For almost two decades, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, or IMPACT-se, has produced reports exposing serious issues with the curriculum produced by the Palestinian Authority. In 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) took the unprecedented step to express concern

“about the existence of hate speech in [PA]… school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism.”UN CERD

These textbooks are used in UNRWA schools, that New Zealand funds to the tune of approximately $1m each year.

In addition to the hateful curriculum, UN Watch has, over a number of years, also exposed UNRWA staff inciting violence on social media and, in 2019 UN Watch executive director, Hillel Neuer, said he was “not aware of a single UNRWA teacher who has been fired as a result [of inciting violence].”

Despite the numerous, evidenced red-flags, MFAT officials failed to record meetings where issues were raised or brief ministers about the concerns.

When the Israel Institute of New Zealand first discussed the issues with MFAT staff in 2019, they denied any problems and continued to praise UNRWA donate Kiwi taxpayer money to the organisation. It was only after media enquiries that MFAT staff briefed the minister as to possible issues, but they justified the funding on the flawed basis that the curriculum was the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, not UNRWA.

The Human Rights Commission is now involved. Chief Commissioner, Prof Paul Hunt, told The Israel Institute of New Zealand that he and his colleagues met with MFAT staff and told them that

NZ’s international human rights obligations do not stop where its territorial sea ends.

When NZ Ministers enter the meeting rooms of the United Nations, they carry with them NZ’s international human rights obligations. These binding obligations are not left in the cloakroom outside the meeting room.

The same principle applies to public funds from the NZ taxpayer. Such funds must be disbursed in a way that is consistent with NZ’s international human rights commitments. Of course, among those obligations are those enshrined in [UN] CERD.

If NZ taxpayer funds are being used to publish antisemitic textbooks, this would place NZ in breach of its international human rights obligations.Prof Paul Hunt, Chief Human Rights Commissioner

MFAT officials have chosen to ignore the decades of documented evidence, insisting that they are waiting for a report that has been commissioned by the European Union to be completed by the Georg Eckert Institute.

The Georg Eckert Institute report was due at the end of 2020 and an interim report was found to have significant flaws, including reviewing the wrong textbooks and basic Arabic mis-translations. A final version has not yet been produced.

The Israel Institute of New Zealand asked MFAT why they have apparently ignored the evidence produced by IMPACT-se, UN Watch, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and even the concern expressed by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Their response was “As previously indicated, New Zealand will await the release of the formal findings of the investigation to assess implications for UNRWA’s activities”.

The Human Rights Commission has not commented on MFATs apparent refusal to acknowledge the evidence to date and has said they are making enquiries about when the Georg Eckert Institute report will be available.

It is instructive to consider the timeline of important events relating to New Zealand’s funding of hate, which we have documented below:

  1. Before 2015

    Multiple reports highlighting concern about the PA curriculum, used in UNRWA schools that New Zealand funds.

    Almost every year, IMPACT-se published a report highlighting concern about the PA curriculum, used in UNRWA schools that New Zealand funds:
    Nov 2001 – IMPACT-se report
    Oct 2002 – IMPACT-se report
    May 2003 – IMPACT-se report
    Aug 2004 – IMPACT-se report
    June 2005 – IMPACT-se report
    Sept 2007 – IMPACT-se report
    March 2008 – IMPACT-se report
    Oct 2009 – IMPACT-se report
    March 2011 – IMPACT-se report
    May 2011 – IMPACT-se report

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  2. New Zealand funds UNRWA to the tune of $1m each year.

    Almost every year, New Zealand gave approximately $1m to UNRWA.

  3. 2015

    New Zealand gives approx NZD$1m to UNRWA, consistent with previous years.

  4. June 2015

    New Zealand praises UNRWA, specifically mentioning their education services.

    NZ praised UNRWA on the occasion of its 65th anniversary. Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations said UNRWA’s education is “critical to ensure there is a firm foundation for rebuilding communities once the Israelis and Palestinians have reached an agreement on the issues that divide them…”

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  5. Aug 2015

    UN Watch Director visits New Zealand.

    UN Watch Executive Director, Hillel Neuer, visited New Zealand with a central message of the need to reform the United Nations.

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  6. Sept 2015

    12 UNRWA staff found inciting on social media.

    UN Watch submitted a report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon documenting 12 different Facebook accounts operated by supposedly neutral UNRWA officials that openly incite to violence and hatred against Jews.

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  7. Oct 2015

    Ten more UNRWA staff found inciting on social media.

    At least ten different UNRWA staff used the imprimatur of their official positions to incite Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks against Israeli Jews, with one calling on Facebook to “stab Zionist dogs,” according to the UN Watch report.

