When UNWRA (United Nations Relief Work Agency) was formed in December 1949, it was supposed to temporarily tend to the needs of the approximately 600,000 Arab refugees of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, who were in refugee camps. Since the founding of UNRWA, the number of “refugees” has increased to a staggering 5.7 million according to UNRWA, and according to PASI, the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, that number is 6.7 million. The refugee camps of the past have become cities. Two million of those refugees reside in Judea and Samaria. Others live in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Other than providing aid, does UNRWA have other agendas?
It appears that UNRWA-run refugee “camps” (cities) are perpetuating enmity towards Israel. Confrontation with Israel is taught in their schools, which have adopted the anti-Israel curriculum of the Palestinian Authority in violation of UN principles of peace and reconciliation. UNRWA school textbooks contain many examples of indoctrination against Israel as well as the veneration of terrorists. Textbooks omit recognition of Israel, and school maps omit the existence of Israel. School books exclude any mention of the connection between Jews and the land of Israel.
It also appears that refugees are being primed for combat. UNRWA summer camps actually give young “campers” paramilitary training, preparing for future war with the Jews. The goal is the “right of return,” which refers to bringing Arab populations to cities and towns like Lod, Ashdod, Jaffa and Ashkelon, all of which were populated by Arabs who left or fled in 1948 when Arab armies attacked the newborn Jewish state. Their leaders assured them that they would return to their homes when the Jews were defeated.
UNRWA is an agency that was supposed to be supervised by donor nations and Israel. The supervision was meant to include managing school curriculum, but the curriculum continues to indoctrinate and incite conflict seventy-five years after the establishment of Israel.
The advocacy group UN Watch enumerated how teachers in UNRWA schools express support for terrorism and Palestinian terrorist groups, and indoctrinate students to violence. On July 15, 2022, Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch tweeted that UN Watch has “easily identified 120 UNRWA teachers, school principals and other employees who praise Hitler, glorify terrorist attacks and spread antisemitism.” UN Watch decried “exploitation of children as child soldiers” as a “form of child abuse and a violation of international law.”
William Deere, the Washington DC advisor to UNRWA responded that, “UNRWA is an agency fully committed to upholding UN principles and values and has a zero tolerance for hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” However, from its actions UNWRA tells a very different story.
Realizing the extent of incitement in UNRWA schools and summer camps, the Trump administration cut US funding to UNWRA in 2018 for lack of “accountability.” The Biden administration has resumed funding but only under the condition that its education curriculum is for peace.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the UN, Gilad Erdan called for “countries to freeze contributions until UNRWA teachers expressing support for terror are fired”. But the funding continues.
In 1967, following Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, when the IDF took control of the Arab populations of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, school textbooks used by Palestinians incited violence. After being placed under Israeli administration of COGAT(Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), however, new textbooks were implemented.
However, the signing of the Oslo accords on September 13, 1993, which gave the Palestinian Authority control over education in territories they administered as a result of the agreements, saw a steady deterioration in the curriculum. Incitement to violence against Israel again abounded in what was supposed to be the beginnings of a process of reconciliation. With the OSLO Accords came the deterioration of UNWRA-sponsored institutions, as anti-Israel propaganda proliferated in the territories.
Since Oslo, donor countries have not demanded accountability. Journalist David Bedein, who heads the Israel Resource News Agency and authored f “UNRWA Roadblock to Peace,” stated that when he posed the question to thirty-five of the sixty-seven nations that fund UNRWA as to how they track the funds and where they are going, “they replied that they rely upon the rigorous oversight of UNRWA.”
Today, UNRWA facilities prime tomorrow’s generation for conflict. UNRWA should be seeking real solutions to what was the rejection by Arab nations of the partition of the land in 1947, according to UN resolution 181. Their leaders’ statements denying culpability belies their agenda, which is to allow perpetuation of conflict and the continued hope by Palestinian Arabs to flood Israel with descendants of refugees.
Larry Domnitch is the author of The Impact of World War One on the Jewish People, (Second Edition), recently released by Urim Publications. He lives in Efrat.