Arafat, a student living in a refugee camp located in Shuafat, Jerusalem envisages a future of jihad and holy war. ‘I am ready to stab a Jew’ he claims enthusiastically. Mohammad, another zealous young pupil declares “Right now, I am prepared to become a suicide bomber”. Nur Tuha of Kalandia echoes equally ominous desires, revealing his aspiration to fight alongside Islamic State, with ‘Allah’s help’. As well as their future plans to become holy warriors for Islam, these young 5th graders all have one thing in common; they are pupils at UN facility schools.
Last year, the Palestinian stabbing intifada left 33 Israelis dead and many more wounded. Many responsible for these attacks were from United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) camps in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official states education within these institutions is purely ‘democratic’, assuring an incitement and racism free curriculum. Despite these claims, children are taught poetry emphasizing the need to participate in jihad. Visitors will find the faces of previous students turned suicide bombers plastered on walls, not to discourage students from embracing violence, but rather as an advertisement for a noble career prospect.
“In Palestine, life revolves around Jihad” a young student tells an interviewer. He’s right. A recent study conducted by the Center for Near East Policy Research (CFNEPR) found that 240 textbooks used in Palestinian refugee camps incite violent extremism. These same textbooks are UN agency UNRWA’s school curriculum. 41 students from these schools have gone on to become suicide bombers.
UNRWA serves descendants of Arab refugees from the 1948 war and began its operations on 1 May 1950. The agency relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions from UN member states, receiving 1.2bn annually from Western nations. The stated objective of UNRWA is to ‘return’ refugees to villages from 1948, which no longer exist. Children in these classrooms recite the same verses day in and day out “We will return to Haifa! We will return to Jaffa”, and are encouraged to use violent means to achieve their goals.
In Gaza, teachers at UNRWA run schools are actively involved in recruiting future fighters for Hamas. Over the past 15 years, Hamas has infiltrated UNWRA, with its officials now holding senior positions within the UN backed institution. In summer camps run by UNWRA, students fervently participate in ‘war games’ and blow up mock ‘Zionist’ villages. The aim upon graduation from these institutions is to join Hamas with past students that have carried out attacks against Israelis glorified and idolized by future generations.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza and the rest of the Arab world has a vested political interest in maintaining the status quo. In other words, it is advantageous to keep these camps full to the brim, and efforts at relocation are categorically refused because they will somehow impact on the Palestinians ‘right of return’. This mantra is drummed into the minds of half a million student’s day in, day out. “My Grandma was born in Haifa” a young girl says, her eyes lighting up at the prospect of embarking on a jihadist mission to ‘return’ to a city she has never known.
The evolution of UNRWA’s policy on the right of return to fanaticism is clear cut. For over 60 years, there has been no ‘return’ to Israel, and the status quo of the perpetual Palestinian refugee has remained intact. In fact, since the 1950s, Arabs have actually been relocating to UNWRA run camps to capitalize on free services and ‘education’, contrary the organization’s alleged goal. Other ‘refugees’ living in the Shu’fat camp hold Jerusalem IDs, yet actively choose to live in the camps while paradoxically teaching their children to chant “We will return to Jerusalem”. The right of return to Palestinian refugees is clearly predicated on the notion that relocation is contingent on Jewish expulsion by means of jihad, in other words a second holocaust.
A new generation of Palestinian children are being taught to understand that their situation is solely Israel’s fault, resulting in a radicalised population determined to vent their frustrations by violent means against the Jewish State. Over the last 60 years, UNWRA has propagated the myth of the eternal Palestinian refugee, functioning as a primary mechanism for the recruitment of future jihadists. If current trends of classroom incitement within UN run schools persist, and donor nations continue to ignore the dire situation, these students will go on to become the next generation of jihadists in the Middle East.
UNWRA needs to be held accountable for the 1.2bn in Western funding they receive each year. Donor countries, including Australia urgently need to review their continuation of aid to this UN sponsored organization. Future funding should be conditional on educational reform, beginning with the dismissal of employees associated with Hamas and the abolition of textbooks inciting jihad. Palestinian children deserve a future built around hope, not one centered around illusions.