UNRWA Educators Promote Anti-Semitism, Praise Hitler Online: Watchdog
UN Watch documents more than 100 cases of hateful social media content, calls on Western governments to review funding
More than 100 employees of the UN agency that runs schools and social services for Palestinians have posted anti-Semitic content on social media, with some openly praising Adolf Hitler, a UN Watch report released on Monday shows.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is tasked with providing aid to Palestinians. It runs schools and a plethora of social services in the West Bank, Gaza and Arab countries neighboring Israel.
In the report, titled “Beyond the Textbooks,” UN Watch highlights 22 recent cases of UNRWA staff inciting violence and spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on social media, thereby violating the agency’s supposed zero-tolerance policy.
UN Watch, an independent, Geneva-based organization, further lists 113 UNRWA educators and staff who have publicly promoted violent or hateful rhetoric in recent years.
The cases include meticulous supporting documentation and stretch back to 2015.
Though it has been made aware of these problematic instances UNRWA has repeatedly failed to act on the matter, UN Watch Director Hillel Neuer told The Media Line.
“The response from UNRWA is inaction and indifference,” he said. “Our question to UNRWA is: Where is your follow-up?
“You know that you have teachers in front of a classroom who praise Hitler,” Neuer continued. “In any other classroom around the world, when it’s exposed that a teacher on social media praised Hitler, they’re fired!”
In one particularly disturbing case documented in detail in the report, an UNRWA math teacher in Gaza named Nahed Sharawi posted a video of Hitler. Accompanying captions show Sharawi endorsing the video and stating that it was chosen to “enrich and enlighten your minds and thoughts.” Shared on Facebook in early 2018, the post has since been removed or made private.
Other educators posted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, such as Husni Masri, who teaches in the West Bank, in an area under the Palestinian Authority’s control. Masri wrote that Jews control the world, created COVID-19 and seek to destroy Islam.
Another UNRWA math teacher, Fatima Abu Mufreh, shared a post in May 2018 where she called for armed violence against Israel: “After today, nothing should speak other than the missiles of the resistance, the rifles of its jihad warriors, and our tanned forearms,” the post read.
Altogether, UN Watch’s report lists 113 cases that it captured from Facebook users who publicly identified themselves as UNRWA employees.
“We suspect that the numbers among the 30,000 [UNRWA] staff are much, much higher than the 113 that we listed,” Neuer asserted. “They are hiring teachers who they know are doing these things.”
UNRWA receives hundreds of millions of dollars in funding annually from Western governments. Last month, the Biden administration transferred $135 million to the agency after it reportedly agreed, for the first time, to condemn anti-Israel hatred.
Neuer called on the US, Canadian, German and other European governments that fund UNRWA to demand changes.
“I expect them to demand that UNRWA fire these teachers, and make it very clear that they have zero tolerance,” he said.
Others also called for a swift response in light of the report.
Shai Bazak, CEO of ELNET-Israel, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to strengthening the ties between Europe and Israel, told The Media Line that ELNET would push for European governments to review their financing of UNRWA.
“We are calling on European countries − and we see them as our friends − to look into it,” Bazak said. “We call upon UNRWA to use their power and their finances to make sure that these kinds of educators will no longer be in the Palestinian education system.
“UNRWA can use its influence within Palestinian society to do good things and not to promote bloodshed or anti-Semitism,” he added.
A former Israeli diplomat, Bazak said that he was not surprised by the UN Watch report, since textbooks used in the Palestinian educational system had previously been found to contain violent and anti-Semitic content.
“UNRWA in itself is a phenomenon that is very hard to believe in these days,” he continued. “There are hundreds of millions of refugees throughout the world and they are all being handled by the UN refugee agency [UNHCR]. There is only one special agency, dedicated to the Palestinians, which is very political.”