New UNRWA textbooks rife with problematic content

A new series of educational textbooks produced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) contain incitement to violence and hatred, and glorify terrorism, according to a new report by an Israeli NGO.

The review, conducted by The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), found the material “to be rife with problematic content that contradicts stated UN values.”

According to IMPACT-se’s report, the materials included incitement to violence. In the textbooks, children were asked to do mathematics problems using martyrs from the First Intifada to calculate equations, told students to “defend the motherland with blood,” and pushed the claim that Israel deliberately dumps radioactive and toxic waste in the West Bank.

The UNRWA materials characterized Dalal Mughrabi, who took part in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, as a role model, contrary to the UN’s position that she was a terrorist. Mughrabi and several other Fatah terrorists hijacked a bus and killed 38 civilians, 13 of them children, and wounded over 70.

“UNRWA is complicit in radicalising schoolchildren through the glorification of terrorists, encouragement to violence and teaching of blood libels to Palestinian schoolchildren,” said IMPACT-se director Marcus Sheff.

Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks have come under fire in the past for what critics have deemed to be hateful, antisemitic content. However, according to IMPACT-se, the “UNRWA-created material is, in places, more extremist than PA material it complements.”

“UNRWA has for years refused point-blank to make public its ‘Curriculum Framework’ that it claims combats incitement in the Palestinian textbooks. Now we know why: some of its own content is even worse than that of the Palestinian Authority,” said IMPACT-se’s Sheff.

In a statement released following the publication of the report, UNWRA vowed again to crack down on incitement.

“UNRWA has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and for incitement to hatred and violence in its schools and in all of its operations. Any breach reported is dealt with firmly. The Agency adheres, in its education program, to the highest standards of neutrality, humanity and tolerance,” the UN body said in a statement.

Responding to the criticisms, UNWRA chief Phillipe Lazzarini said in a tweet that “there was no place [for] incitement to hatred/violence in UNWRA schools.” He asserted that the inciteful material had been published by accident.

“Local reference to inappropriate pages from textbooks that were mistakenly distributed during #COVID19 lockdown were quickly replaced with content that adheres to UN values,” Lazzarini said.

Israel has long pushed for UNRWA’s closure, arguing it helps perpetuate the conflict with the Palestinians, since it confers refugee status upon descendants of those originally displaced around the time of Israel’s War of Independence.

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