by Dogan Akman
Prime Minister Trudeau never misses an opportunity, to claim that he and his government stand up for Canadian values and indeed for universal values and human rights. These universal values and rights include those enunciated and prescribed by the United Nations and, with respect to the subject at hand, Trudeau also claims that Canada is Israel’s good/close friend and steadfast/strong ally and that his government is ready and able to fight world terrorism with its allies.
Whatever the veracity of these claims may be, their truth does not extend to the Trudeau government’s policy and practices w concerning Canada’s financing of UNRWA’s educational services, presumably in accord with the Prime Minister’s thinking. Despite his Minister’s utterances, the government has exhibited and continues to exhibit a malevolent hypocrisy both at home and towards the Israeli Jews and Israel.
In 2010, the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper cancelled Canada’s annual contribution of $25 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) including in Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) on the grounds that the school books published by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and used by all UNRWA schools were poisoned by hatred against Jews and Israel.
In 2016, the Trudeau government reversed the Harper decision. On November 16, 2016 the Minister of International Development, Marie Claude Bibeau announced in the House of Commons that the government had reinstated funding. The reinstatement of this contribution occurred in the midst of allegations that UNRWA is tied too closely to Hamas, which Canada designated a terrorist organisation, and despite the well substantiated evidence that the textbooks used by UNRWA are toxic in their treatment of Israel.
The Minister stated that a portion of these monies contributes to the financing of the schooling of “vulnerable Palestinian refugees” attending UNRWA schools. The Minister mellifluously justified the decision on the grounds that “Millions of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East have the right …to send their children to school. We want to see Palestinian refugee children in classrooms where they can learn universal values of tolerance and respect. Vulnerable Palestinians deserve all the opportunities they can to contribute positively to their communities and Canada’s funding will help to better the lives of millions of refugees.” (Italics mine)
However, as I propose to demonstrate, Canada’s financing of UNWRA’s schooling system has been wilfully ignorant of the truth and deceitful in the extreme.
The announcement in the House of Commons was greeted with cries of “shame” from the members of the Conservative Party, the Official opposition. Andrew Sheer, then a member of the opposition, stated the truth when he pointed out, “humanitarian money should go to groups which focus on aid, not politics and that “UNRWA is an obstacle to achieving peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
In the aftermath of the announcement government officials stated that Canada would monitor closely the contents of the school books used by UNRWA. As it turned out, these officials were either being deceived by their superiors and/or Minister Bibeau, or freelancing in fibbing, and/or as is most likely the case, failing to actually investigate claims made by UNRWA that it had satisfied the UN ethics requirements as expected by Canada.
The history of the hypocrisy
On February 2, 2017, UN Watch appeared before the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee and presented “A Report on UNRWA Teachers’ Incitement to Jihadist Terrorism and Antisemitism.”
The report exposes more than 40 Facebook pages operated by school teachers, principals, and other employees of UNRWA whose materials incite terrorism or antisemitism. These cases are additional to the 30 cases of incitement revealed at the end of 2015 by U.N. Watch.
The examples of incitement included UNRWA teachers and staffers celebrating the terrorist kidnapping of Israeli teenagers, cheering rockets being fired at Israeli civilian centres, endorsing various forms of violence, erasing Israel from the map, praising Hitler and posting his photo, and posting overtly anti-Semitic videos, caricatures, and statements.
The report concludes that UNRWA’s major donors and other donor states bear a responsibility to ensure that UNRWA lives up to its obligations as a UN humanitarian organization, and then proceeds to outline the specific actions which the donors must take to remedy UNRWA’s severe corruption of its mandate.
On May 4th, 2017, in Parliament, Conservative MP Dean Allison asked Minister Bibeau the following question:
“Mr. Speaker, UN Watch is now reporting [that], UNRWA hires and employs racist staff, and places the education of impressionable Palestinian youth in their hands. Canada would never tolerate the employment of racist teachers in its own schools.” Why are the Liberals funding this U.N organization where there is clear evidence that it employs racist antisemites and terror sympathizers?
