Photo Credit: Majdi Fathi/TPS
Gazan residents hold up flags during a rally in Gaza City in solidarity with the renewal of UNRWA mandate, which was supported by 170 countries in the United Nations General Assembly. Gaza, Nov 27, 2019

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN agency that runs schools in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and in Arab countries around Israel, announced to donor states on Tuesday that it has placed six employees on administrative leave after a report by UN Watch exposed 120 UNRWA teachers who publicly called to murder Jews.

“Teachers who call to murder Jews must be barred from the classroom for life, while these temporary suspensions are just a slap on the wrist,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent non-governmental organization based in Geneva.

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“UNRWA is trying to pretend the problem is now gone, while at the same time signaling to Palestinian staff—and to terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad which pressed UNRWA to reject the UN Watch report—that they don’t really object to the virulent antisemitism of their teachers, which UNRWA and its donors know pervades the agency,” said Neuer.

“We have now exposed more than 120 UNRWA teachers and other staff who praise Hitler, glorify terrorism and spread antisemitism, and UNRWA has not given the name of a single one who has been fired,” said Neuer.

As exposed in the report, UNRWA teacher Hana’a Daoud in Jordan called on Muslims to “fight against the Jews and kill them,” UNRWA teacher Elham Mansour in Lebanon repeatedly called to “slaughter Zionists,” and UNRWA computer teacher Nihaya Awad in the Samaria glorified Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

Nevertheless, the suspensions provoked a sharp response from Palestinian groups, which portrayed the teachers’ open calls to slaughter Jews as “instilling Palestinian national pride.”

A coalition that includes the PA, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, known as the Joint Committee for Palestinian Refugees, has called on UNRWA “to immediately rescind its procedure of suspending six employees, and not to respond to US-Israeli pressures and dictates.”

In an additional statement, Walid Al-Awad, head of the Palestinian National Council’s refugee committee, said UNRWA’s suspension of six teachers was “unacceptable and must be dropped immediately.”

He described the decision as “dangerous” because it “aims to extract the teacher from the heart of the cause of his people.”

Likewise, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada and the European Union, demanded the teachers’ suspensions be reversed.

“The UNRWA administration’s reliance on a report issued by UN Watch to take these measures confirms its complicity and identification with the state of incitement practiced by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people, especially the employees, just because they are biased towards their cause, and express their adherence to national principles and rights on social network pages and websites, and participate in various national events and activities. Our people will not in any way allow this decision to be implemented, and it will respond with full force to the administration’s acquiescence to Zionist pressure and incitement,” said the PFLP.

UNRWA has refused to provide even minimal transparency as to which of the perpetrators it has suspended. Similar reports by Israel and other organizations have been published in the past, and almost without exception, the UNRWA has failed to take action.

The PA’s educational system has repeatedly been accused of educating its students to hate Israel and Israelis and through terror-promoting messages. The system has been found to use cultural mediums such as school plays, sports events, and summer camps for this objective.

In line with this policy, the PA has named at least 28 schools after terrorists and at least three schools after Nazi collaborators. The PA Ministry of Education is directly and solely responsible for naming schools.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.