UNRWA HQ in Gaza
UNRWA HQ in GazaFlash 90

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) on Tuesday called on Canada to suspend its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and hold the agency to account after a report revealed that more than 100 of its educators and staff have publicly promoted anti-Semitism and violence on social media, and that on numerous occasions the agency has failed to dismiss teachers who incited such hate.

The report from UN Watch, which examined Facebook users who publicly identified themselves as UNRWA employees, details the posts of numerous employees – including a math teacher who posted a video of Adolf Hitler, depicting him as an inspirational philosopher, and a quote promoting an antisemitic conspiracy theory; a teacher in the West Bank who accused Jews of controlling the world, creating the coronavirus and seeking to destroy Islam; and a school principal and teacher who shared a map, entitled “The Map of Arab Palestine,” which erases Israel.

Several UNRWA employees glorified massacres of Israeli Jews, celebrated convicted terrorists and rejected Israel’s right to exist.

In a letter to Canadian Minister of International Development Karina Gould, FSWC Director of Policy Jaime Kirzner-Roberts wrote, “It is clear that UNRWA is failing to address the ongoing problem of anti-Semitism within its ranks, and we hope you will agree that Canada, as a longtime donor to UNRWA and a country committed to fighting antisemitism in any form, has an obligation to step up and hold the agency to account.”

“For years, UNRWA has shown itself unable or unwilling to address the problem of blatant anti-Semitism in its curriculum and among its staff. If anti-Semitism is not to be tolerated here in Canada, neither should it be tolerated in any international initiatives funded by Canada. It’s time for Canada to send a strong message that its donor dollars cannot be used to perpetuate hate against Jews or anyone else. We hope Canada will suspend all payments to UNRWA until it can be assured the anti-Semitism problem has been addressed.”

Following the publication of the UN Watch report, Israel's Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent letters of complaint to the Secretary-General of the UN and the Commissioner-General of UNRWA and demanded they take action.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government stopped the funding to UNRWA, but Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in 2016 he would restore the funding.

In 2017, the Trudeau government announced a $20 million aid package to UNRWA, the bulk of which was meant to help UNRWA provide basic education, health and livelihood needs for millions of Palestinian refugees, particularly women and children.

In late 2018, after the US cut its funding to UNRWA, Canada announced $50 million in funding for the organization.

In December, Canada announced it will provide some US$70 million in financing to UNRWA after the agency's chief warned it was facing its "worst financial crisis" ever.