This is an event summary of a speech given by Bassam Eid, Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Dr. Arnon Groiss, Director of Research for the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance, and David Bedein, Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research, on 4 November 2014. It reflects the views expressed by the speakers, not those of The Henry Jackson Society or its staff.
On 4 December 2014, Bassam Eid, Dr. Arnon Groiss, and David Bedein, spoke at the House of Commons on the topic of ‘Perpetuating Statelessness? UNRWA, Its Activities and Funding.’ The speakers raised several questions, notably: does UNRWA perpetuate the stateless status of the refugees and their descendants? Is there basis for the fears that Hamas has taken over UNRWA and uses its resources to finance the war against Israel? And what role should be taken on by donor nations, considering that they ultimately have the power to regulate UNRWA’s policies through funding?
Bassem Eid – Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group
- Bassem Eid was brought up in the UNRWA Shuafat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem. As a proud Palestinian, he believes that the Palestinian community should take responsibility for the failings of UNRWA, and for the future of the refugees within the camps;
- UNRWA is an organisation conducting war crimes, since they falsely promise the ‘right of return’ and are inculcating a desire in people for something they can never deliver upon. Rather than advocating armed struggle, UNRWA should focus on conforming to their slogan: ‘Peace Starts Here;’
- A comprehensive investigation should be carried out within the refugee camps, and the Middle East as a whole, in order to better understand the number of refugees living in the camps, and meet their needs and aspirations;
Dr. Arnon Groiss – Director of Research for the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance
- Since UNRWA accounts for approximatively 25% of Palestinian education in the West Bank and Gaza, Dr. Groiss analysed multiple examples of UNRWA text books, from a number of grades and subjects (maths, language comprehension, poetry, history etc). Through these examples, he illustrated how the ideal of returning to the entire Palestinian homeland is repeated continuously in educational material, with a particular focus on jihad, or armed struggle, and fida, or sacrifice;
- Three main recurring themes are drawn out from UNRWA textbooks: the de-legitimisation of Israel (no Israel on any maps/re-naming of holy sites etc.), the demonization of Israel and of Jews, and a call for an armed struggle for the Right of Return;
- The Gaza school teachings are far more extreme than schools located in the West Bank;
David Bedein, MSW – Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research
- David Bedein believes that Western donors that financially support UNRWA should pull funding for their textbooks as a means of forcing change;
- He has produced six videos depicting what is happening in UNRWA school yards. Through interviews with students, he illustrated how multiple children from UNRWA schools have shocking and extreme views – most notably they expressed an overt desire to conduct martyrdom-seeking operations when older;
- UNRWA schools have been the site of paramilitary training and weapons storage. He described them as a branch of Hamas; thus it is hypocritical of western charitable organizations to fund them. He called on UNRWA to dismiss Hamas-member employers because otherwise it is hard for the organisation to have any real credibility;