UNRWA admits teaching hate


January 22, 2021

United Nations Relief and Works Agency Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini admitted in a series of tweets that “inappropriate” material was indeed distributed to over 300,000 students in UNRWA’s care.

IMPACT-se released a report containing the first-ever audit of UNRWA-produced educational materials. The report uncovered extremist content, which does not comply with UN standards or UNRWA’s own stated principles.

The report found the UNRWA-produced material contained content that encouraged violence, glorified jihad and martyrdom, erased the UN-member Israel from maps, and reproduced libels and conspiracies that fuel hostility and intolerance.

Lazzarini stated new material that adheres to UN values has been distributed. He did not show evidence of this new material, nor explain how the UN organization will collect the harmful content from over 300,000 homes of the Palestinian students.

UNRWA spokesperson, Sami Mashasha, also released a statement confirming that the content identified by IMPACT-se as problematic was, in fact, from UNRWA-labeled booklets distributed to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian students.

UNRWA states that “a thorough review of the self-learning material that UNRWA students received during the lockdown followed within weeks” which identified the presence of problematic content. With the first materials surfacing in March (before the first lockdown), then in August, September, and even as recently as December, it is unclear when exactly this review took place, or if it had any bearing on the creation and distribution of new materials. UNRWA failed to clarify, both in Lazzarini’s tweets and their official statement, when this review took place or any evidence of it being conducted.

The statement blamed their own vetted teachers for the creation of the materials. These materials raise serious questions about UNRWA’s previous claims that they have trained tens of thousands of their teachers to prevent the teaching of hateful content using UNRWA’s “Curriculum Framework” and “Teacher-Centered Approach.”

UNRWA’s deputy head of the Education Program and other authors signed off the material and are responsible for drafting it. Either UNRWA’s training program is seriously flawed or it was never conducted.  This issue was highlighted by the US Government Accountability Office investigation into UNRWA’s practices in 2019, which revealed that, despite claims to the contrary, none of UNRWA’s staff had in fact been trained to prevent the teaching of hateful content.

The statement said that the materials “inadvertently” referenced “inappropriate” pages of the Palestinian curriculum. In fact, the UNRWA material states that the express goal is to reference PA textbooks.

IMPACT, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance, is a research, policy and advocacy organization that monitors and analyzes education. It employs international standards on peace and tolerance as derived from UNESCO declarations and resolutions to determine compliance and to advocate for change when necessary. For more information about the organization, visit http://www.impact-se.org.


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