Whiff of Hypocrisy as EU Parliament Grills UNRWA Head Over Antisemitic Textbooks in Palestinian Schools

Reprinted from Honest Reporting.


The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) faced a grilling by members of the European Parliament on Wednesday after textbooks used in its Palestinian schools were found to peddle antisemitic tropes and contained incitements to violence.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing was called following the long-awaited release in June of a report that found Palestinian Authority books used to educate youth included antisemitism; “glorified” terrorists convicted of killing Israelis; removed the Jewish state from images of maps; and had excised previously included references to Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements. 

Philippe Lazzarini, the UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, admitted there were a “number of issues” that need to be addressed.

“We as UNRWA have identified three categories of problems in the textbooks when it comes to being in line with UN value[s],” he said, “which is age appropriateness, gender perception, and then the issues related to incitement to violence, discrimination, and so on.” Lazzarini added that these problems were found after reviewing some 150 books while more checks would be carried out on other texts.

The UNRWA is certainly no stranger to controversy when it comes to the problem of antisemitism in its schools, as well as the thorny issue of its relationship with US-designated terror group Hamas.

Just last month, HonestReporting revealed the agency was seemingly in breach of conditions attached to a $150 million funding windfall from the United States after refusing to dismiss a number of teachers who had used their social media accounts to spread anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and celebrate Palestinian-orchestrated terror attacks. 

A US official had made it clear that the resumption of funding, which was cut under President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, was dependent on the agency sticking to several “rock solid commitments” including a “zero tolerance for racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism.”

In June, UNRWA Deputy Commissioner Lenny Steinseth met with the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Al-Sinwar, who later revealed that Steinseth had thanked him and reportedly expressed solidarity with the terror group.

This, despite the fact the UNRWA has repeatedly found evidence of Hamas digging tunnels that are used to store rockets and launch attacks on Israel underneath its schools.

During the Lazzarini hearing, Spanish lawmaker Jose Ramon Bauza Diaz stressed how severe it would be if the “money of European taxpayers” was being used for the “encouragement of terrorism”; this, before asking Lazzarini whether he could ensure that the UNRWA “has not contributed to promote objectives which are contrary to those of the United Nations and the EU.”

A fair question, but one that perhaps the European Parliament should also be asking itself as the directly elected legislative arm of the European Union.

For example, data collated by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor shows the EU has doled out vast sums of money to groups that promoted terrorism, have links to proscribed organizations, and, in one case, even employed a terrorist recruiter.

According to the watchdog, between 2018 and this year the European Union handed out nearly $350,000 to Al-Haq – a group that has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which the EU and various Western countries has designated a terrorist organization for its waves of aircraft hijackings, shootings and bombings that have targeted Israelis and Jews around the world.

Al-Haq’s loathsome history does not stop there: the group also participated in the 2001 Durban World Conference in which, among other disgraceful displays of antisemitism, flyers were handed out bearing an image of Adolf Hitler and the text, “What if I had won? The good thing – there would be no Israel.”

Al-Haq’s General Director, Shawan Jabarin, was in 1985 convicted for his role in arranging training for PFLP members and, as recently as 2017, asserted that Palestinian terrorists and their families have a “right” to receive “salaries” under the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy.

Geneva-based NGO, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCPI), has also received grants that come from the European Union in the form of funding from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the European Neighbourhood Instrument. Between 2017 and 2019, the two bodies reportedly gave some $1.15 million and $825,000, respectively, to the DCI-P despite the fact that previous members of its board were involved in PFLP activities.

NGO Monitor states the people included:

  • Shawan Jabarin, the Al-Haq General Director, who was a board member between 2005 and 2009
  • Mahmoud Jiddah, a board member from 2012 to 2016, who was jailed in Israel for 17 over his involvement in grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem in 1968
  • Hassan Abed Jawad, a board member from 2012 to 2018, was killed while involved in a riot that saw Molotov cocktails and stones thrown
  • Mary Rock, a board member between 2014 and 2018, who was a PFLP candidate for the Palestinian Legislative Council in the 2006 elections 


Unfortunately, these are but a couple of NGOs the EU has lavished funds on that have been linked to Palestinian terror groups. The political bloc has allegedly provided 32 grants to such organizations.

The European Parliament is quite right to quiz the UNRWA about its shortcomings with regard to stamping out antisemitism and terror-glorification in its Palestinian schools.

However, it may also be wise to reconsider similar contributions that are approved almost exactly where Lazzarini was held to account.

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