Canada probes UNRWA funds over textbooks for promoting hate

Australia also announced an investigation into UNRWA and the UK has raised the issue with the organization.

An UNRWA-run school in Rafah, Gaza (photo credit: FLICKR)
An UNRWA-run school in Rafah, Gaza
(photo credit: FLICKR)
Canada will investigate its contributions to UNRWA following a report that the refugee agency for Palestinians uses textbooks that incite hatred and violence, Canada’s International Development Minister Karina Gould announced.
Gould said she was “deeply concerned” to learn that educational materials UNRWA gave Palestinian children during coronavirus-related lockdowns “contained references that violated UN values of human rights, tolerance, neutrality and nondiscrimination,” the minister said last week.
Canadian officials plan to investigate “how this happened and to reinforce UNRWA’s corrective actions, monitoring and oversight in the future,” Gould added.
Gould also spoke directly with UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini.
“I reiterated that the use of these educational materials violates the neutrality principles that UNRWA is committed to as a UN organization and under the Framework for Cooperation between Canada and UNRWA,” she stated. “I am personally reaching out to a number of my counterparts to discuss this situation, and Canada will remain closely engaged with UNRWA and other donor countries on this and other neutrality issues.”
Canada pledged $24 million to UNRWA in 2020.
Gould’s statement came less than a week after IMPACT-se, an Israel-based organization that monitors textbooks, mostly in the Middle East, released a report showing UNRWA distributed content that “promoted jihad, violence and martyrdom, [and] libelous claims that Israel intentionally dumps toxic waste into the West Bank.” The materials also erased Israel from its maps.
The Australian government announced an investigation into UNRWA last week, as well, and UK Middle East and North Africa Minister James Cleverly said in parliament that his government had raised the issue with UNRWA.
Lazzarini said last week that the textbooks were distributed “mistakenly” and “quickly replaced with content that adheres to UN values.”
There is “no place for discrimination and incitement to violence in UNRWA schools,” he tweeted.
IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff called on donor states to “ensure that Palestinian children in UNRWA schools are not being taught hate,” saying, “it is well within the rights of current and potential UNRWA donors to demand answers as to what is being taught by UNRWA teachers.”
UNRWA also blocked public access to learning materials after the IMPACT-se report was released, the organization said.
“UNRWA’s behavior in immediately moving all study materials to a secure server following the exposure of hateful content does not inspire trust,” Sheff added. “The agency is shirking its responsibility to transparency.”