The Minister replied: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my colleague that, ever since Canada restored funding to this UN agency for Palestinian refugees, we have been following it very closely, and Canada’s presence at the table is making a difference. We are ensuring that background checks are done on all financial services employees. We have helped train 3,000 employees so far, including executives and teachers, on the importance of web independence, and we are reviewing the educational materials. I would rather see those children in that UN school than on the street.”
Contrary to the Minister’s gratuitous assertion, a proper U.N. school is one whose curriculum is consistent with the universal educational standards established by UNESCO and staffed by proper teachers committed to teach in accordance with these standards.
Canada did not respond to U.N. Watch’s call for action and ignored the specific recommendations of the Report directly bearing on the issue of incitement and antisemitism with respect to the textbooks used in the UNRWA schools. Nor did the Canadian media give this important story much, if any, play that it deserved.
Two other research oriented NGO’s have provided significant evidence of the many breaches of the UN required ethics and values exhibited in UNRWA educational materials.
The Jerusalem- based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, “IMPACT 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.
“A pioneer in the field of textbook analysis, IMPACT presents a clear picture of how different nations educate their children in relation to religion, societies, cultures, democratic values and the ‘Other’. It is dedicated to peacemaking between peoples and nations by encouraging acceptance of others and [the] aim of the organisation is to prevent radicalization of children and youth as the most vulnerable members of society. We believe that children should be nurtured and prepared for futures of hope, success and happiness while taught to embrace mutual respect and acceptance of others who may differ in various ways from themselves.”
The Center for Near East Policy Research (CNEPR) is “dedicated to proactive, investigative research and the publication of well-documented data on the core issues of Israeli-Arab relations, in order to provide insight into the complex reality of Israel for decision makers, journalists and the general public.”
“The Center is currently calling attention to the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian refugees in UNRWA-administered refugee camps with a suggested reform of UNRWA policies, to adopt standards of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) criteria used for refugee rehabilitation worldwide.”
“In June 2017, CNEPR issued a 260 page detailed research report on the contents of the most recently updated school books issued by the Palestinian Authority for use in all the schools in the West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem.
The overall conclusion of the report is that these books “indoctrinate students with violence, denial, deceit and demonization of the Jewish people and have virtually erased reference to Israel. It’s replaced by ‘Zionist occupation’ and ‘Arab-Zionist conflict’. Further, the poems taught to youngsters praise ‘martyrdom’ against Jews.”
Dr. Arnon Groiss, a specialist in school book content analysis, who co-directed the study and co-authored the report, describes the curriculum as one which “prepared the next generation of Palestinians, not for peace, but for more conflict, more violence, more Jew-hatred”.
In September 2017, Minister Bibeau asserted that they were still reviewing the school materials.
On March 15, 2018, Canada announced its new emergency funding of the UNRWA in the amount of $10 million, some of which would fund schooling, along with other countries seeking to remedy the budgetary shortfall created by President Trump’s decision to freeze U.S. aid to the agency.
On the same day, the Department of Global [Foreign] Affairs issued the following utterly misleading statement:
“Canada will also continue to exercise ‘enhanced due diligence’ regarding its funding and will assist the UNRWA in its efforts to improve neutrality within the agency and its operations: This assistance underlines how Canada and the UNRWA continue together to ensure respect for the values of the United Nations and the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, operational independence and impartiality.”
On the very day Canada announced its new funding and issued the statement, the Palestinian children in UNRWA schools were being taught the new school curriculum devised for the 2017-2018 school year meant to give Palestinian children “a better future”. Some of these books were new and some were unchanged.
The September 2018 report of IMPACT-se titled “The New Palestinian Curriculum 2018–19 Update—Grades 1–12”, examined the textbooks of the new Palestinian curriculum for the 2017-2018 school year. It found that overall it was significantly more radical than the previous curricula and seeks to indoctrinate for death and martyrdom.
