Will UAE’s precarious relationship with UNRWA stand in the way of peace?

On paper, the accord with the UAE heralds a new era. However, there is a fly in the ointment which may soon mushroom into an elephant in the room.

Children from an UNRWA school near Bethlehem chant from an UNRWA third grade text which praises the expulsion of ‘the Zionists’  (photo credit: screenshot)
Children from an UNRWA school near Bethlehem chant from an UNRWA third grade text which praises the expulsion of ‘the Zionists’
(photo credit: screenshot)
For more than 70 years, Arab regimes have communicated a sole message of belligerency towards Israel, teaching the next generation to engage in a war on the Jews.
Israel’s earlier peace agreements with Egypt (1979), the PLO (1993) and Jordan (1994) were a sham, because mutual agreements to foster a war on terror and advocate for peace were stated with no requirement for implementation, and therefore fostered schools and cultural institutions which indoctrinate “right of return by force of arms.” This year, history changed.
The United Arab Emirates, an Arab nation strategically located between Saudi Arabia and Iran, signed a solid peace accord with Israel that featured unprecedented clauses of rapprochement and clear commands against any form of incitement:
Peace and stability
The Parties shall attach profound importance to mutual understanding, cooperation and coordination between them in the spheres of peace and stability, as a fundamental pillar of their relations... to take the necessary steps to prevent any terrorist or hostile activities against each other on or from their respective territories… as well as deny any support for such activities abroad or allowing such support on or from their respective territories.
Cooperation and agreements in other spheres
As an integral part of their commitment to peace, prosperity, diplomatic and friendly relations, cooperation and full normalization, the Parties shall work to advance the cause of peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Middle East.
Mutual understanding and coexistence
The parties undertake to foster mutual understanding, respect, co-existence and a culture of peace between their societies in the spirit of their common ancestor, Abraham, and the new era of peace and friendly relations ushered in by this Treaty, including by cultivating people-to-people programs, interfaith dialogue and cultural, academic, youth, scientific, and other exchanges between their peoples... The parties shall work together to counter terrorism... by preventing radicalization and recruitment and by combating incitement.
ON PAPER, the accord with the UAE heralds a new era.
However, there is a fly in the ointment which may soon mushroom into an elephant in the room.
The UAE has quadrupled its aid to UN Relief and Works Agency in the past two years – an entity which does not disguise its enmity to Israel, reaching $51 million Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, UAE minister of state for international cooperation, met with new UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini throughout October, issuing statements of passionate UAE support for UNRWA education.
In that context, Al Hashemy reminded the world that the UAE donated more than $166 million to UNRWA schools, with a focus on UNRWA educational facilities in Jerusalem.
However, UNRWA schools use the Palestinian Authority textbooks, which do not convey a message of peace.
For the past 21 years, our agency has engaged the services of journalists who have examined all 364 PA texts used by UNRWA, filmed UNRWA schools, and conducted extensive studies which document the terrorist control of UNRWA schools.
Dr. Arnon Groiss, retired deputy director of the Arabic language division of the Israel Broadcasting Service, who holds a PhD in Islamic studies from Princeton University, directs the project to examine all UNRWA text books for 21 years,and concludes that UNRWA school books can be summarized as: 1. Delegitimization of Israel’s existence and the very presence of its Jewish citizens in the country, including outright denial of the existence of Jewish holy places there.
2. Massive demonization of Israel and Jews.
3. Call for a violent struggle for liberation of the whole of Palestine – instead of advocacy for peace and co-existence with Israel.
“Palestine is Arab and Muslim” reads the heading of the second lesson with an adjoined map of the Arab homeland replacing Israel with Palestine, under the Palestinian flag (National and Social Upbringing; textbook for grade 4, semester 1, page 8.) The book was issued by the PA in 2020, and is in use in UNRWA schools.
Since August 1, 2000, UNRWA only allows textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority to be used in the UNRWA schools which teach 321,000 students in the UNRWA facilities which operate in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem.
On UN Day, October 24, 2020, the director of UNRWA West Bank operations, Gwyn Lewis, issued a fervent statement to all UNRWA donor nations, claiming that any criticism of the textbooks they use in UNRWA schools, is not only unfounded, but also harms their chance to attain the great achievements guaranteed by UNRWA education.
Lewis does not mention that UNRWA teaches Palestinian children and youth that Israel – a member in good standing state of the UN – as well its six million Jewish citizens should not exist (UNRWA removes their cities, including Tel Aviv, from maps in UNRWA schoolbooks), and that the solution to the present conflict is not peaceful – as advocated by numerous UN resolutions, but rather should come by means of a violent struggle of liberation which does not end at the 1967 lines.
Lewis refers to UNRWA’s extensive framework of teaching that emphasizes human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance.
However, UNWRA does not apply these important human rights values to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but only to Palestinian society alone.
It is not peace with the world that UNRWA seeks, but, rather, a peace without Israel.
This leads to the most important issue: UNRWA’s betrayal of its commitment to the well-being of the children under its care.
UNRWA prepares Palestinian children to wage endless war against their Israeli counterparts, with disastrous effects on both.
This is precisely the opposite of what an agency of the United Nations should teach
All 364 schoolbooks used by UNRWA can be found at our office at Beit
Agron in Jerusalem. We encourage people who are concerned to examine the UNRWA books for themselves. You will not at this time find on school book which mentions a word about peace with Israel.
In the interests of transparency and broad engagement, our agency has created a website with all PA/UNRWA texts posted, at paschoolbooks.com
UNRWA incitement is not confined to textbooks. In consecutive elections since 1999, Hamas has overwhelming won the UNRWA teacher’s union elections. With Hamas leaders serving as principals and teachers for UNRWA, what can you expect?
And then there are the Al Kutla youth clubs that our staff regularly visits in UNRWA schools, where children are trained for terrorism.
Perhaps the unkindest cut of all is the presence of the singing youth idol, Mohammad Assaf, who frequents UNRWA facilities with melodious songs of war. Despite his message which contradicts UN values, UNRWA hired Mohammad Assaf to be their youth ambassador. Our coverage of his concerts for UNRWA can be found on our new comprehensive site, UNRWA Monitor (www.unrwa-monitor.com) Muhammad Assaf is in for a surprise. Avi Dichter, the former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), viewed Assaf’s violent appearances, as reported on our sire, and demanded from the organization that Assaf be barred from his native UNRWA habitat in Gaza.
The Defense Ministry has followed suit and has forbidden UNRWA from hosting Mohammad Assaf, ever again.
The UAE now heads the rotating chair of the UNRWA Advisory Committee which comprises the major donor nations to UNRWA.
In other words, the UAE could use its new position of to advocate a new spirit of peace and reconciliation in the UNRWA school system, which would reflect the Abraham Accords.
The spokespeople of the US and Israel governments have been asked if they will implore the UAE to condition UAE support of for a change in UNRWA. So far, the US and Israel have not responded Given the hesitancy of the US and Israel governments to say anything, this would be an ample opportunity for investors to ask the UAE to advance peace and reconciliation in the UNRWA schools.
According to the Israel Manufacturers Association of Israel, at least 200 Israeli companies now export products to the UAE.
It is in the interest of the Israeli corporate sector to see to it that the UAE will invest their profits in the creation of a conducive atmosphere of peace, for generations to come.
The writer is a social worker and investigative journalist who has been reporting on UNRWA for 33 years and has consolidated his investigations into unrwa-monitor.com