REPORT: UNRWA caught promoting violence and anti-Semitism

UN Watch released a report last week titled “Beyond the Textbooks,” revealing that over 100  UNRWA educators and staff publicly promoted violence and antisemitism on social media. The report cited  22 recent cases of UNRWA staff incitement which clearly violate the agency’s rules prohibiting racism, discrimination, or antisemitism. 

UNRWA teachers promoting Hitler

In one case listed in the report,  UNRWA Gaza math teacher Nahed Sharawi shared a video of Adolf Hitler with inspirational quotes to “enrich and enlighten your thoughts and minds.” In another case, Husni Masri, a UNRWA teacher in Judea and Samaria, posted antisemitic conspiracy theories according to which Jews control the world, created the coronavirus and seek to destroy Islam.

The UN Watch report listed a total of 113 cases that it captured from UNRWA employees’ public pages. The report only examined a sample of Facebook users who publicly identified themselves as UNRWA employees. UN Watch estimated that the actual number of UNRWA staff who incite violence and hatred includes many more of the agency’s 30,000 staff.

UN Watch further revealed that despite its numerous prior requests and submission of detailed evidence, UNRWA has failed to fire teachers who incite to racism and terrorism, nor has it taken any other meaningful action. UNRWA should therefore be considered complicit in its staff members’ misconduct.

“Around the world, educators who incite hate and violence are removed, yet UNRWA, despite proclaiming zero tolerance for incitement, knowingly and systematically employs purveyors of terror and anti-Jewish hate,” Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch said.

“We call on the governments that fund UNWRA to take action to stop the vicious cycle of generations being taught to hate and violently attack Jews. We demand that UNRWA address the core problem, and demonstrate its genuine commitment to basic norms of education in its schools, by publicly condemning UNWRA employees who incite terrorism and antisemitism, removing them from their positions, and creating an independent and impartial investigation of all of its staff.”

In 2018, President Trump defunded UNRWA but in April, the Biden administration announced its decision to renew funding to the Palestinians, including $150 million to UNRWA. By July 2021, it was reported that the U.S. funding to UNRWA for 2021 rose to $313.8 million.

UNRWA responded to the accusations, labeling UN Watch as “an organization with a deep history of unfounded and politically-driven assertions against the Agency”. UNRWA claimed that only 10 of 22 people mentioned in the report are UNRWA personnel. The UNRWA response did not relate to the remaining 91 cases cited by UN Watch. While claiming that it will launch an internal investigation into the cases it identified, UNRWA noted that it employs some 28,000 personnel, though it also claimed to have a “zero-tolerance policy for hatred.”

“In previous reports over a five years period, UN Watch identified a total of 101 cases where UNRWA personnel allegedly posted content on social media that was in breach of its Regulatory Framework, including the neutrality policy,” UNRWA claimed. “Upon investigation of these cases, UNRWA found that 57% of the allegations could not be tied to personnel employed by the Agency at the time of the reported incident. Personnel who were found in breach, then, were either censured and/or subjected to financial penalties.” 

UNRWA: unrepentant

UNRWA accused UN Watch of “sensationalist and politically-motivated attacks that deliberately harm an already vulnerable community: refugee children.”

“The fact that UNRWA’s education system is repeatedly hiring and putting in the classroom teachers that admire Hitler and propagate hatred and terrorism” is the problem, Neuer said.  ”Deleting a post on Facebook does not remove the hate in those teachers’ hearts and minds. It does not solve the problem. Palestinian children deserve to be fully protected from teachers of hatred and racism. Zero tolerance in schools means you remove racists from the classroom, period.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, responded to the report by calling for immediate action.

 “UNRWA once again proves that it is not a humanitarian organization but an organization that encourages terrorism under the auspices of UN hypocrisy. After studying the report in depth, I wrote an urgent letter to the UN Secretary-General and UNRWA with a clear demand: to immediately terminate all employees involved in the report, and to conduct an in-depth examination of other employees of the organization and to dismiss any employee who acts in a similar manner.”

“I also demanded the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry, and that all the countries that fund this despicable organization stop their funding and take action to investigate its actions. It is inconceivable that a UN-sponsored organization under the guise of humanitarian action would fund declared supporters of terrorism and antisemitism. The serious things that emerge from the report prove what is already clear: that UNRWA is a dangerous body that has no right to exist,” he added.

“I also contacted the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to review the findings and demand urgent explanations from the UN and UNRWA to address these serious cases,” concluded Erdan.

It is interesting to note that UNRWA routinely posts anti-Israel statements to social media. After the accusation from UN Watch, UNRWA tweeted a justification of such statements by teachers on social media.

“Teachers in Gaza have survived some of the most stressful and agonizing times,” UNRWA tweeted. “They need a safe space to learn how to verbalize their fear, anxiety and problems properly.”

UNRWA also tweeted a condemnation of the Jewish community adjacent to Hebron.

“The Palestinian neighbourhood of Wadi al-Hussein in Hebron hosts Palestine refugees, incl. Husni,” UNRWA tweeted. “The Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba pushes against their neighbourhood, which means persistent harassment, violence & abuse from Israeli settlers & forces.”

UNRWA history of anti-Israel

Similar accusations by UN Watch in 2015 claiming that at least ten different UNRWA employees used social media in to incite Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks against Israelis resulted in the UN removing more than 9-0 Facebook pages.

UNRWA has been accused of hiring known militants, perpetuating Palestinian dependency, demonizing Israel, and funneling money from Western governments to line the pockets of the Palestinian Authority, and purchasing arms for terrorists. Critics of UNRWA argue it serves to perpetuate the conflict. Critics also claim the organization fosters Palestinian dependency.The US State Department has similarly raised concerns about the content of textbooks used in PA schools, claiming they showed imbalance, bias, and inaccuracy. In 2003, the IDF produced videos and documents showing that Hamas used UNRWA facilities, including ambulances, for terrorist activities.

Israel in the News