OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Fourteen issues UNRWA’s chief must address before Congress

UNRWA Commissioner-General Phillipe Lazzarini must be asked why he does not end incitement, corruption and the training of child soldiers.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), briefs reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York City on March 4, 2024. Credit: Mark Garten/U.N. Photo.
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), briefs reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York City on March 4, 2024. Credit: Mark Garten/U.N. Photo.
David Bedein
David Bedein
David Bedein is director of the Nahum Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research.

Swiss diplomat Phillipe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the U.N.’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, has just been asked to appear on the record and in person before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Following the recent discovery of Hamas arsenals inside and below UNRWA schools, the new Palestinian Authority educational curriculum is of immediate concern. This curriculum indoctrinates Palestinian Arab children, encouraging them to conquer all of “Palestine” by force of arms. This is hardly an appropriate goal for a U.N. agency.

Here is a list of policy issues Lazzarini will have to address before Congress:

1. UNRWA textbooks violate U.N. principles of peaceful reconciliation. For example, the agency has reintroduced a new textbook that lionizes terrorist Dalal Mughrabi. In 1978, Mughrabi’s terror squad commandeered a bus and murdered 38 passengers, including 13 children. The textbook presents her as a role model for UNRWA pupils. She is depicted in full terrorist garb. The lesson plan portrays her life story as suited for adulation and emulation.

2. In Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza, UNRWA makes exclusive use of Palestinian Authority textbooks. Like all U.N. agencies, UNRWA is supposed to run schools based on the U.N. slogan “Peace Begins Here.” P.A. schools, however, promote the ideology of the Palestine Liberation Organization: Conquest of “Palestine” by force of arms. Lazzarini could immediately cancel the UNRWA-P.A. contract.

3. UNRWA schools are adorned with posters and murals of “martyrs” who died while murdering Jews. Lazzarini could order the removal of all such images from UNRWA facilities.

4. El Kutla youth clubs in UNRWA schools inculcate pupils with the mantra of the armed struggle from a young age. Lazzarini can order these clubs to end violent incitement.

5. Military parades are frequently held on UNRWA premises. Lazzarini can end this practice immediately.

6. Hamas members lead UNRWA’s teachers and workers unions. Lazzarini can stipulate that any agency employee who runs on a “Hamas ticket” must be dropped from the payroll. After all, even the U.N. defines Hamas as a terrorist organization.

7. “Nakba Day” events are held at UNRWA facilities each year on May 15, the day the PLO mourns the defeat of the Arab armies that invaded Israel in 1948. These rallies call for violence. Lazzarini can issue a directive banning any incitement to violence at such events.

8. Popular Gazan singer Mohammad Assaf, who claims to be a “UNRWA Youth Ambassador,” routinely incites crowds to violence. Lazzarini can issue a policy statement banning Assaf from UNRWA premises.

9. Memorial events for Arabs killed while murdering Jews occur regularly in UNRWA schools. Lazzarini can cancel them.

10. Lazzarini can ensure fiscal transparency. UNRWA receives $1.6 billion in annual donations from 67 nations and 32 NGOs, mostly in cash. Lazzarini must ensure that this money is used for humanitarian needs, not stolen by terror groups. He must also put an end to all cash donations, which make transparency almost impossible.

11. Using the diplomatic pouches of donor nations, UNRWA exports textbooks promoting the “right of return” of Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants, along with the replacement of Israel with an Arab supremacist “Palestine.” Lazzarini can end this practice immediately.

12. UNRWA has never revealed its financial practices, including how it spends its budget. Lazzarini can immediately release an accounting of expenditures to the public.

13. UNRWA distributes world and regional maps that erase Israel and replace the names of all Israeli cities with Arabic names. Should Israel, a U.N. member in good standing, not appear on a map issued by a U.N. agency? Lazzarini can end this practice of cartographic ethnic cleansing immediately.

14. Over the past 25 years, thousands of UNRWA students aged 9-16 have participated in summer camps that feature arms training with live weapons. With summer approaching in a few months, Lazzarini can act to stop this training of child soldiers that violates U.N. resolutions protecting the health and well-being of children.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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