As Marcus Sheff, Executive Director of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) put it this new curriculum turned out to be “…more radical than ever, purposefully and strategically encouraging Palestinian children to sacrifice themselves to martyrdom. These books still include maps that don’t recognise Israel, and praise Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel including terrorists.”
These observations are further corroborated by B. Chernitsky, a Research Fellow at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), in his article published on March 16, 2018, in the journal of the Institute bearing the same name. Based on the results of his study of a particular segment of the curriculum, he writes: “An examination of the middle-school books for Islamic Education, some of which have been replaced, shows a significant increase in focus on the early Islamic tenets of shahada (martyrdom), fidaa (self-sacrifice) and tadhiya (sacrifice) as part of jihad for the sake of Allah, and their modern manifestations as part of the Palestinian struggle against Israel” and in this context “cultivates antsemitic messages.”
In March 2018, the assertions of Minister Bibeau and those in the statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs were put to the test by the resolution in the E.U’s European Parliament and the ensuing legislation. Both the assertions and statement failed miserably the test of veracity.
Thus, after some ten years of pumping significant amounts of money into the Palestinian education sector, during which it made no real attempt to ensure that Palestinian children receive a proper education based on European/UNESCO values, the E.U decided that enough was enough. The European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control introduced legislation designed to ensure that all programs financed by EU money “reflect common values such as freedom, tolerance, and non-discrimination within education.”
On April 18 2018, the E.U. Parliament adopted this legislation to prevent EU aid intended for education purposes from being used to teach hate, and to insure that henceforth the P.A.’s textbooks meet the E.U and UNESCO standards. To date the legislation has been kept in abeyance on the assurances of UNRWA that things would change and pending the results of a study of the contents of the impugned school books commissioned by the E.U.
Further, in May 2019, the E.U commissioned The Georg Eckert Institute [GEI] for International Textbook Research of Germany to carry out the study. The Institute stated that the study involved approximately 150 textbooks, published by the Ministry of Education under the Palestinian Authority since 2017. Ultimately, the study turned out to be, depending on the reader’s temperament, a major comedy or tragedy of errors:
First, a copy of the preliminary research secured by IMPACT-se through an Access to Information request disclosed that the research was “plagued by poor comprehension of Arabic, missing terminology and factual inaccuracies.”
Second, the study analysed the contents of Israeli textbooks used in Israeli Arab language schools in Jerusalem then falsely gave high marks to the Palestinian textbooks. (I have been unable to locate the E.U’s and GEI’s responses to these findings)
In the meantime, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) published a report calling on the P.A. to remove all incitement from its school curriculum.
Since then, the European Parliament adopted a number of resolutions condemning the P.A. for using textbooks that teach hate of and violence against Jews, Israeli-Jews and Israel, but to no avail.
With respect to the UNRWA’s own textbooks, IMPACT-se noted that “UNRWA, as a UN organization, knowingly produces and teaches material in its Gaza Strip and West Bank schools that are rife with problematic content that contradicts stated UN values. Although UNRWA has claimed in the past that it has devised a methodology to isolate and address problematic content it has not demonstrated how the issue is addressed. UNRWA’s lack of transparency to address such problematic issues makes it impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of any efforts it claims to have made.” Ultimately, IMPACT-se managed to break through the obstructions.
In January of this year it published a study titled, “Review of UNRWA-Produced Study Materials in the Palestinian Territories,” that reported on a new series of school manuals produced by UNRWA, complementary to the school books of the P.A., that contained incitement to violence and hatred that glorified terrorism. A number of segments of these materials are even more extremist than those of the P.A.
