New Watchdog Report Claims UNRWA Lied About Removing Hate Speech and Incitement From Educational Materials

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

A new report by a watchdog group claims that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which serves Palestinian refugees and their descendants, has not removed incitement and hate speech from its educational materials, as it had promised.

After a report by the organization IMPACT-se prompted criticism from donor nations, UNRWA admitted to its use of racist and inciting educational materials, and said that all such content had been removed by Nov. 2020.

IMPACT-se’s new report said that, despite the agency’s claims to have rectified the problem, its educational materials remain replete with hate speech and exhortations to violence.

An UNRWA spokesperson did not immediately respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

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February 17, 2021 6:40 pm

Particularly problematic, said the IMPACT-se report, are “Self-Study Cards” issued to first- through ninth-graders. A spelling exercise for ninth-graders, for example, condemns any peace agreements between Israel and unspecified Arab countries — likely a reference to the Abraham Accords.

In addition, the materials contain maps that erase Israel and reference the entire region of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza as “Palestine.” Israel itself is sometimes referred to only as “the Enemy” or “the Occupation.”

There are also statements such as “jihad is the road of glory” and a spelling lesson containing gore and violence, referring to “pieces of corpses” in the streets.

Overall, the materials place a strong emphasis on Palestinian nationalism, the report said, despite UNRWA’s claims to political neutrality.

Marcus Sheff, the CEO of IMPACT-se, said of the findings, “UNRWA promised that it had removed all the hateful content that its teachers had written. Sadly, as this research shows, this is simply not the case.”

“UNRWA’s promises about removing the content have been repeated in good faith by governments around the world,” he noted. “But a cursory inspection shows that its explanations simply do not make any sense.”

“It does not appear that the organization is institutionally capable of fulfilling its basic duty of care to the children in its schools,” Sheff asserted. “Donor countries need to start asking much more pointed questions of UNRWA if they want to stop financing this ongoing hate-teaching.”

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