Head of UNRWA grilled over alleged antisemitism and incitement to Jihad in textbooks
Philippe Lazzarini, the Head of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), was told last week by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to take “concrete steps” towards reform following allegations that textbooks used in UNRWA schools contained antisemitism, incitement to Jihad and the rejection of peace-making.
At a hearing of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET), Mr Lazzarini claimed UNRWA had revised the textbooks following the allegations of antisemitism and other problematic content, revealed by a recent report from educational monitoring organisation IMPACT-se, as reported by CAA.
Mr Lazzarini’s acknowledged that “there are a number of issues needing to be addressed” but this did not satisfy MEPs. Germany’s Dietmar Köster said UNRWA had “admitted” that “its own education directors” had produced educational material between March and November 2020 “branded with UNRWA logo” that “incites to violence, calls for jihad and rejects peace-making.”
Spanish MEP Jose Ramon Bauza Diaz, said “mentions of terrorism in certain texts” made it “very serious” if European taxpayers’ money was used “to pay for encouragement of terrorism or to foster corruption.”
Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann, demanded to know “what concrete steps” Mr Lazzarini had taken. “What has been done to collect these materials back from 320,000 students,” she asked. “We know if these books remain with the students, they will create further damage.” Ms Lexmann also recalled that a U.S. State Department report on UNRWA said that UNRWA teachers had “refused to take part in training for tolerance and conflict resolution.”
Dutch MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen said the recent IMPACT-se report showed that “in the new textbooks of UNRWA” there was “daily mention of violence, rejection of peace and denial of the legitimacy of Israel.” Mr Ruissen added: “I think there is a question of how long we can tolerate this.”
The European Union is UNRWA’s largest institutional donor. Earlier this year, it passed a resolution condemning UNRWA and demanding that problematic material be “removed immediately.” In doing so, it became the first legislature to censure UNRWA over alleged teaching of hate and incitement to violence. The European Commissioner for UNRWA aid also said earlier this year, that there was “a need” for reform in Palestinian education and called on the EU to consider making aid to the education sector conditional on “full adherence to UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, co-existence [and] non-violence.”
A cross-party group of 26 MEPs from sixteen countries also called for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to investigate UNRWA, created to aid Palestinians, and to take disciplinary action against it over its alleged teaching of hate.
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