UNRWA’s Future Reconsidered

Dr Simon Waldman

The British Government has given more than £300million to a UN aid programme whose schools teach six and seven years olds the words for ‘martyr’ and ‘attack’, while the textbooks it uses glorify jihad and falsely teach of a Jewish plot to kill the Muslim prophet, Muhammed.

UNRWA, the UN aid body established to support Palestinians, has been dogged by repeated allegations of mismanagement which led to the USA withdrawing all funding in 2018.  Following further allegations of misconduct in 2019; Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands froze funding to the body.  In contrast, the UK increased its annual contribution by over $25 million between 2017 and 2018.

Despite the UK’s continued support for UNRWA, allegations that educational materials provided by the body include extremism have dogged the organisation.  UNRWA blames the disturbing material within its schools on the local authorities whose educational ministries determine curricula within their respective jurisdictions. While UNRWA claims to routinely review its materials, the report argues that the problem is longstanding and measures to end the problem have been subsequently reversed.

The report details other charges against UNRWA, including that:

  • In 2012, its staff union elections returned Hamas candidates in 22 of 27 available positions.
  • Dozens of UNRWA employees have celebrated the stabbings of Israelis, posting videos of extremists calling for the murder of Jews and for an ‘intifada’ or uprising against Israel. Examples include an UNRWA teacher who posted photographs of Adolf Hitler on Facebook, praising him as “our beloved”.
  • In 2005, it was estimated that 46 UNRWA school graduates have gone on to become suicide bombers.  In 2002, its Jordanian director admitted that the majority of Palestinian suicide bombers were graduates of UNRWA schools.
  • In 2008, after Awad al-Qiq, a science teacher and headmaster of an UNRWA school, was assassinated it was revealed that he was a leading rocket maker for Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  One of the founders of PIJ was Mahmud Khawaja, who was an UNRWA worker.

Not only is UNRWA routinely exploited by extremists but the report argues that its structures inhibit steps towards peace.  UNRWA’s unique definition of ‘refugees’ has meant that the number of ‘refugees’ eligible for its assistance has ballooned from 711,000 Palestinians displaced in 1948 to 5 million today leading to a culture of victimhood and resentment in ever larger pools of people.

The report’s concerns about UNRWA are echoed in its foreword from Lord Pickles, the former Communities Secretary, who blasts UNRWA as a “significant road block to peace and a Two State solution”.  He goes onto describe the institution as “outmoded”, “holding Palestinian statehood back”, and says “UNRWA’s obsolete structures have helped entrench the conflict”.  Pickles concludes by arguing that “it is high time that… the UK…  began fronting up to the status quo not working.”


Read the report HERE.


In the words of the author

“UNRWA is a deeply flawed and troubled organisation. Incitement to violence against Israelis and the rejection of a peaceful resolution to the Palestine question is actively propagated inside UNRWA schools.

Britain is UNRWA’s fourth largest donor and supports it to the tune of US$92 million of UK taxpayers money a year. London needs to reconsider its funding and make any future donation conditional on significant and verifiable reform.”

Dr Simon Waldman


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