The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which serves Palestinian refugees, has admitted that its educational materials contain exhortations to violence, hate speech, and terrorism that violate UN regulations.
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini admitted that “inappropriate” material was indeed distributed to over 300,000 students in UNRWA’s care.
Lazzarini stated new material that adheres to UN values has been distributed. He did not show evidence of this new material, nor explain how the UN organization will collect the harmful content from over 300,000 homes of the Palestinian students.
His statement came one day after the release of a report by the group IMPACT-se (Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School) examining the UNWRA materials.
The report, which contains the first-ever audit of UNRWA-produced educational materials, uncovered extremist content which does not comply with UN standards or UNRWA’s own stated principles.
IMPACT-se is a research, policy and advocacy organization that monitors and analyzes education. It employs international standards on peace and tolerance as derived from UNESCO declarations and resolutions to determine compliance and to advocate for change when necessary.
The report found the UNRWA-produced material contained content that encouraged violence, glorified jihad and martyrdom, erased the UN-member Israel from maps, and reproduced libels and conspiracies that fuel hostility and intolerance.
UNRWA spokesperson, Sami Mashasha, also released a statement confirming that the content identified by IMPACT-se as problematic was, in fact, from UNRWA-labeled booklets distributed to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian students.
UNRWA stated that “a thorough review of the self-learning material that UNRWA students received during the lockdown followed within weeks” which identified the presence of problematic content.
‘’With the first materials surfacing in March (before the first lockdown), then in August, September, and even as recently as December, it is unclear when exactly this review took place, or if it had any bearing on the creation and distribution of new materials. UNRWA failed to clarify, both in Lazzarini’s tweets and their official statement, when this review took place or any evidence of it being conducted,’’ said IMPACT-se.
The statement blamed their own vetted teachers for the creation of the materials.
‘’These materials raise serious questions about UNRWA’s previous claims that they have trained tens of thousands of their teachers to prevent the teaching of hateful content using UNRWA’s “Curriculum Framework” and “Teacher-Centered Approach,” said IMPACT-se.
“After years of hearing UNRWA’s claims that it does not teach hate and has safeguards in place, we have for the first time taken a peep behind the curtain and what we see is shocking,’’ said Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se.
He added: ‘’A UN Organization has created radical teaching material that promotes violence, hate and blood libels, has systematically distributed it to over 300,000 school children and has not presented a plan for how they will retrieve it, if at all.’’
‘’It is time for UNRWA to finally come clean about its teaching of the radical Palestinian curriculum. Platitudes about removing the Palestinian Authority’s problematic material will no longer cut it when UNRWA itself is part of the problem.”