Your money and their hatred

November 24, 2016 23:20

Surveying the media frenzy that followed the Jerusalem pogrom (for what else can it be called?) of November 18, I could not help noticing that in spite of all the blaming, naming and shaming, one organisation that has played a significant part in creating and sustaining the misplaced sense of Palestinian victimhood that forms the backcloth to last week's bloody events has escaped the attention of the chattering classes.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – UNWRA for short. This august body was created in December 1949, with the aim of providing support for those unfortunates – Arab and Jewish - displaced as a result of the attacks launched against the fledgling Jewish state at the behest of the Arab League the previous year.

In 1952 Israel took over responsibility for the Jewish refugees, leaving UNWRA to cater not merely for the 650,000 or so Palestinians directly displaced as a result of the hostilities, but for all their descendants – around five million persons in all. UNWRA is the only UN agency charged with the responsibility for the education and welfare of refugees emanating from a specific conflict. As well as maintaining facilities in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, it operates on the West Bank and in Gaza, though why the lavishly funded Palestinian Authority (to say nothing of the oil-rich Arab states) cannot shoulder this burden remains a mystery.

UNWRA itself is not short of funds. As the largest UN agency, with a staff of over 25,000 (almost all Palestinians) it spends over $1 billion per annum. Whilst the US is its largest single donor, substantial amounts come also from the UK (over $93 million last year) and the EU ($216 million). That's your money, sourced from taxes. UNWRA is indeed almost a nation-state in its own right. Over the decades it has come in for great criticism, some directed at its lack of financial prudence and more at its fostering of a dependency culture and inability – or perhaps unwillingness – to protect Palestinian refugees in host countries – for example in Lebanon, where those living in refugee camps are subject to overt discriminatory regulation as regards their right to employment and freedom of movement.

But my present concern is with UNWRA's attitude to Jews, Judaism and the Jewish state. This mindset is displayed most publicly in its schools. An independent study commissioned in 2004 at the behest of the American government had this to say of UNWRA's school curriculum: "The Jewish connection to the region, in general, and the Holy Land, in particular, is virtually missing …terms and passages used to describe historical events are sometimes offensive and could be construed as reflecting hatred of and discrimination against Jews and Judaism." In 2009, under threat from Hamas, UNWRA agreed to suspend the teaching of Holocaust studies. And we know – indeed UNWRA has admitted – that during the most recent conflict in Gaza three of its schools that had been closed for the summer were somehow able to be used as Hamas-controlled rocket warehouses.

The UNWRA is like its own state, funded by your taxes

And so we come to last week's pogrom. One might have expected UNWRA to have at least instructed its employees to keep their opinions on this outrage (and its causes) to themselves. But in fact there are well-documented instances (collected by Jewish blogger Elder of Ziyon) of UNWRA employees openly celebrating the murders that took place in Har Nof. One Palestinian teacher employed by UNWRA is reported as having used his Facebook page to congratulate the murderers of four rabbis, while another (in Hebron) published a poem in praise of the atrocity and a third (in Syria) offered prayers for the perpetrators to be accepted in "paradise" as "martyrs."

The day following the Jerusalem murders, the UN's Security Council condemned without qualification the "despicable terrorist attack" that also left a Druze policeman dead and many more injured. I expect UNWRA, as a creature of the UN, to do no less. I expect it to discipline its employees who, even privately, sought to publicly justify let alone praise the Har Nof outrage. And I expect public confirmation that this necessary action has been taken.

November 24, 2016 23:20

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