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  8. Nov 2015

    Another ten UNRWA staff found inciting on social media.

    UN Watch exposed another ten UNRWA staff members inciting Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks against Israeli Jews on social media: a total of more than 30 staff members in three months.

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  9. 2016

    New Zealand gave approx NZD$1m to UNRWA, consistent with previous years.

  10. May 2016

    IMPACT-se report finds PA curriculum fosters violence.

    IMPACT-se report found “In its current form, the PA curriculum fosters violence in the short run and is committed to continuous violent struggle over time, thus promoting a strategy which rejects negotiations, encourages violence and relies on international pressure.”

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  11. 2017

    New Zealand gives approx NZD$1m to UNRWA, consistent with previous years.

  12. Feb 2017

    More UNRWA teachers found inciting on social media.

    A UN Watch report found UNRWA teachers inciting terror and antisemitism on social media and that UNRWA used school books where “attitudes to Jews, Israel and peace is based on three fundamentals: De-legitimization, demonization and indoctrination to violent struggle instead of peace.” Examples of extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments include referring to Jews as “greedy” and “oppressive”; representing Jewish Holy sites, such as the Temple Mount and Rachel’s Tomb, as “Muslim holy places usurped by the Jews”; and not recognising Israel as a sovereign state or showing it on maps

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  13. April 2017

    An IMPACT-se report published on PA textbooks.

    IMPACT-se report found “To an even greater extent than the 2014–15 textbooks, the curriculum teaches students to be martyrs, demonizes and denies the existence of Israel and focuses on a “return” to an exclusively Palestinian homeland… Radicalization includes revenge and blood; martyrs are used as examples in math classes. There is no empathy toward Israel as the Other.”

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  14. Sept 2017

    A Simon Wiesenthal Center and Middle East Forum report on the PA curriculum published.

    A Simon Wiesenthal Center and Middle East Forum report on the PA curriculum found “the PA schoolbooks’ attitude to Jews, Israel and peace is based on three fundamentals: De-legitimization, demonization and indoctrination to violent struggle instead of peace…”

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  15. Oct 2017

    Another IMPACT-se report highlighted radicalisation in the PA curriculum.

    IMPACT-se report found “Radicalization is pervasive across this new curriculum, to a greater extent than before… The crux of this report is education for war and against peace with Israel. The second batch of the new, reformed curriculum of the PA has further distanced itself from our UNESCO-derived standards…”

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  16. UNRWA rejected the findings of the IMPACT-se report.

    UNRWA rejected the findings of the IMPACT-se report, stating that the Palestinian Authority updated the curriculum and that UNRWA rigorously reviews what is being taught.

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  17. 2018

    New Zealand gave approx NZD$3.9m to UNRWA.

    This was the annual NZD$1m plus additional funds for the Syrian emergency appeal and for the another appeal to support the Palestinian territories – where teh most problematic curriculum is taught.

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  18. Jan 2018

    MFAT officials discuss US decision to withhold funding to UNRWA.

    Internal MFAT emails discussed media reports of the United States’ decision to withhold funding to UNRWA. There is no discussion of any reasons for the US decision, only discussion of how much the shortfall would be and a comment that “UNRWA’s lost funding will need to be urgently replaced.”
    Another email discussed the Dutch assessment of UNRWA done in 2017, with no reference to any curriculum issues and a “good” for “combating corruption” and “operational management”.

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  19. March 2018

    MFAT officials recommend additional funding to UNRWA.

    MFAT briefing to Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, included no mention of any issues in UNRWA, despite acknowledging that the US decided to withhold part of its funding, and recommended additional funding due to “UNRWA’s role as a stabilising force in an increasingly unstable region… [UNRWA] supports peace and security between Israelis and Palestinians… UNRWA’s work helps to support Israel’s security.”

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  20. May 2018

    MFAT officials consider UNRWA to support stability, believe UNRWA over evidence.

    Internal MFAT file note about a meeting with UNRWA representatives included a ‘talking point’ that “New Zealand supports UNRWA as both an economic and security stabilising force in Palestine.”
    There was mention in the file note that “Israel criticised UNRWA for perpetuating the problem by recognising descendants of the original Palestinian refugees.” but this was quickly followed with Krähenbühl’s response that the unique UNRWA policy is “in line with international law, [United Nations General Assembly] resolutions, and the practice of the [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees].”**
    ** The UNRWA definition of a refugee is not in line with international law or the practice of UNHCR (see also here, here, here, and here).

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  21. June 2018

    A report commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research found PA textbooks encouraged violence.