For example, the manuals omit to mention Israel and instead refer to it as “the enemy or “the Zionist occupation”; require the students to solve mathematical questions by using the number of martyrs of the First intifada to calculate equations; exhort the students to “defend the country by their blood”; state that Israel is deliberately dumping radioactive and toxic waste in the West Bank; present Dalal Mughrabi, who along with other Fatah terrorists high-jacked an Israeli bus and killed 38 civilians including 13 children and injured more than 70 persons. The manuals also use maps which erased Israel. (Writer’s free translation from French text.)
From the foregoing historical sequence of events and the wealth and strength of corroborative documented evidence, it is abundantly clear that to the extent the Canadian government undertook to monitor closely the contents of the books and subsequently claimed through Minister Bibeau to be to reviewing them, the monitoring and the reviewing has been done with closed mind and eyes while ignoring the evidence generated by a number of sources.
This past April, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning UNRWA for using its own school manuals that teach hate and violence. The resolution expresses [yet again] concern “about hate speech and violence taught in Palestinian school textbooks and used by UNRWA” and insists that financial aid be conditioned on removal of educational materials that promote hatred and incitement to violence. (Writer’s free translation from French). Curiously enough, the resolution omits reference to the UNRWA’s own poisonous manuals.
In response to the agitations of the European Parliamentarians, Phillip Lazzarini, the Head of UNRWA tweeted that “in the schools of UNRWA there is no place for incitement to hate and violence“. He affirmed that the UNRWA manuals in question were prepared to supplement the P.A. school books for [the purpose of facilitating online teaching during the Covid-19 lockdown] were ”published by accident". He further stated that, “The pages of certain manuals identified as inappropriate were distributed by error and were rapidly replaced by content consistent with the values of the U.N.”(Writer’s free translation from French)
Despite all the resolutions and pronouncements to date, besides the Trump administration in 2018, only the Norwegian Parliament thought it fit to cut all financial assistance to the P.A in December 2020 over its antisemitic outbursts and incitement to violence. This past January, U.S. President Biden renewed its financial assistance to both the UNRWA and to the P.A. as a gesture to build confidence in its relationship with the P.A.thus ignoring the travesty of funding hatred and antisemitism for another generation of Palestinians.
Trudeau who for his part, has yet to condemn even once both the P.A. for publishing its hateful school books and UNRWA for using them and its own antisemitic supplementary manuals.
Upon the publication of the IMPACT-se 2021 report,Trudeau true to form, instead of emulating the European Parliament, launched an investigation into the matters disclosed by the report to deflect the need to follow on the example set by the European Parliament.
On May 3, 2021, the new Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, sought to handle this most embarrassing turn of events about Canada’s financial aid to UNRWA in the House of Commons. Below is the dialogue between the Minister and Conservative MP Garnet Genuis:
Mr. Garnett Genuis, Conservative: Mr. Speaker, last week at committee the Minister of International Development claimed that hateful content in UNRWA-produced materials was not produced by UNRWA and was removed last year, but a February impact report demonstrates the continuing presence of hateful content in UNRWA-produced study materials, which denounce Arab states over the Abraham Accords and call for the banishment of Jews from Israel. Could the minister confirm that she is now aware that hateful content persists in UNRWA-produced materials and tell the House what she intends to do about it?
Hon. Karina Gould: Mr. Speaker, as I have said numerous times, this government stands against antisemitism, and we have been very clear about that. As soon as I learned about this material I was deeply concerned and contacted my officials, as well as UNRWA itself, to get to the bottom of this. I have been in touch with counterparts around the world, and we are working with UNRWA to ensure that the materials it teaches, which are provided by the jurisdiction in which it operates, meet UN values and uphold the principles of neutrality.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Mr. Speaker, the minister says she takes antisemitism seriously, but her government is funding it in UNRWA-produced study materials. Again, these are UNRWA-produced study materials. The European Parliament has denounced UNRWA for hateful comments in study materials that it produces and continues to use, but the minister is still badly mis-characterizing the situation by referring to Palestinian authority textbooks. She had promised an investigation. She is failing to follow up and Canadian taxpayer dollars are still funding antisemitic hate. When will the minister recognize what is happening and actually take action in response?
