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UNRWA’s deceitful ploys to stifle Israeli truth-telling

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UNRWA’s deceitful ploys to stifle Israeli truth-telling

Given the nature and mission of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan was prevented on Monday from entering the General Assembly hall with a prop proving the point he intended to make at a meeting about the organization.

The item was a poster illustrating the antisemitic views of an UNRWA school teacher in Gaza by praising Adolf Hitler. Erdan had equipped himself with the placard to refute the statements he knew were going to be made by UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

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He had good reason to want to come prepared with visual evidence. The corrupt body, whose ill-deserved status as an agency for “refugees” keeps it in financial cover, continues to employ educators who regularly incite terrorism against Jews, both in the classroom and on social media.

This was one key impetus for the decision by the administration of former US president Donald Trump in 2018 to cut America’s entire aid budget to UNRWA. In the first place, the bloated agency has spent the many decades since its inception perpetuating the “refugee crisis,” rather than using its mandate to settle the approximately 600,000 “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict [Israel’s War of Independence].”

Second, and even more egregiously, it has actively and passively abetted terrorism. Not only does it hire people affiliated with Hamas, but the terrorist group that rules Gaza uses UNRWA schools and other buildings as facilities for the storage of weapons.

 Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, visits Sheikh Jarrah on June 2. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, visits Sheikh Jarrah on June 2. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

LIKE THE current White House, which in April restored massive aid to UNRWA, Lazzarini doesn’t seem to know or care that this is the case. Instead of vowing to root out such evil, he took the opportunity of the meeting in question to say that he’s “proud of UNRWA’s education system and its resources.”

UNRWA, he stated, “uses host country curricula in line with the best practices in refugee education.”

Let that sink in. The head of UNRWA acknowledged that what he’s up to is “refugee education”: encouraging kids born and raised in Judea, Samaria and Gaza – like their parents and even many of their grandparents – to embrace their misery, not extricate themselves from it.

At least he was being honest about that. Nevertheless, he out-and-out lied when he asserted that “UNRWA has a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech, incitement, discrimination, hostility or violence.”

To soften the fabrication, he added, “I am, however, acutely aware that we are operating in a highly divided and emotionally charged environment where zero risk does not exist.”

It was a typical maneuver to make UNRWA sound measured, while excusing its Gaza staff for vile behavior. He promptly corrected the faux “balance,” however, by concluding: “Politically motivated attacks on our education system, and more broadly against the agency, are increasing in frequency and in aggression. Those behind these attacks do not have the well-being of Palestinian refugee children at heart.”

No, he wasn’t joking. He even managed to keep a straight face when he insisted that UNRWA schools teach their pupils about human rights, conflict resolution, tolerance, gender equality and democracy. Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives must have gotten a kick out of that absurdity.

ERDAN WAS certainly not amused. When it was his turn to address the gathering, he said, “I am shocked, because I brought here with me a photo of an UNRWA teacher’s post glorifying the most horrific mass murderer in history, Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately, shockingly, I was prevented from bringing in this photo in order to share this proof with the other distinguished ambassadors here.”

Bemoaning the “very dangerous precedent” of denying his “freedom of expression” and “hiding the truth from the UN,” he let it rip.

“Hamas has built terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and stored weapons,” he said. “Textbooks used in UNRWA schools have glorified terrorists, called Jews Satan’s helpers and displayed maps that erase Israel. UNRWA is part of the problem, not the solution, and the time has come for the international community to hold it accountable.”

The Israeli ambassador didn’t stop there. After his address, he told reporters that “the UN isn’t just biased; it also shuts mouths. The UNRWA commissioner-general said here that he was proud of his teachers. I didn’t allow his lies to go without a response. I will continue fighting for our truth.”

Denying Erdan’s accusation that his free speech was violated at the entrance to the hall, an anonymous UN lackey told The Jerusalem Post that only heads of state speaking during the high-level opening UN General Assembly sessions are permitted to use props; ambassadors aren’t allowed to do so.

It sounds like a rule that was just invented on the spot. Still, even if it’s actually on the books, it probably wouldn’t have been enforced had, say, the Iranian ambassador wanted to put on a bit of show-and-tell for UNGA representatives.

BE THAT as it may, the placard incident came on the heels of another UNRWA attempt at stifling critics. On October 3, UN Watch director Hillel Neuer was cut off in mid-sentence while testifying on this very topic via video conference before the UN Human Rights Council.

“Madame President, is UNRWA supporting peace?” he asked rhetorically, then going on to illustrate why the answer is no.

“Let us consider UN Watch’s recent report on the teachers they hire, by looking at their social media,” he began. “Nahed Sharawi, an UNRWA math teacher in Gaza, posted a video of Adolf Hitler, along with quotes ‘to enrich and enlighten your thoughts and minds.’”

He went on: “Husni Masri, an UNRWA teacher in the West Bank, posted antisemitic conspiracy theories about how Jews control the world, created the coronavirus and seek to destroy Islam.”

Just as he was about to name a certain Esraa Abdal Raheem as a third UNRWA antisemite, UNHRC President Nazhat Shameem suddenly interrupted him.

“I ask the secretariat to pause this video,” she said sternly. “I have noticed that in the course of this video, derogatory, insulting and inflammatory remarks have been made, which in particular refer to specific individuals. This amounts to personal attacks against those individuals, and it is not acceptable in this forum. This statement is out of order, and I give the floor to the next speaker, the Palestinian Return Center, Ltd.”

You honestly cannot make this stuff up.

The libelous rant that ensued – about Palestinians “deprived of their innate human right to water, due to Israeli military blockade and constant Israeli military assaults” – was predictable. After all, members of the UNHRC include China, Pakistan and Nigeria, which are among the world’s worst violators of religious and other freedoms. Spreading disinformation is the least of their sins.

ERDAN IS right not to give up the fight; it’s the job that he was dispatched to New York to perform. The trouble is, as Neuer’s tireless work reveals, that UNRWA doesn’t operate in a vacuum.

On the contrary, it’s one of many dangerous United Nations NGOs that have no legitimate cause for existing, other than to pad their own coffers. UNRWA enjoys the added benefit of perpetuating Palestinian poverty while providing cover for mass murderers bent on annihilating Israel.

As Erdan surely is aware, no amount of pictorial confirmation presented to the UNGA can or will alter this grim reality.

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UNRWA’s deceitful ploys to stifle Israeli truth-telling – opinion