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Op-Ed: Should US AID Place Conditions on donations to UNRWA?

UNWRA educational funds from the USA should have non-incitement strings tied to them.
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013 6:09 PM


On August 16 , the US and the Palestinian Authority signed a  new $148 million economic aid agreement.

Our agency asked PA officials where the money was going.

The answer: education, for the new school year of the PA schools, many of which function in United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) facilities.

That is because texts taught in the UNRWA schools are prepared by the Palestinian Authority in conjunction with UNRWA uses that PA curriculum - which openly rejects the existence of Israel and instead encourages "The Right of Return" of the Palestinians - by means of "armed struggle".

The PA curriculum does not acknowledge Jewish rights in any part of "Palestine," on either side of the 1967 lines, nor does the PA curriculum recognize any Jewish past in the Land of Israel. Indeed, in PA texts, Israeli cities are identified as Palestinian cities.

Israel is demonized in these texts, while no peaceful solution to the Arab-Israel war is ever discussed in the PA. In the words of Dr. Anon Gross, the Arabic language
journalist expert who translated the texts:

"The manifestations of the "Right of Return" in the PA textbooks taught in UNRWA's schools are not nostalgic literary pieces.Rather, the 'Right of Return' plays a prominent role in the Palestinian political vision of a continued struggle against a delegitimized and demonized Israel until its eventual destruction".

The educational message provided by UNRWA to Palestinian students is meant to propagate a message of  a war , in contradiction to the UNRWA's declared slogan, which is that "Peace Starts Here".

Two months ago, our agency sent a registered letter to US AID with  questions about US AID to UNRWA/PA education.

The letter has not received the courtesy of a response.

The letter simply asked if the officials of US AID would ask UNRWA schools to not use textbooks which deny the existence of the State of Israel or undermine it, not to use school books which encourages "the right of return," or the use of violence of any kind.

Here are a few choice quotations from the PA textbooks used "The number of the Palestinians in the world is close to nine million... Four and a half million live in the Diaspora outside of Palestine... Most of them are refugees who wait to return to the motherland after having been expelled" (National Education, Grade 4, Part 1 (2011) p. 43).

"The [refugee] camp is not considered an original home for the Palestinian refugee. Rather, it is a temporary place where he has been forced to live. All the Palestinians wait for the return of every Palestinian to his city or village from which he was made to emigrate." (Islamic Education, Grade 6, Part 1 (2011) p. 69)

In addition, there are language exercises using this theme such as the following one:

"Activity 2: Let us fill in the empty space with the appropriate noun...The ... [refugee]... dreams of returning to his homeland." (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, Part 1 [2011] p. 91)

And poems are taught...:
"We Shall Return"
...Tomorrow we shall come back and the ages shall listen
To the footfalls during the return
We shall return with the resounding storms
With the sacred lightening and the star
With the winged hopes and the songs
With the soaring vulture and the eagle
Yes! The thousands victims shall return
Victims of oppression shall open every door"
(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1 [2002] p. 3)

We Shall Return

Return, return, we shall return
Borders shall not exist, nor citadels

We Shall Return

Return, return, we shall return
Borders shall not exist, nor citadels and fortresses
Cry out, O those who have left:

We shall return!

We shall return to the homes, to the valleys, to the
Under the flag of glory, Jihad and struggle
With blood, sacrifice [fida'], fraternity and loyalty

We shall return
We shall return, O hills; [we] shall return, O heights
We shall return to childhood; [we] shall return to youth
To Jihad in the hills; [to] harvest in the land"
(Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, Part 1 [2011] p. 50)

In August, our agency asked  Democratic and Republican congressional delegations who visited Israel if they endorsed the concept of conditioning future aid to  UNRWA
on the cancellation of the UNRWA curriculum.

The head the respective congressional delegations, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), each stated clearly that that they spoke for their entire
delegations in saying clearly that Congress would no longer tolerate any funding for education that borders on incitement. When I pointed out that US AID was ignoring
their wishes in this regard, both Hoyer and Cantor indicated accountability in this regard rests with Congress, not with US AID.

This week, US AID renewed unconditional aid to PA education in the UNRWA facilities,with no strings attached. The time has come to ask for congressional accountabilityf  on  US AID policies in UNRWA..

The author is, Director, Israel Resource News Agency & Center for Near East Policy Research, in Beit Agron, Jerusalem,  Over the past 24 years, Israel Resource News Agency and the  Center for Near East Policy Research have facilitated news coverage from UNRWA facilities which operate in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza, Most recently, these agencies produced CAMP JIHAD, which filmed the inside story of UN summer camp activity,.