Hon. Karina Gould: Mr. Speaker, as I have communicated to the House on several occasions, we take this issue with the utmost seriousness and became engaged as soon as we learned of it. I continue to engage with UNRWA on this, but let me remind the hon. member that UNRWA provides education to 500,000 Palestinian students. Without UNRWA, they would not have access to education. We remain absolutely committed to upholding UN values and the principle of neutrality. We will continue to work with UNRWA to ensure that these objectives are met, but we also know that they provide a valuable service to 500,000 Palestinian children.
There you have it. The Minister simplistically reduced the whole problem to a matter of “engaging with UNRWA, clearly ignored the level of hatred, violence, incitement, lies and antisemitism being taught to 500,000 children, and was clearly fibbing as did her predecessor. She expressed no concern about the demonization of Israel, the incitement to lethal terrorism against Israeli Jews and the State of Israel and the sordid rest.
Putting aside the UNRWA manuals for a minute, what about the P.A.’s textbooks used by the UNRWA? What has the Trudeau government done about the sordid inhumane content of these texts of which much has been known for years? Zip. Nothing.
If the Minister’s vacuous first reply was not enough, she went on
a) to describe the educational services provided by UNRWA as “valuable”; and
b) to point out that UNRWA was teaching some 500,000 Palestinian youngsters.
Since when did poisonous brainwashing in an educational environment became “valuable”? No one is asking UNRW to give up its valuable educational services but to get rid of the offending teaching materials and books, replace content with truth and peace messages rather than conflict and terror.
What does the number of students have to do with the problem at hand? If anything, the number of students further aggravates the problem. If the textbooks and the teachers described by the U.N Watch materials succeed in brainwashing, radicalising just one half of one percent of the 500,000 students to become terrorists and aspire to become martyrs, these valuable educational services would produce in Gaza and in the “so-called” West Bank and East Jerusalem, some 2500 terrorists, rioters and other sorts of criminals, and this would be repeated in every cycle of 500,000 of students who attended and are attending schools taught by UNRWA.
Surely, in the light of the foregoing facts, the only honourable thing for the Trudeau government to do is to immediately stop subsidising terrorism until such time as UNRWA does the following:
a) Starts using textbooks that satisfy the Canadian, UN and UNESCO requirements and standards prescribed for school, and
b) Employs exclusively teachers committed to perform their job in accordance with the said requirements and standards.
Can and will UNRWA meet these requirements? I very much doubt it.
Will Trudeau do the honourable thing? Definitely no.
The proof for the answer is provided in the government’s written reply to Senator Linda Frum’s question on this issue. The material part of the reply issued on May 6th this year reads:
Canada and other donor governments expect UNRWA to uphold UN values and humanitarian principles, including neutrality, in all its activities. Canadian funding reinforces UNRWA’s ongoing efforts in this regard, including work by UNRWA staff to identify, monitor, and follow up on violations of these principles. There is no place for hatred or incitement of violence. It is deeply concerning that problematic educational materials were circulated. UNRWA recognized its error and is taking corrective actions to ensure that UN values are upheld. The Minister of International Development and Canadian officials continue to work closely with partners and UNRWA’s senior management to address the issue. Continued engagement positions Canada to insist on UNRWA’s accountability and transparency, including through taking further corrective actions, as needed.
It’s the same old song.
In the meantime, where are the Canadian Jewish and other “progressives”-the nattering nabobs of negativism in all of this? Well, they are very busy mindlessly denying that Israel is lawfully in possession of Judea and Samaria. They just don’t have time to be concerned about the safety of Jews, the security of Israel, and ignore evidence that the two-nation solution to which they are wedded can never materialise so long as, among other things, the P.A. and UNRWA are busily engaged in their vicious educational assaults on the minds of all Palestinian children.