UNRWA Accountability and Palestinian Education

July 2021

Combating Antisemitism

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., reaffirms and expands its commitment to combat antisemitism through education at home and abroad.

Around the world antisemitism is surging. To keep Jewish communities safe and build a healthier, more peaceful future for all, it’s critical to stop this oldest of hatreds from taking root in new generations. According to the Declaration of the Principles on Tolerance adopted by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1995, “Education is the most effective means of preventing intolerance.” Education is widely recognized, including by the UN, as the key to combating prejudice, fostering intercultural exchange and promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups.

Hadassah continues to support policies and resources to improve Holocaust and anti-hate education in the United States and advocates for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism as a tool to help governments, institutions and the public better understand and identify what constitutes antisemitism.

Throughout the Muslim world, many schools use antisemitic curricula and resources sponsored, produced and distributed by their governments. This is especially troublesome in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which according to a recent official statement has “a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and for incitement to hatred and violence.” Despite UNRWA’s stated aim for an educational program that ensures Palestinian students “become confident, innovative, questioning, thoughtful and open-minded individuals who uphold human rights,” schools in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem actively encourage violence, reject peace and demonize both Israel and the Jewish people.

Palestinian textbooks routinely promote jihad (holy war) against Israel and Jews, espouse martyrdom and include maps of the Middle East that do not include Israel. Reports by the UN, the US Department of State and independent watchdogs confirm UNRWA’s lack of transparency and inaction to guarantee that all educational materials align with UN values.

Hadassah recognizes the UN’s efforts to address antisemitism, including the creation of guidelines for policymakers and priorities stated by the Secretary General in support of developing education programs and building the capacity of educational systems to address antisemitism. However, more must be done to hold UNRWA accountable.

Hadassah calls for oversight by the UN Secretariat and UN member states to significantly increase UNRWA transparency and accountability. This would include requiring UNRWA to expeditiously make public all information regarding its teaching and review procedures, as well as the content of all textbook pages and resources that are used in its schools or on its centralized digital learning platform. In addition, UNRWA should be required to integrate much-needed factual content about Jews and Israelis into its curricula to actively counteract hate. Hadassah encourages the UN Secretariat to independently review these efforts and make the findings publicly available.

Hadassah also urges the US Department of State to stand by its benchmarks for distributing funding to UNRWA and to improve the accuracy, comprehensiveness and consistency of Department reports to Congress on UNRWA’s compliance status. These benchmarks must hold UNRWA accountable for maintaining the neutrality of its facilities and employees — including zero tolerance for antisemitism and implementing policy to ensure no weapons are stored in schools — and for providing educational materials that do not induce incitement but rather are consistent with the values of human rights, dignity and tolerance.

Hadassah's Policy Statements represent the organization's official stance on a wide variety of issues facing our nation, Israel and other international matters of concern. Policy Statements are debated and voted on at national meetings by Hadassah’s national board and delegates from our membership. Once approved, statements become official policies of the organization and serve to define Hadassah's overall agenda and advocacy priorities. Hadassah, as a charitable organization classified under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is prohibited from any direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, candidates for public office.