A former official with UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, admitted in a recent television interview that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was a teacher in one of the agency’s schools.

The official, Ahmad Oueidat, said in a March 14, 2024 interview on Britain’s Al-Hiwar TV that the West was unhappy with UNRWA for giving rise to the top cadre of Palestinian Arab leaders. He continued to say that both Haniyeh and the Secretary-General of the PFLP-GC, Dr. Talal Naji, were teachers in UNRWA schools.

He then claimed that Western countries, Israel, and the US "corrupted" the UNRWA curricula, by "planting" topics that have "nothing to do" with Palestinian values and heritage, and they forced it to remove certain pictures and topics.

Oueidat’s comments were translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

"UNRWA has tried to constitute a national platform and a long arm, which would enable the Palestinian refugees to obtain their rights and first and foremost – the Right of Return,” he claimed.

"But what happened was the [West] saw that UNRWA was raising thousands and thousands of cadres, who could gradually contribute to the development of Palestinian society. They saw that the UNRWA schools were giving rise to leaders. Many familiar names of politicians and leaders. "First and foremost, we can mention Ismail Haniyeh, who was an UNRWA teacher, and so was Dr. Talal Naji, Secretary-General of the PFLP-GC,” said Oueidat.

Created in 1949, UNRWA supplies aid to more than three million of the five million registered “Palestinian refugees” in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and territories assigned to the Palestinian Authority.

However, it is also notorious for its anti-Israel activities. During the 2014 counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge, Hamas rockets were discovered inside a school building run by UNRWA.

More recently, Israel said that 12 UNRWA staff had taken part in Hamas’ October 7 attack. Among other things, Israel said those workers kidnapped a woman, handed out ammunition and actively taking part in the massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where 97 people were murdered.

In the wake of those findings, the US and a host of other countries announced they would temporarily pause funding to UNRWA.

An independent review group appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to look into Israel’s claims said last week that UNRWA is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality, but has also identified critical areas that still need to be addressed.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini has said that the UN agency had launched an investigation into the employees in question, but he has also insisted he had no knowledge of how deep Hamas is involved in UNRWA, and has accused Israel of "a deliberate and concerted campaign" aimed at ending UNRWA’s work.