WASHINGTON – A coalition of organizations led by Hadassah is lobbying Congress to sign a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, urging him to make sure that UNRWA “expeditiously make public all information regarding its review and teaching procedures, as well as the content of all textbook pages currently being used in these schools.” A letter circulating among members of Congress also calls on the UN to independently review these procedures and make those findings publicly available. Hadassah holds special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
Among the organizations that are working with Hadassah on the new initiative: the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), IMPACT-se, B’nai B’rith International, Union of Orthodox Jewish congregations (OU), the Zionist Organization of America, and Christians United for Israel.
The coalition started sending letters to Congressional members on Wednesday, the same day the Biden administration announced its intention to restore funding for the organization. “As representatives of leading organizations in the American pro-Israel community, we urge you to join in this effort by signing the attached letter to Secretary-General Guterres,” the coalition wrote in a letter to members of Congress.
“It is critical that we stand together to demand systemic reform to educational materials used by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) before one more child is taught from textbooks riddled with hateful lessons,” the letter reads.
“We encourage the US Congress to use its influence for changes that will aid the possibilities of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, reduce antisemitic sentiment, and help serve an antidote to the dangerous phenomenon of hatred toward Jews,” the coalition wrote to members of Congress.
“Hadassah has an enormous physical presence in Israel, and we feel the urgency of addressing the systemic challenges with UNRWA in a very personal way,” Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow told The Jerusalem Post. “We’ve heard promises from UNRWA for seven decades to root out antisemitism, incitement and the glorification of violence. They have failed,” she continued. “Now, the Secretary-General must impose the oversight and reforms necessary to align UNRWA with the UN’s values, and we are deeply committed to rallying the pro-Israel community and Members of Congress in urging him to do so immediately.”
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act. The bill requires the secretary of state to submit a report to Congress reviewing textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authority. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) sponsored the bill along with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), and Rep. David Trone (D-MD).
There are concerns that such textbooks produced by the PA “include language and imagery that encourage violence and hatred toward other nations and ethnic groups,” Sherman said in a statement. “Such content is particularly concerning given the use of such materials in educational settings for children as young as primary-school age.”