UNRWA teachers continue to support antisemitism, terrorism on social media - UN Watch

The report comes as the US and other Western countries gather to pledge funding for the agency for Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts by UNRWA, in Gaza City September 19, 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts by UNRWA, in Gaza City September 19, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

Teachers working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) continue to publish antisemitic posts on social media despite commitments by UNRWA and the US to ensure that antisemitism, violence and terrorism are not supported in UNRWA institutions, according to a new report by the NGO UN Watch published on Thursday.

The report came as the US and other Western countries gathered to pledge funding for the agency for Palestinian refugees.

In the new report, UN Watch shared 20 new examples of UNRWA teachers and staffers in the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan expressing support for terrorist groups, violence against Jews and Israelis and antisemitism.

One of the new examples presented by UN Watch is Nihaya Awad, a computer teacher for UNRWA in the West Bank, who posted a photo of a Hamas terrorist next to a child in a Hamas military uniform, accompanied by text praising Hamas.

"We testify by Allah that you have demonstrated your faithfulness… and conveyed the message… and have won for your Al-Aqsa… and have broken your enemy’s nose… and have rekindled hope in your faith… may Allah accept your obedience… and raise your matter," read Awad's post.

The post was still online as of Thursday.

UN Watch stressed that the post "endorses Hamas and incites children to violence" and "encourages the exploitation of children as child soldiers, which is a form of child abuse and a violation of international law."

In another example, Elham Mansour, a UNRWA Teacher in Lebanon, published a post encouraging violence against Jews and Israelis, writing "If Allah wills it, instead of them sacrificing offerings in Al-Aqsa Mosque, the men of resistance and the Murabitun there, will slaughter each and every one of you and toss you into the garbage heaps, because you are filthy, and you contaminate any land you are in, you Zionists, you scoundrels, you terrorists, may Allah take vengeance on you."

 Screenshot of Facebook post auto-translated from Elham Mansour's Facebook profile (credit: screenshot) Screenshot of Facebook post auto-translated from Elham Mansour's Facebook profile (credit: screenshot)

Mansour also published another post about Israelis calling to "fight them and kill them, chase them everywhere, every corner, every street, our greatest enemy is Israel, death and destruction to you, and life, freedom and justice to our people."

In yet another post, Mansour called for "anyone who signs peace accords, truces and so on" with Israel "deserves to be executed."

All of these posts were still online as of Thursday.

Hana’a Daoud, a UNRWA Teacher in Jordan, also published posts calling to kill Jews.

"'The Last Hour will not come until the Muslims fight against the Jews, until a Jew will hide himself behind a stone or a tree, and the stone or the tree will say: O Muslim, there is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him,'" wrote Daoud. "This is what Allah has promised us, and victory is ours, and Jerusalem is ours, and Gaza is ours."

The post was still online as of Thursday.

The report also included a list of 113 UNRWA employees that UN Watch says it has identified as publishing posts that support violence, antisemitism and terrorism. The list includes their names, their positions, their violations of UNRWA policy and a link to a page detailing their violations.

UN Watch's report includes only Facebook posts that were displayed publicly on Facebook by profiles that specifically identify themselves as UNRWA employees. The NGO stressed that since many Facebook users restrict their posts, they were unable to examine most UNRWA staff profiles.

"UNRWA should be considered complicit in its staff members’ misconduct."

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer

UN Watch claimed that despite numerous requests and the submission of detailed evidence of violations, UNRWA has failed to fire teachers who post hateful or violent content. “UNRWA should therefore be considered complicit in its staff members’ misconduct," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

“Around the world, educators who incite hate and violence are removed. Yet UNRWA, despite proclaiming ‘zero tolerance’ for incitement, systematically employs preachers of anti-Jewish hate and terrorism," added Neuer. “We call on the governments that fund UNRWA, as they gather at the United Nations to announce new pledges, to declare that they will stop enabling a system that teaches new generations of Palestinians to hate and murder Jews.”

“The US, EU, Germany, UK, Canada and other donor states cannot morally send more money to UNRWA until it shows a genuine commitment to basic norms of education in its schools," added the UN Watch director. "This means the agency must publicly condemn UNRWA employees who incite terrorism and antisemitism, remove them from their positions, and create an independent and impartial investigation of all of its staff.”

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan called on countries to freeze contributions until the UNRWA teachers who expressed support for terrorism are fired.

"The UN must be held accountable for the UN-funded incitement and hatred."

