UN ‘set to whitewash Unrwa report’ despite new evidence of radicalisation in Gaza schools

Evidence shown to UN’s investigation showed apparent glorification of terror but there are fears it will be ignored


Students holding shrouded dolls signifying dead Gazan babies (posted on Facebook, December 2023)

The United Nations is poised to “downplay the extent of hate taught in Unrwa schools”, according to an organisation that submitted evidence to the UN as part of its investigation into Unrwa (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East).

Following revelations of Unrwa employees' involvement in October 7, several countries froze their funding of the agency and Secretary-General, António Guterres, appointed a panel to review the subsidiary organisation.

The only NGO to submit evidence to the internal review shared apparent proof that Unrwa schools had indoctrinated children with antisemitism, advocated for Israel's destruction, and glorified terrorists.

But its CEO voiced fears that the review will act as “cover”, enabling donors to resume funding to Unrwa.

The 245-page dossier submitted by the Institute for Monitoring Peace And Cultural Tolerance in School Education (Impact-se) appeared to confirm extreme Jew hate in Unrwa schools and uncovered numerous textbooks with content linked to the massacre.

Impact-se’s report also found some Unrwa schools celebrated October 7. In addition to the involvement of Unrwa staff on October 7, over 100 Unrwa graduates were found to be part of the Hamas group that murdered Israeli civilians.

Now the education monitoring NGO fears the UN review will “include inadequate recommendations, and [will] likely downplay the extent of hate taught in Unrwa schools”. Impact-se fears that the UN report will not hold a single Unrwa teacher to account.

Impact-se CEO, Marcus Sheff, described Unrwa’s “unacceptable complicity in terror”. If the UN review findings are inadequate, then Sheff said: “An independent, external investigation must immediately be set up to ensure that Unrwa no longer continues in its role.”

Evidence submitted by Impact-se included a video of a rally on October 26 at Nablus Elementary School for Boys in which students called on God to grant victory to the “Jihad warriors” of Hamas, and take “war spoils like in the Battle of Hunayn”.

During another rally in solidarity with Gaza December 2023, pulls at Qalqilya Basic School for Boys Number 1 held dolls signifying dead Gazan babies. A student recited the poem “I am a Palestinian Child” by Safwan Majdi, which incites violence against Zionists and promotes martyrdom with verses that glorify death by “crucifixion” and “stabbing”.

The are numerous instances of Unrwa schools valourising terrorists. Several lessons were found to glorify Dalal Mughrabi, famed for carrying out the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in which 38 Israeli civilians were killed. One blackboard display in an Unrwa school lionises Mughrabi as “the fighting leader.” In a booklet used at Tel Al-Hawa Middle School, the Coastal Road Massacre is referred to as an operation killing “30 soldiers,” even though the victims were all civilians. The booklet also praises Palestinian terror attacks in Gaza and Lebanon which it alleges brought about Israel’s withdrawal from those areas.

This evidence is despite claims made in 2021 by Unrwa spokesperson Tamara Alrifai, who said schools had stopped teaching about Mughrabi.

In another exercise shared with a fifth-grade class, Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam is described as a “martyr”. In lessons at Al-Zaytun Elementary and Al-Maghazi Middle School, Al-Qassam and Mughrabi are presented as heroes in the “Hooray for the Heroes” story. Qassam was an Islamic preacher who advocated for Jihad against Zionists and the military wing of Hamas is named after him.

The UN supposedly has oversight of material taught in its schools; however, Impact-s found that Unrwa-branded education material has been kept off the official Unrwa digital learning portal, where all self-produced material should be posted to address transparency concerns.

The are multiple examples of Unrwa classrooms that show the map of Israel and the West Bank as entirely Palestinian and activities that erase the historical Jewish presence in the land.

Other lessons teach that Jewish self-determination in Palestine was the product of a global anti-Arab imperialist conspiracy. Israel, referenced as the “Zionist entity,” is described as having been implanted by European colonialism to divide the Arab world.

Students are taught that Israel destroyed the Palestinian cultural heritage of Jerusalem. In one activity, they are asked to explain the results of “the Judaization of Palestinian heritage by the Occupation” and “the falsification and theft of the cultural heritage of Jerusalem.”

Another activity referred to the antisemitic trope that Jews murdered the Prophet Mohammed.

A grammar exercise on one classroom board related a story about Mughrabi and a poem on the Deir Yassin Massacre. The following text appeared on the board at Al-Zaytun Elementary: “Truth: The cruelty and ferocity of the Zionist Occupation. Among the massacres perpetrated by the Israeli Occupation against the Palestinians: The Deir Yassin Massacre, the Sabra and Shatila Massacre.”

At Beit Hanoun Preparatory Unrwa School for Boys, the periodic table is taught in the Life Sciences textbook using an image of phosphorus bombs deployed by the “Israeli occupation military” in the Gaza Strip.

Another textbook, Islamic Education, instructs children of ten and 11 to colour a Palestinian flag, dripping in blood, against the backdrop of the Dome of the Rock. The prayer “God, protect Palestine” is placed on a map encompassing the entirety of Israel and the West Bank.

Other material used for Islamic education asks students to mark true or false that “Liberating the Al-Aqsa Mosque and making sacrifices for it is an obligation for all Muslims”. The correct answer in the exam is “true”.

Students in Nablus Elementary School learn that they should work together “to free the homeland Palestine from the Zionist occupiers”.

At Al-Maghazi Middle School for Boys B, an Arabic Language class teaches a text titled I Love My Village, which includes the line: “What I love about it [the village] is the smell of the ground mixed with the blood of the martyrs”.

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