Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, sharply attacked the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for the Palestinians during a discussion held by the United Nations between its new commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini and UN member states on Monday.
Erdan said that "it has been proven that UNRWA allows terrorist infrastructure in its facilities, it uses Palestinian Authority textbooks that teach incitement against Israel, and it does not try to integrate refugees into the PA or Arab countries - it perpetuates the conflict and has rendered itself an obstacle to peace that has no legitimacy to exist."
In contrast to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the other UN agency responsible for refugees around the world, the Israeli ambassador added that UNRWA "defines who is a so-called 'Palestinian refugee' in complete disregard of accepted international law norms" and "inflates the number by allowing for the automatic inheritance of the status."
He further stressed that terrorist organizations such as Hamas use the agency's facilities for terrorist purposes and urged UNRWA to take action so that its textbooks would not be used as a tool to promote antisemitic content and to question the UN principles of promoting coexistence and reconciliation.
Lazzarini answered Erdan by stating that UNRWA will work to soon develop a program where the content in the education curriculum taught in its schools will be examined, adding that he "will report the findings" to the heads of the agency as part of the program.
Erdan demanded that Lazzarini pledge that there is currently no terrorist infrastructure at all in UNRWA facilities, which the commissioner-general did not address.
The appointment of Swiss diplomat Phillipe Lazzarini as the new head of the UNRWA in June was considered as a window of opportunity for donor nations, which oversee UNRWA policy, to demand a reform of the agency. This is especially true regarding its schools, which for the past 20 years have used the Palestinian Authority curriculum to indoctrinate Palestinian Arab children to conquer all of "Palestine" by force of arms, a goal hardly appropriate to a UN agency.
In May, the European Union passed resolutions condemning the PA for continuing to teach hate. In response, Palestinian Education Minister Marwan Awartan presented a report to the Palestinian cabinet in which he laid out planned changes to the curriculum. His plans put Palestinian nationalism front and center of the changes, clearly paving the way for a curriculum of heightened division, rather than the toning down the EU had hoped for.Donna Rachel Edmunds and David Bedein contributed to this report.