    A report commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research found the textbooks issued by the PA continue “expressing the delegitimizing of the State of Israel, demonizing the State of Israel, encouraging violence against it and an absence of education for peace. The books, which are strongly hostile to Israel and the Jewish people, are also used by UNRWA-run schools, half of whose budget is devoted to education.”

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  22. Aug 2018

    United States stopped funding UNRWA.

    The United States of America stopped funding UNRWA. The decision was based more on the corruption within UNRWA and its unique perpetuation of “refugee” status than the curriculum issues.
    A 2006 letter written to Condoleezza Rice from Congressmen Mark Kirk and Steven Rothman stated, “… it is clear UNRWA is wrought by mismanagement, ineffective policies, and failure to secure its finances.”
    And in 2018, members of Congress introduced a bill asking that with respect to refugees under UNRWA the policy of the United States should be consistent with the definition of a refugee, such that “derivative refugee status may only be extended to the spouse or minor child of such a refugee” and “an alien who was firmly resettled in any country is not eligible to retain refugee status.”

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  23. Sept 2018

    An IMPACT-se report found the PA curriculum became more radical.

    An IMPACT-se report found “The new textbooks for grades 1–4 proved to be more radical than those published before… There was, simultaneously, both a denial of Israel’s existence and hatred of it as a neighbor… The new textbooks examined in this report indoctrinate for death and martyrdom. Jews and Israelis are portrayed as quintessentially evil…”

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  24. MFAT officials continue to support UNRWA and say it is a stabilising force.

    Internal MFAT emails discussed the US announcement to stop funding UNRWA. There is no discussion of any reasons for the US decision, only discussion of the shortfall and repetition that “UNRWA is a stabilising force in the region.”
    MFAT briefing to Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, included no mention of any issues in UNRWA and a recommendation to agree to increase funding that “…signals New Zealand’s continuing support for UNRWA’s mandate and stabilising role in the Middle East.”

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  25. Dec 2018

    Issues raised with MFAT officials in meeting.

    MFAT officials met with someone who sent an email following up that discusses issues with UNRWA. This email was not included in the original OIA response, but included in a challenge from IINZ about missing material, and MFAT officials made no file note of the exchange.

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  26. MFAT officials dismiss criticism of UNRWA.

    Internal MFAT emails gave a brief overview of UNRWA and New Zealand’s support. For the first time, there was acknowledgement of some issues, with an official stating “While the Agency is not perfect, we do not think that [REDACTED] criticisms are fair.”

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  27. 2019

    New Zealand gave approx NZD$2.5m to UNRWA.

  28. May 2019

    New Zealand praises UNRWA.

    The Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, Craig Hawke, said “New Zealand is proud to continue our long-standing commitment to UNRWA…” and committed to pay NZD$3m over three years.

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  29. June 2019

    MFAT officials recommend further funding to UNRWA.

    An MFAT briefing recommended further increase in funding to UNRWA, including reference to an appeal from UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl and a comment that “UNRWA’s performance and risk management approaches are satisfactory… “.

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  30. Aug 2019

    IINZ publishes report highlighting issues and exposing MFAT officials for not acknowledging them.

    An Israel Institute of New Zealand report included reference to the IMPACT-se and UN Watch reports. The IINZ report also exposed a complete failure of MFAT officials to record issues raised in previous meetings or to brief the minister about issues within UNRWA.
    MFAT responded to a draft of the IINZ report before its publication with “…the Ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report* once the investigation is complete and provide advice to the New Zealand Government. New Zealand will not make any further payments to UNRWA until we have reviewed the report’s findings and assessed UNRWA’s response to any recommendations.  New Zealand reviews UNRWA’s reporting as well as independent reviews (such as the MOPAN review) and engage with other donors to assess UNRWA’s performance. Thank you for providing a copy of your draft report. We are conscious these are complex issues and it is not for the Ministry to question your assessments…”
    * The OIOS report was scoped to only look at allegations of abuses of authority by senior UNRWA staff, not at all to investigate the other issues with UNRWA, including the curriculum used in schools.

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  31. The UN expresses concern over PA textbooks.

    The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern “about the existence of hate speech in … [Palestinian Authority] school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism.”

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  32. Sept 2019

    IMPACT-se finds new PA curriculum is “more radical than those previously published”.

    IMPACT-se report found “the new Palestinian curriculum showed them to be more radical than those previously published, with a clear deterioration in content meeting UNESCO standards. There is a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects in a more extensive and sophisticated manner, embracing a full spectrum of extreme nationalist ideas and Islamist ideologies that extend even into the teaching of mathematics and science, including: physics, chemistry and biology. The possibility of peace with Israel is rejected. Legitimacy of any historical Jewish presence in what is today Israel and the Palestinian Authority or of the current Jewish presence in Israel, is entirely absentfrom the curriculum.”