Israels Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan

"Not only has UNRWA not properly addressed the manifestations of antisemitism among its employees, but now we see that the phenomenon is only expanding and that more workers are openly calling for the murder of Jews while the UN and the organization are doing nothing," said Erdan. "The UN must be held accountable for the UN-funded incitement and hatred. UNRWA unfortunately does not help advance a resolution of the conflict at all, but on the contrary: it disseminates false Palestinian narratives and turns a blind eye to incitement to murder Israelis and blatant antisemitism. Can this agency fall any lower?"

UN Watch 'attempting to undermine vital humanitarian work,' says UNRWA

William Deere, Acting Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in Washington, DC, responded to the UN Watch report on Thursday, saying that "a well-known politically motivated organization is once again attempting to undermine the vital humanitarian and human development work of the Agency."

“UNRWA is an agency fully committed to upholding UN principles and values and has a zero tolerance to hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence," said Deere. "As we have stated many times before, UNRWA takes all such allegations seriously, and is looking at the newly made allegations, noting that they had not been shared with UNRWA prior to being made public."

"The Agency’s legal framework provides a process to investigate and act on potential cases of hate speech, incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence, in line with the UN values and principles. Should misconduct be found, UNRWA will take disciplinary action and the Agency’s Advisory Commission of hosts and donors will be notified as to the results," added the UNRWA official.

Thousands of UNRWA employees could be implicated

UN Watch believes that the scope of the breaches of UNRWA policy by teachers and staffers is significantly higher than that reflected in the 20 cases presented in the report. The organization estimated that thousands of UNRWA employees would be implicated if the UN agency were to examine its employees.

The NGO recommended that donor states demand that UNRWA adopt a zero-tolerance policy for employees who incite racism or murder, demand condemnation of inciteful posts by UN leaders, demand a thorough investigation of its facilities to put a stop to antisemitic or terrorist-supporting content and demand the institution of effective monitoring and controls to ensure the neutrality of UNRWA facilities and staff, among other measures.

The latest in a series of claims against UNRWA

This is not the first time UNRWA has come under fire for its staff sharing antisemitic and violence-supporting content.

In August of last year, UNRWA pledged to investigate 10 of its staff members for anti-Israel hate speech following a UN Watch report on the matter which had found that 22 UNRWA employees had glorified terrorism, denied Israel's right to exist, advocated violence and put Hitler in a positive light. The report from August included 97 examples of posts from as far back as 2015, with 21 of the examples from 2021.

UNRWA has accused UN Watch and others who have raised concerns of antisemitism and terrorism support in the agency of attacking the agency for political reasons. The agency stated that 12 of the people in UN Watch's report from August were not associated with the agency.

The UN agency has called UN Watch "an organization with a deep history of unfounded and politically-driven assertions against" UNRWA.

“To suggest that hate is widespread within the agency and schools is not only misleading and false, but validates sensationalist and politically-motivated attacks that deliberately harm an already vulnerable community: Refugee children,” said UNRWA in a comment in August.

In October, UN Watch was cut off during a UNHRC session, after the director of the NGO began quoting antisemitic posts by UNRWA teachers. President of the UNHRC Nazhat Shameem Khan stated that "derogatory, insulting and inflammatory remarks" were made against specific individuals, amounting to "personal attacks" which are "not acceptable in this forum."

In July 2021, the Biden administration signed an agreement to reinstate funding to UNRWA after the agency agreed to include a more expansive condemnation of antisemitism in their cooperation agreement with the US. UNRWA also pledged to ensure that its funds would not be transferred to individuals engaged in terror or used to support terror.

UNRWA educational content found to contain hate speech as well

Independent watchdogs have also found that educational content produced by UNRWA includes hateful and violence-supporting content.

A January 2021 report by The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) found that study materials produced by UNRWA to be used in conjunction with PA-issued textbooks included content celebrating known terrorists, conspiracy theories against Israel and maps labeling the entire territory of former British Mandatory Palestine as Palestinian.

For example, Palestinian militant figures such as Izz al-Din al-Qassam and Dalal Mughrabi, known for violent operations against Jewish civilians, are referred to as "heroes" in the UNRWA study materials. Another exercise in the material asks third-grade students to choose the correct number of martyrs in the First Intifada from a list of suggested numbers.

Besides for the complementary study material, UNRWA does not produce its own educational material and instead uses the textbooks and content provided by the local education system. Multiple reports by a number of watchdogs have found that Palestinian Authority educational content which is used by UNRWA schools includes a range of content encouraging violence, terrorism and antisemitism.

In February 2021, the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee raised issue with the educational materials used by UNRWA, but the material has not been changed much since then.