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UNRWA suspends six staff members for calling to kill Jews

The UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees placed inciteful employees on administrative leave following a UN Watch report

Illustrative - Palestinian schoolchildren sit inside a classroom at an UNRWA-run school on the first day of a new school year, in Gaza City August 29, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has placed six of its employees on administrative leave for inciting violence against Jews.

The U.N. agency announced its decision to donor states this week, following a report by UN Watch that exposed dozens of overtly anti-Semitic statements made by its staff. 

The recent revelations from the Geneva-based NGO documented more than 100 UNRWA teachers and staffers who expressed support for the Hamas terror group on social media and some who explicitly called for the murdering of Jews. 

An UNRWA teacher in Lebanon wrote, “By Allah, anyone who can kill and slaughter any Zionist and Israeli criminal, and doesn’t do so, doesn’t deserve to live.”

In other examples, a teacher in Jordan called on Muslims to “fight against the Jews and kill them” and a computer teacher in the West Bank glorified Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said that “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.” 

“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,” Neuer added.

“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.

According to the UN Watch report, “these teachers of hate were funded last year by state donations to UNRWA, including $338 million from the United States, $177 million from Germany, $118 million from the European Commission, $54 million from Sweden, $40 million from the United Kingdom, $32 million from Switzerland, $30 million from Norway, $28 million from France, $28 million from Canada, and $27 million from [the] Netherlands.”

Israel Hayom newspaper reported that UNRWA's first reaction to the report was to try to discredit UN Watch, calling it a "politically motivated organization" that tries to "delegitimize the work of the agency."

In a statement published on its website, UNRWA said that its senior executives briefed donor states about "allegations of hate speech recently levied against several Agency staff members" which it said, "were timed to disrupt the annual UNRWA pledging conference at United Nations headquarters in New York."

Israel advocacy groups have long accused the agency, which runs schools for Palestinians, of inciting children to violence in UNRWA textbooks and curricula. 

“Not only does UNRWA not help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it causes enormous damage, incites hatred and terrorism and perpetuates the conflict, all under the auspices of the U.N., which buries its head in the sand and refuses to see reality,” Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan said last week at a U.N. Pledging Conference.

In 2018, the Trump administration cut off American funding for UNRWA and called it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

However, the Biden administration has restored funding, including $150 million in economic aid.

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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