Photo Credit: Knesset Channel
Tzipi Hotovely

After US President Donald Trump stressed that he seeks to punish the Palestinians for refusing to negotiate with Israel by cutting aid to UNRWA, Netanyahu’s office clarified that Israel supports Trump’s desire to cut US aid to UNRWA but prefers that it be done gradually.  In an exclusive interview, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely explained: “In schools run by the United Nations and funded by well-intentioned but uninformed donor countries, Palestinian 8-year-olds are being indoctrinated to exterminate the Jews of Israel.”

Recently, the Center for Near East Policy Research published a comprehensive study on Palestinian school textbooks. The study argues that indoctrination continues to remain a systematic problem in the Palestinian Authority school system. For example, a 2017 Arabic-language textbook for 5th graders and a 2017 social studies textbook for 9th graders describe Palestinian female terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who murdered 38 Israeli civilians in the Coastal Road Massacre, as a “martyr” who “commanded the Fidai ‘Deir Yassin’ operation on the Palestinian coast in 1978 in which over thirty soldiers were killed.”


A terrorist attack targeting the Jewish community of Psagot is described in a 2017 Arabic-language textbook for 9th graders as a “barbecue party [haflat shiwa’] there with Molotov cocktails on one of the buses of the Psagot colony [musta’marah – Jewish settlement].” Even the math textbooks encourage Palestinian students to support the “shahids [Islamic martyrs].”

In addition, a 2016 textbook for 3rd graders proclaimed: “And I shall remove the usurper from my country and shall exterminate the foreigners’ scattered remnants.”  This was the first time that the PA school books openly discussed the horrific fate planned for the six million Jews who live in Israel after Palestine is “liberated.”

“There can be no hope for true peace negotiations while a new generation of Palestinians are actively being raised in a culture of hate and violence,” Hotovely added.  “Making funding by donor nations to UNRWA conditional on reforming the school curriculum is the responsible course of action and in the best interest of the children by educating for peace and raising a new generation that is hopeful for a better future.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon concurred: “We are totally opposed to any funds reaching UNRWA and being used in order to promote incitement to hatred and terror.  We have made it known to the donor states and the UN.”

However, there are elements of the Likud who are very supportive of the idea of the US cutting off all funding to UNRWA for they believe that UNRWA is beyond repair.  MK Dr. Anat Berko (Likud), who is a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, stated in an exclusive interview: “I would not deal with donations. I will deal with UNRWA as a unit of the UN that we should shut down.  The UN needs to merge UNRWA with UNHCR and end this ridiculous refugee forever status.  We cannot solve this problem with this definition of refugees, which is actually to call them career refugees. It is fruitful to be a refugee, so why not?  So humanitarian aid yes but not UNRWA.”

“I had a meeting with Irwin Cotler and asked him if we can sue the UN,” Berko added. “From UNRWA facilities, the Palestinians shoot missiles and dig tunnels. It is a war crime of the UN against Israel.  I thought about suing the UN as a partner to a war crime for UNRWA is part of the UN and are giving resources to Hamas. They do not want to cancel this organization.  The UN has real refugees in the region that they do not take care of in the same way like the Palestinians, who have no incentive to change their position.”

If it was up to MK Dr. Anat Berko, UNRWA would be shut down and replaced by humanitarian aid: “It’s not refugee camps.   You do not have tents like Syria and Jordan. You have buildings and you call it refugee camps.  It is just another quarter like in Arab states. We should not call them refugees anymore.  They can take care of them.  Part of the problem, a major part of the problem, is that they get a definition of refugee forever. We cannot solve this problem if they have 5 million refugees and they have the claim of return. They did not give my family that fled Baghdad this kind of refugee status.  Even Holocaust survivors did not get the same status of refugees as Palestinians.”

“They do not want a two state solution,” Berko noted.  “Israeli Arabs inside the Knesset part of them are calling for the destruction of Israel. Even Hillary Clinton had an exhibition with the textbooks and saw that there is a lot of incitement as well as calling for the destruction of Israel.  It is part of the education system where they poison to kill themselves in order to kill others.”  Berko believes that the US should force Assad, Hariri, Jordan’s king and all of the entire Arab world to absorb the Palestinians living within their countries: “Look, Abu Mazen is a citizen of Jordan but they still view him to be a refugee for he is Palestinian.  It does not make sense.”

However, investigative journalist David Bedein, who heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and the Israel Resource News Agency, is concerned that “just because the US may suspend assistance of $369 million to UNRWA that does not mean that this agency and its $1.2 billion budget will soon disappear. Who will replace US aid to UNRWA?  2016 donor records show that Saudi Arabia became the number three donor to UNRWA after the US and EU, donating $123 million.  2017 Saudi donor figures, when published, will show an even greater Saudi increase of funds, which may replace the entire US budget.”  Bedein fears that the Saudis may not represent a positive development when it comes to UNRWA and therefore, he thinks that the best course of action to bring about true change to UNRWA is to have donor states like the US use their aid money in order to pressure UNRWA into reforming their school curriculum, which is similar to what Hotovely suggested.


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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."