The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), fostered in 1948 to aid more than half a million Arabs refugees who left their homes in during Israel War of Independence, today serves more than five million descendants of Arab refugees living in 59 refugee camps. UNRWA provides education for 515,000 students, from grade one to grade ten. Of its 1.2 billion USD budget, UNRWA 54% percent is earmarked towards education.
The US share of the UNRWA budget was 363 million USD in 2017. President Trump slashed that UNRWA budget by $60 million for 2018.
Ever since the PA began to issue its own school books in 2000, UNRWA schools use Palestinian Authority School books to educate UNRWA students, who make up 25 percent of all Arab students who dwell in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza.
In the early years of the Oslo process, 1993-2000, hope was held out for peace education in UNRWA, because new books were going to be published by the Palestinian Authority, defined as a peace partner. A new generation of Palestinian Arab children who learn in UNRWA schools would be educated in a UN atmosphere, consonant with the UN motto that Peace Starts Here.
In an interview conducted with PLO leader Yasir Arafat, I asked Arafat when he would ever speak words of peace in the Arabic language. Arafat immediately invoked the new PA school books, then in preparation and arranged for me to receive the first set of PA school books directly from the new PA Minister of Education when the first PA school books were issued on August 1, 2000. On that day, Dr. Nayim Abu Hooumus met with me and presented the school books hot off the press, funded by European country donors.
Ever since, our agency has purchased all new editions of the PA school books each year from the PA Ministry of Education and we have hired journalists with PHDs in Islamic Studies to translate them and present the results to the donor nations..
To say that PA school books used by UNRWA have never used words of peace would be an understatement.
Last week, on June 7, The Swedish Parliament, representing the 4th largest donor to UNRWA ($43 million a year) invited veteran journalist Dr Arnon Groiss, recently retired deputy director of the Arabic Languae Division of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, to present his new study of PA textbooks from June 2018, based on 118 school books introduced into UNRWA schools during the second semester of the 2017-2018 school year.
Dr. Groiss, who holds a Phd in Islamic Studies at Princeton, was accompanied by MK Sharren Haskel, head of the new Knesset lobby for UNRWA Reform. They presented principles for UNRWA reform that MK Haskel has been presenting to all donor nations**. What followed were recent films of UNRWA schools that were commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research.
Dr. Groiss shared his conclusions about the UNRWA school books, which show three major themes.
The first is the delegitimization of Jews and of Israels existence. For example, the new grade five textbook refers to Israel as the Jewish-Zionist occupier” thus undermining it’s legitimacy.
Demonization and dehumanization of Jews represents another major theme of the PA school books used by UNRWA. Indeed, Jews are referred to as the Devil’s aides in a new grade seven textbook.
Finally, war indoctrination rather than peace education is stressed thoughout the PA school books. The focus on Jihad and martyrdom in textbooks for students begins in a sixth grade school book with a lesson plan entitled how the martyrs are more honorable than us all.
As a UN agency funded heavily by the US and other Western nations, UNRWA school books are supposed to ascrible to the motto of UN education, whose theme is ” PEACE STARTS HERE”.
However, PA school books defy all UN standards of tolerance of the other in every subject and in every matter related to Jews.
Jews are instead referred to as usurpers, invaders and occupiers. A geography book for grade ten mentions the Jews greedy ambitions in Palestine.
Language textbooks for grades three and four describe Jews as foreigners and infiltrators, respectively.
The most blatant example of this type of degrading language emerges in a language book for grade ten, in which Jews are called transitory invaders and usurping tyrants who took [Jerusalem].
Israel, a member in good standing at the UN, is not presented as an enitity on the UNRWA school maps.
Israel is referred to instead as The Zionist occupation, denying any religious, historical, and geographic Jewish claim in Israel.
PA school books used by UNRWA describe the Levant in a social studies book for grade six which includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine as the nation states that comprise the region.
Israel is nowhere to be seen on any map that an UNRWA student would ever see.
The Jewish presence in Israel is categorically denied to emphasize the exclusively Arab nature of the country.
Modern Israeli cities founded by Jews are presented either with their Arabic names or they do not appear at all on the PA/ UNRWA school maps
Eilat is presented to UNRWA students as Umm al-Rashrash, the name of the abandoned Red Sea coast area before Eilat was established.
Jewish holy sites do not exist in the UNRWA schoolbooks. A book about Palestinian identity for grade three simply states that Jerusalem is a holy city for Muslims and Christians, – not for Jews.
The new language book for grade ten argues that the Zionists have based their entity on terrorism, extermination and colonialism.
A social studies book for grade seven depicts the cartoon of a crane decorated with the star of David excavating the area under a mosque in an attempt to cause its collapse.
The assignment that follows asks students to write about the cartoons message. It can be inferred that the students are expected to draw the conclusion about the anti-Muslim nature of Jews.
One of the most warlike aspects of the schoolbooks is the avoidance of peace.
Instead, they teach about the sacrosanct value of Islamic war, and grant a special status to those who die in the battle – even mass murderers. In a language book for grade five Dalal al-Mughrabi, an Arab terrorist who led a squad which butchered 38 Israelis on the Israel coastal road in 1978, after she murdered Gail Rubin, a photographer who was the niece of Senator Abe Ribicoff, and presented as a martyrwhose heroism advanced the Palestinian struggle for nationhood.
While in real life Dalal al-Mughrabi, murdered 38 civilians on a bus, including 13 children, the new PA text teaches that ”Dalal al-Mughrabi killed more than 30 Israeli soldiers in brave combat”.
Another language book for grade seven states that Jihad is considered the peak of Islam, emphasizing the infatuation for holy war. Coupled with the emphasis placed on the violent struggle for the liberation of Palestine is the idea that Palestine and the Zionist occupation cannot coexist
The new curriculum should be of particular concern to donor nations who assume that a UN school would be dedicated to principles of peace, instead of an intensified indoctrination to violence and a war curriculum which is inserted into unrelated subjects.
A physics question in a grade eight book is introduced with the idea that Zionist occupation forces prohibit the call for prayer
A biology book for grade seven discusses a boy who was injured following an act of Zionist aggression.
A mathematics book for grade four asks students to calculate the number of martyrs during the two Intifadas.
The books also focus on the unconditional right of return for all Palestinian refugees and their descendants ro relclaim
The delegitimization, demonization, and indoctrination to violence in these schoolbooks violate the UNESCO Declaration of Principles on Tolerance which are supposed to characterize all UN educational systems
After 18 years of an UNRWA war curriclum, it would seem appropriate for donor nations to ask UNRWA to adopt a curriculum that promotes peace. .
Two years ago, following presentations by Dr. Groiss at the US Congress about the lethal nature of UNRWA education, Senator James Risch (R- Idaho), chairman of the US Senate Near East Subcommittee, commissioned the GAO, the US Government Accountability Office, to issue its own investigation of UNRWA education.
In April, 2018, the GAO competed a massive report on URWA educaton, yet ran into an unexpected hurdle: The US State Department classified the report and has forbidden its publication. Why? The State Department will not say.
On May 3, 2018, in official correspondence from Chuck Young, managing director of public affairs of the GAO would only say that: the State Department indicated the report will need to be classified and cannot be released publicly.
* Dr. Groisss latest study can be found at:
1. Cancellation of the current UNRWA war curriculum