Mystery Grows over Why a Study Of Palestinian School Books Is Being Kept Secret from the US Congress  

Why does the State Department block the publication of the congressional investigation of Palestinian texts taught in schools run by the United Nations? That is the question two years after the chairman of the Senate’s Near East subcommitee, James Risch, asked Congress’s Government Accountability Office to look at the schoolbooks now used by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Senator Risch ordered the study after Idaho constituents introduced him to the findings of the Center for Near East Policy Research, which purchases, translates and evaluates all schoolbooks that Palestinian Arab children learn in all UNRWA schools. The project is financed in part by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and published by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

UNRWA is an American issue because, among other issues, America is the agency’s largest funder, donating 30% of the $1.2 billion UNRWA budget. Some 54% of the UNRWA budget is allocated to UNRWA education.

The GAO completed its comprehensive report on UNRWA education at the end of April. Sources at the GAO confirm that the GAO study documents that Palestinian Authority school books used by UNRWA work against peace and reconciliation, and insert war indoctrination throughout the PA school books.

However, on May 3, the director of public affairs of the GAO, Chuck Young, issued a statement that the State Dept not allow the report to be released to the US Congress which had ordered the report in order to provide a guide to further US funding of UNRWA.

Why? Mr. Young referred that question to the State Department.

I wrote to America’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. No answer. I wrote to the new Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo. No answer. I flew to New York and met with the staff of Ambassador Nikki Haley at the United Nations. No answer.

A perfunctory answer emanated from an official of State Department, who referred the question to the GAO. The GAO repeated that this was a US State Department decision, not theirs.

So the decision obtains. The GAO report on UNRWA education is officially blocked from the press, the Congress, and even from the Trump administration.

Why would the State Department not want to disclose what half a million students study in UNRWA schools that America itself funds?

After all, these schoolbooks reach half a million UNRWA students and are publicly disseminated. The books all appear on the internet. Why should the content of UNRWA school books not be disclosed?

Publication of such a GAO report would make it difficult for the government to maintain its policy that the nascent Palestinian Authority constitutes a bona fide peace partner. Perhaps that is the reason that education is not being mentioned in the reports that have surfaced concerning the new American peace initiative.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, issued a statement about the refusal of the State Department to disclose the GAO investigation of UNRWA education. “We urge this decision be reversed,” he said. “UNRWA needs refordm. Even UN Secretary General Guterres said so. The idea that a study about what the Palestinians teach their children in textbooks should be withheld from the public is unconscionable and unacceptable. When textbooks reflect a rejection of the reality of Israel and the legitimacy of Israel as a neighbor, we will see another generation offered up by their leaders as cannon fodder and unable to accept a peace offer.”

About the Author
David Bedein, who grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Israel in 1970 at the age of 20, is an MSW community organizer by profession and an expereinced investigative journalist. In 1987 he established the Israel Resource News Agency, with offices at the Beit Agron Int’l Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research. In 1991, Bedein was the special CNN middle east radio correspondent. Since 2001, Bedein has contributed features to the newspaper Makor Rishon. In 2006, Bedein became the foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. He is the author of " The Genesis of the Palestinian Authority" and "ROADBLOCK TO PEACE- How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA policies reconsidered"and the director and producer of the numerous short films about UNRWA policy which can be located at: http://tinyurl.com/lxc6xvs
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