Doubling Australian aid to UNRWA, a vital perspective

Published date03 October 2022
Publication titleIsrael National News (Israel)
Seventy-three years later, in texts taught in the UNRWA schools, Israel does not exist and is replaced by an entity known as "Palestine."

In its defense, UNRWA claims that it has a robust system in place to ensure that the education it delivers in its classroom, including through the use of textbooks, is in line with UN values and principles.

As a journalist who has commissioned experts to examine 1000 books used in UNRWA schools in the West Bank and Gaza since their first appearance in 2000, I beg to differ.

UNRWA "education" is instead based on:

-De-legitimization of both the existence of the State of Israel and the Jews' very presence in the country. Israel does not appear on the map and is replaced by Palestine as the sovereign state in the region.

-The Jews are presented as colonialist settlers and their cities — including Tel Aviv — do not appear on the map as well.

-The Jews' holy places in the country are not recognized as such but rather presented as Muslim holy places usurped by the Jews (the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem).

-Massive demonization of both Israel and the Jews is the norm, with the latter being presented as enemies of Islam since its very beginning. Israel is depicted as an entirely evil entity with exclusive responsibility for the conflict while the Palestinian Arabs are portrayed as the ultimate victim.

-No objective information is given by UNRWA about Israel and the Jews that would balance this picture even slightly. Nor is there any reference in the books to Jewish-Israeli individuals as ordinary human beings. Instead, they are dealt with as a group, with the accompanying connotations of alienation and existential threat to the Palestinian Arabs.

-Absent is any education for peace and coexistence with Israel. Instead, the books feature a call for a violent struggle for "the liberation of Palestine".

All this begs the question: Will UNRWA continue to confine millions of these descendents of 1948 refugees to the indignity of life in 59 "temporary" refugee facilities for yet another 70 years?

While UNRWA acts under the aegis of the UN General Assembly, which will never allow a change in the UNRWA mandate to keep Arab refugees in refugee perpetuity, nothing prevents UNRWA donors such as the US from adopting policies that would solve the plight of five million people confined to the indignity of refugee life for perpetuity. In that context, the US could lead the 67 UNRWA...

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