The commissioner-general of the UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, had admitted that Palestinian Arab textbooks contain anti-Semitic content and glorification of terrorism, while maintaining, without giving specifics, that his agency is capable of revising the material so that the offending sections are not taught.
In a hearing of the EU parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Lazzarini acknowledged that anti-Semitism, intolerance and glorification of terrorism are present in PA textbooks used in UNRWA schools, Eureporter reported.
He also contended that the agency had removed the hateful content from textbooks used in its schools after allegations of anti-Semitic learning materials surfaced.
However, several committee members cited a report by IMPACT-se, an organization that analyzes educational materials for violations of UNESCO standards on peace and tolerance, that found hate, violence and anti-Semitism were still present in PA textbooks.
As UNWRA’s largest donor, the EU in June began considering whether to condition aid to the PA school system based on “full adherence to UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, co-existence, non-violence” and the reform of the PA’s education system.
At the committee hearing, Lazzarini agreed with “the conclusion that there are a number of issues needing to be addressed.”
Nonetheless, multiple lawmakers demanded detailed answers as to how his assertions could be put into practice.
Slovak Member of European Parliament (MEP) Miriam Lexmann questioned the practicality of Lazzarini’s statements.
“What concrete steps have been taken? What has been done to collect these materials back from 320,000 students? We know if these books remain with the students, they will create further damage.’’
She added that the US State Department accountability office (GAO) report on UNRWA found that UNRWA teachers ”refused to take part in training for tolerance and conflict resolution.’’
German MEP Dietmar Köster challenged Lazzarini’s assertion on the textbooks.
“UNRWA admitted that between March and November 2020, its own education directors produced educational material branded with the UNRWA logo that incites to violence, calls for jihad and rejects peacemaking as identified in IMPACT-se report,” he said.
“I have serious concerns regarding the textbooks. In view of UNRWA’s serious shortcomings in recent years, I believe the European Parliament has no other choice but to discuss the question of whether we need stricter oversight over the agency.”
A recent UN Watch report revealed that UNRWA staff promoted anti-Semitism and violence. The revelation led to a call by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for the Canadian government to suspend its funding to UNRWA.
In August, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer responded to UNRWA’s statement in which it announced a probe into alleged anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias by its staffers based on the report.
“If the agency employs dozens of teachers and school principals who quote Hitler and praise Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist attacks, the issue isn’t their social media posts and their so-called ‘neutrality breaches,’ but rather the fact that UNRWA’s education system is repeatedly hiring and putting in the classroom teachers that admire Hitler and propagate hatred and terrorism,” he said.
Also in August, Israel's Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent a letter to the Under-Secretary-General of the UN and the Commissioner-General of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini calling for the immediate dismissal of UNRWA teachers who have engaged in anti-Semitic actions, explaining that training teachers to hide their anti-Semitic views online does not remedy the situation.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)