild in the Aida Camp, stated in the documentary: “I will fight the Jews with my education. If we are united and educated, we will defeat the Jews.” She is one of the better ones.
Murtaz Z’Boon, another UNRWA schoolchild, proclaimed: “I’ll go back with the strength of my education and by throwing stones.” Ziad El Azza, also UNRWA schoolchild, declared that when he grows up, he wants to be president so that he could “liberate Palestine” and be a president “like Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein.” Mohammed Samir, another UNRWA schoolchild, emphasized that all Palestinians must “fight the Jews. We have to throw stones and shoot at them. Also with education and jihad.” The children interviewed in the documentary all emphasized that Palestine “will be conquered by force. We must wipe them out through battle, like Saladin against the Crusaders.” The children also all praised Mohammed Assaf, UNRWA’s Youth Ambassador, who wrote a song declaring: “O soil of beloved forgotten land. With precious blood you are irrigated.”
Speaking at the event launching his documentary in Jerusalem, David Bedein, who heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and Israel Resource News Agency, stated: “The recommendation to renew the UNRWA mandate is without any conditions. It will be renewed regardless. The question is, what conditions will we put onto it? There is the issue of education. There is also the issue of transparency.
Total disorganization of the 1.2 billion dollars coming in. Also the issue of military training in the schools. Also the issue of allowing people to leave UNRWA refugee camps. They are stuck in these refugee camps. Anyone who says that they want to get up and leave can be endangering his or her life. The message today is very simple and very clear. Make sure your government hears from you that there should be conditions placed on the renewal of the UNRWA mandate.”
In such an environment, being “tough on Israel” is just a waste of time. It is like yelling at a cheerleader in a football stadium to give a round of applause. If Senator Sanders and these 106 House Democrats are so concerned about the prospects for peace in the Middle East, then they should start out by pressuring the PA to end their indoctrination for war and come out in support of UNRWA reform.
In the eyes of the PA, even the city of Netanya, which is located thirty minutes north of Tel Aviv, is the Palestinian village of Umm Khalid. From their perspective, all of the modern-day skyrises need to be torn down so that the Palestinian village of Umm Khalid can be rebuilt. Until this changes, any Israeli gesture for peace is not worth the paper it is written on. Therefore, President Trump reclassifying the status of Jewish communities over the Green Line does not adversely affect the non-existent peace process one iota. Thus, anyone who truly cares about the prospects for peace should start with being “tough on the Palestinians” for that will create the conditions necessary for a Palestinian spring that will lead to a policy change. Only when that happens will peace be within the realm of the possible.