US Senator Says Trump Was Wrong to Cut UNRWA Funds After Tour of Facility in Jordan, Program ‘Had Nothing to Do With Politics’

Palestinian schoolchildren sit inside a classroom at an UNRWA-run school, on the first day of a new school year, in Gaza City, Aug. 29, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem.

The Trump administration was “wrong” to withdraw funding for training and education programs by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as they provide “economic relief to Palestinians,” US Senator for Connecticut said during a visit of the UNRWA training center in Jordan this week.

“The program I visited had nothing to do with politics; these kids were learning air conditioning repair, architecture, etc.,” Senator Chris Murphy commented in a tweet.

The visit comes just a month after the US State Department in April resumed $150 million in financial assistance to the UNRWA after the Trump administration cut off aid to the Palestinians, first announced in Aug. 2018 amid a deterioration of relations between the White House and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. The UN agency is dedicated solely to the descendants of Palestinian refugees and has been denounced by Israel for propagating antisemitism.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, who took part in Murphy’s visit, said that the vocational center in Amman is a “reminder of the talent and skills of young Palestine refugees and [the] importance to give them skills adapted to modern labor market,” adding that the “US is a great partner.”

“The Senator visited a Jordanian school where it is gratifying that politics is not taught in relation to learning about air conditioning repair,” Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se — an Israeli research organization that monitors school curriculums throughout the Middle East — told The Algemeiner.

“However, if he had visited Gaza and the West Bank where the large majority of UNRWA schools are situated and where the Palestinian Authority textbooks are taught, he would have found that fourth grade children learn math through counting suicide bombers and that tenth graders are told that Jews control finance, media and governments. There is a very good reason why in April, the US Mission to the UN insisted on UNRWA taking steps to meaningful reforms,” said Sheff.

On April 28, the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing concern at the “hate speech and violence” taught in Palestinian schools run by the UNRWA.

“As NGO Monitor has detailed for years, the phenomenon of incitement and hate speech in Palestinian society threatens Israelis and is dangerous and harmful for Palestinian children,” the watchdog told The Algemeiner in e-mailed comments. “The recent EU condemnation of ‘hate speech and violence’ in UNRWA curricula-based on the critical research of the organization IMPACT-se, is a crucial acknowledgement of this problem.”

The UNRWA is a body created in 1947 to assist the Arab refugees from Israel’s 1947-48 War of Independence. The agency has been maintained in subsequent decades as a body dedicated to the descendants of the original 700,000 refugees, who presently number five million and are served by UNRWA centers in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

On Wednesday, 17 members of the European Parliament penned a letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urging the body to held end incitement in educational textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority.

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Author: Sharon Wrobel

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