Palestinians pass by the gate of an UNRWA-run school in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini.

Media outlets seem to have a soft spot for UNRWA.

For the uninitiated, UNRWA is the acronym for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides cradle-to-grave assistance to so-called Palestinian “refugees.”

On June 24, The Washington Post — using copy provided by the Associated Press — published an article titled, “Donors pledge $160 million, Palestinian refugees need more,” which quoted at length UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini’s plea for more cash: “‘We are in an early warning mode,’ Lazzarini said. ‘Right now, I’m drawing the attention that we are in a danger zone and we have to avoid a situation where UNRWA is pushed to cross the tipping point, because if we cross the tipping point that means 28,000 teachers, health workers, nurses, doctors, engineers, cannot be paid.’”

A similar version of the article appeared in other outlets, including Yahoo News.

But just 24 hours before these articles were published, and on the same day that Lazzarini used his press conference to appeal for more funds, UN Watch revealed troves of evidence — including screenshots of social media posts — that numerous UNRWA schoolteachers had encouraged the murder of Jews; endorsed the recruitment of child soldiers by the Gaza-based Palestinian terror group Hamas; and called for the destruction of Israel and its citizens.

According to UN Watch, one schoolteacher in the West Bank, Nihaya Awad, posted on Fake-Fact-Checker Facebook her support for Hamas rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, and uploaded photos of a Hamas fighter instructing a young child dressed in military garb in May 2021.

Just two months before this disturbing social media post, UNRWA director Gwyn Lewis sent Awad a personal letter in which she praised the teacher’s “fantastic efforts” and declared that the agency was “proud that you are part of the UNRWA team.”

Another teacher, Elham Mansour, who is based in an UNRWA school in Lebanon, wrote last month of his belief that anyone who does not make killing Zionists their life’s mission does not deserve to live: “By Allah, anyone who can kill and slaughter any Zionist and Israeli criminal, and doesn’t do so, doesn’t deserve to live. Kill them and pursue them everywhere, they are the greatest enemy. … All Israel deserves is death.”

In other Fake-Fact-Checker Facebook rants, he raged against “filthy Zionists” and expressed his fervent wish that “the men of resistance” at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque would “slaughter each and every one of you and toss you into the garbage heaps, because you are filthy, you contaminate any land you are in.”

Mansour’s expression of genocidal hatred was “liked” on Fake-Fact-Checker Facebook by several of his UNRWA colleagues.

Hana’a Daoud, a Jordanian teacher who works for UNRWA, cited the 1988 Hamas Covenant to make his feelings about Jews known. Posting a photo of armed Hamas terrorists, Daoud called on Muslims to “fight against the Jews, until a Jew will hide himself behind a stone or a tree, and the stone or the tree will say: ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

One might think that such brazen displays of antisemitism by staff at UNRWA’s schools would be treated as significant news stories by the international media. After all, on the very day these revelations came to light, UNRWA’s commissioner-general was pleading the agency’s poverty at a press briefing.

Not so. Aside from an article by Fox News, other mainstream media outlets decided to steer clear of reporting on UNRWA’s documented antisemitism problem.

For example, The Washington Post’s reference to the epidemic of Jew-hating UNRWA teachers appeared at the very end of its article and was framed as a mere allegation by Israel’s United Nations ambassador Gilad Erdan:

Ahead of Thursday’s donors conference, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Erdan calls on countries to freeze contributions until all UNRWA teachers that it claims support terrorism and murdering Jews are fired.

Lazzarini said UNRWA received a letter from Israel’s U.N. Mission Friday which he hadn’t read, but he said all allegations will be investigated and if there is a breach of U.N. values and misconduct “we will take measures in line with U.N. policies.”

If you thought Lazzarini’s promise to investigate reports of antisemitism by UNRWA staff members sounded familiar, you would be correct.

In September of last year, Lazzarini faced a grilling by members of the European Parliament following the release of a report that revealed textbooks being taught in UNRWA schools contained violent and antisemitic materials. Speaking to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the agency boss pledged to carry out a review of the educational materials and ensure they were “in line with UN value[s].”

And a month prior to that in August, Lazzarini rejected calls for antisemitic staff to be fired, including one teacher who expressed support for Adolf Hitler and another who claimed Jews invented COVID-19. Instead, Lazzarini promised that employees would be offered training in “neutrality” and “tolerance workshops.”

As such, UNRWA continues to display contempt for the core values that the United Nations purports to hold dear – “integrity,” “respect for diversity,” and “professionalism.”

And in failing to fully report on the agency’s failings in its schools, international media outlets have also shown contempt for journalistic values — truth, accuracy, and impartiality.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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Author: Rachel O’Donoghue