US taxpayer money, thanks to the Biden administration, is now once again going directly to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), an agency that promotes messages of hate against Israel and denies its right to exist. Pictured: A still shot from the documentary film "Camp Jihad," featuring a summer camp in Gaza sponsored and funded by UNWRA. (Image source: Nahum Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research)
The Biden administration has decided to resume financial aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), even though the agency's school books continue to incite violence and erase Israel's existence from their maps. This means that US taxpayer money, thanks to the Biden administration, is now once again going directly to an international agency that promotes messages of hate against Israel and denies its right to exist.
The resumption of the financial aid to UNRWA will also help to perpetuate the problem of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Instead of helping the "refugees" move on with their lives and seek a better future for themselves and their children, UNRWA will continue to encourage them to remain in refugee camps by providing them with various services, including education and healthcare. Why would any Palestinian want to leave a refugee camp when he or she is receiving free education and healthcare?
The latest announcement by the US administration was made during President Joe Biden's recent visit to Israel and the West Bank. "The United States believes that Palestinian refugees deserve to live in dignity, to see their basic needs addressed, and to have hope for the future," the White House said in a statement.
"President Biden will announce an additional $201 million for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to continue delivering critical services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria...
"These services provided directly contribute to maintaining regional stability, which is beneficial to the interests of the United States, our allies, and our partners. This contribution cements the United States' status as UNRWA's largest donor. These new funds bring the total United States assistance to UNRWA during the Biden Administration to more than $618 million."
The claim that the UNRWA services contribute to maintaining regional stability is not only false, but, sadly, ridiculous.
For the past seven decades, UNRWA has been providing the refugee camps with all types of services, including food, medicine, healthcare, education and housing. This assistance certainly did not contribute to easing tensions or preventing violence in the refugee camps in particular or the region in general.
On the contrary, most of the refugee camps have since become hotbeds for extremist and terrorist groups and individuals, especially in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria. The refugee camps in these areas have produced countless terrorists who were responsible for the killing of thousands of Israelis and Arabs alike. The camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip played a major role in the two violent uprisings that erupted against Israel in 1987 and 2000. The camps in Lebanon and Syria have similarly played a significant role in the civil wars that broke out there in the mid-70s (Lebanon) and early 2011 (Syria).
The violence and tensions in these refugee camps took place while they were administrated by UNRWA, which was providing the residents there with "vital services." These services did not stop the terrorists from carrying out attacks against Israel and Arabs in Lebanon and Syria.
Worse, the fact that UNRWA supplies the residents of the camps with all these services effectively exempts them from responsibility: they do not have to go to work to pay for the education, healthcare and food that they receive for free from UNRWA. A terrorist who wants to carry out an attack does not have to worry about the well-being and future of his family because UNRWA is always there to meet all daily needs.
This welfare cocoon does not mean, of course, that all the refugee camps are involved in terrorism and violence. Yet it is safe to say that many of these camps embrace, encourage and produce terrorists.
Take, for example, the northern West Bank, where the Jenin refugee camp is managed by UNRWA.
In the past few decades, the camp has become the West Bank's major center for terrorists belonging to several groups. These include Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the armed wing of the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Although UNRWA controls the Jenin refugee camp, its representatives have not been able to prevent a single terror attack emanating from it.
UNRWA, of course, does not have a mandate to take action against terrorists, nor does it have the forces or means to do so.
Still, this does not mean that there is nothing that the agency could do to help ease tensions and discourage terrorism and violence. It could, for example, work to promote peace and coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians. It could promote tolerance and peace in the schools it manages in the refugee camps. Is UNRWA doing any of these things?
A study published earlier in early July by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) found that children attending UNRWA schools are exposed to textbooks that include references to violence, martyrdom, overt antisemitism, jihad (holy war), rejection of the possibility of peace with Israel, and the complete omission of any historical Jewish presence in the region.
"Despite the relatively small amount of available material, we found material that does not adhere to international standards and that encourages violence, jihad and martyrdom, antisemitism, hate, and intolerance, with overtly politicized language that violates both UN values and UNRWA's neutrality policy...
"UNRWA-produced material contains texts that glorify waging war and sacrificing one's life and blood to liberate the motherland, which is described as the entirety of Mandatory Palestine [all of today's Israel]. Such examples include grammar exercises that use the sentences discussing 'Jihad warriors,' sacrifice of blood, and liberation of Palestine from the occupier, openly suggests violence to students... and passages that exalt Palestinian militants whose daggers 'landed on the necks of the [Israeli] enemy's soldiers'... Another example uses a poem to teach students that dying as martyrs is a 'hobby' and that peace-making is undesirable and a sign of weakness."
The study concluded that UNRWA-produced material consistently ignores the existence of Israel and tasks students with labelling cities and sites in Israel proper as Palestinian. In addition, social studies exercises imply that Israel is a colonial entity created by European colonialism to divide the Arab world. Israel is described solely in a negative manner as having malicious intentions toward Palestinians. It is accused of intentionally and maliciously mistreating Palestinian prisoners (terrorists) and their families and of attempting to erase Palestinian heritage and identity. In some instances, Israelis are accused of desecrating Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque.
Instead of pressuring UNRWA to change its policies and stop the anti-Israel incitement in its schools, the Biden administration has decided to reward the agency for encouraging hate, violence, martyrdom and the delegitimization and demonization of Israel and Jews. Instead of pressuring UNRWA to help the refugees move out of the poverty and misery of the camps, the Biden administration, by resuming financial aid to the agency, is actually prolonging the "suffering" of the Palestinians in the camps.
The money that the Biden administration is giving to UNRWA aims to preserve the status of the camps and ensure that the Palestinians living there stay where they are. By supporting UNRWA, the Biden administration is telling the refugees to remain patient in the camps because one day they will move to Israel as part of the so-called right of return.
The "right of return" means flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants as a first step toward its destruction and replacing it with an Iranian-backed Islamist state run by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The Biden administration, in short, has just sent a message to the Palestinians and all the Israel-haters that it supports their efforts and shares their dream of obliterating Israel. Those who fund school textbooks that glorify terrorists and deny Israel's right to exist are complicit in the global jihad against Israel.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.