UN Watch delivered an appeal on Tuesday at an international donor conference for UNRWA in Brussels, calling on government to insist on accountability from the agency after allegations of anti-Semitism and incitement to terrorism by more than 100 teachers and other staffers.
The appeal was handed by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer to Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who co-chaired the conference.
UN Watch said that the appeal was written in light of “UNRWA reportedly suspending several of its employees after a report by UN Watch exposed over 100 UNRWA educators and other employees who have publicly propagated violence and anti-Semitism on social media, in breach of the agency’s proclaimed policy of ‘zero tolerance’ for incitement.”
Outside the meeting, Neuer said: “I came here to Brussels today to urge our governments attending the UNRWA international donors conference to finally hold the agency to account for its teachers who poison the minds of Palestinian schoolchildren with incitement to anti-Semitism and terrorism.”
“I’m here urging delegations from the US, EU, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Switzerland and many other countries to demand that their money to UNRWA – our taxpayer funds – not go to teachers who glorify Hitler,” Neuer said.
While UNWRA told delegates that it was acting against incitement – Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth stressed that “commitment to humanitarian principles, including neutrality is unwavering for UNRWA” and claimed that “there are extraordinarily few verified breaches of neutrality” – Neuer said, “the opposite is true.”
“UNRWA has failed to respond to UN Watch’s August report on incitement, and failed to respond to our detailed follow-up letter in October to [UNRWA} Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini,” he said.
Neuer added: “The agency has failed to provide even minimal transparency as to who it investigated from the list of 113 anti-Semitic teachers provided by UN Watch.”
UN Watch additionally called for donor states to ask UNRWA to reveal which 6 of the 113 named employees were reportedly suspended.
The watchdog’s appeal also expressed concern over recent statements by Lazzarini that “characterized legitimate oversight and accountability of his agency as ‘politically-driven attacks.’”
“It’s time that UNRWA honors its solemn pledge to the United States and other donors to apply a real ‘zero tolerance’ policy, which means ensuring there is no place in the agency for teachers and other staff who incite racism, hate and violence,” said Neuer.