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  33. EU commissions a report on textbooks from the Georg Eckert Institute.

    The European Union commissioned the Georg Eckert Institute to undertake another review of Palestinian Authority textbooks.

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  34. UN Watch exposes UNWRA teaches inciting violence on social media.

    A UN Watch report exposed six more UNRWA teachers promoting antisemitism and terrorist incitement on social media. UN Watch executive director, Hillel Neuer, also said “Despite our prior identification of UNRWA teachers who endorse Hitler and call for killing Jews, I am not aware of a single UNRWA teacher who has been fired as a result.”

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  35. Oct-Nov 2019

    MFAT respond to IINZ citing irrelevant investigation.

    IINZ asked more specific questions of MFAT about the incitement to violence and hate taught in UNRWA schools. An MFAT official responded with “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is aware UNRWA is currently under investigation. The Ministry will be reviewing the findings of the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services report* once the investigation is complete. We expect UNRWA to cooperate fully with the current investigation and report back on the investigation’s findings and recommendations. MFAT will then assess UNRWA’s response and provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding future funding. Your concerns regarding this issue have been carefully noted.”
    * The OIOS report was scoped to only look at allegations of abuses of authority by senior UNRWA staff, not at all to investigate the other issues with UNRWA, including the curriculum used in schools.

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  36. Dec 2019

    MFAT respond to IINZ, again citing irrelevant investigation.

    MFAT responded to IINZ concerns about the curriculum used in UNRWA schools that “The ministry is aware UNRWA is currently under investigation… the ministry will be reviewing the findings of the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services report…”
    * The OIOS report was scoped to only look at allegations of abuses of authority by senior UNRWA staff, not at all to investigate the other issues with UNRWA, including the curriculum used in schools.

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  37. 2020

    New Zealand gave approx NZD$1m to UNRWA, consistent with previous years.

  38. Feb 2020

    PWC report to UNICEF exposes hate in PA textbooks.

    Palestinian Media Watch submitted a report to UNICEF in which they exposed, much like the IMPACT-se report, the PA curriculum indoctrinating Palestinian children to hate Jews and Israel, and to believe in the destruction of Israel

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  39. UN Watch submits evidence to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    UN Watch made a written statement on Palestinian Violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – Education, Agenda Items 7 and 9. They evidenced incitement by PA officials and educators, the PA’s curriculum of hate (used by UNRWA), and the fact that the PA names schools, summer camps, and youth centers after terrorists. The UN Human Rights Office censored the UN Watch submissions.

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  40. March 2020

    MFAT excuses curriculum to Minister Peters on the basis that PA produces the content.

    MFAT includes issues in briefing to the minister, writing “New Zealand’s support to UNRWA is under public scrutiny. We are satisfied that our levels of engagement provide us with the insights and information to respond to enquiries about the mandated activities of UNRWA… In response to media allegations that UNRWA-supplied textbooks promote anti-Semitism and terrorism, officials have confirmed that the Palestinian Authority, not UNRWA, is responsible for the final curriculum and production of textbooks.”

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  41. MFAT claims issues of UNRWA staff inciting violence on social media have been addressed.

    MFAT responds to more specific questions from IINZ with “…the Ministry is satisfied that there is not a widespread issue of UNRWA staff inciting terror or support for terrorist organisation, and that isolated incidents have been addressed appropriately, in line with UNRWA’s neutrality policy…”. This is different to what UN Watch executive director, Hillel Neuer, said in Sept 2019 –  “Despite our prior identification of UNRWA teachers who endorse Hitler and call for killing Jews, I am not aware of a single UNRWA teacher who has been fired as a result.”

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  42. Aug 2020

    Major flaws found in interim report from Georg Eckert Institute.

    An interim report from the Germany-based Georg Eckert Institute was found to have major flaws, including reviewing the wrong textbooks (Israeli instead of Palestinian), mistranslations of basic Arabic, a lack of familiarity with Palestinian culture and, citing non-existent research.

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  43. Sept 2020

    IMPACT-se find new PA curriculum is even more radical.

    IMPACT-se report found the new Palestinian curriculum found it to have moved further from meeting UNESCO standards and the newly published textbooks were found to be more radical than those previously published.
    There is a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects. Extreme nationalism and Islamist ideologies are widespread throughout the curriculum, including science and math textbooks.
    The possibility of peace with Israel is rejected. Any historical Jewish presence in the modern-day territories of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is entirely omitted from the textbooks.”

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  44. Oct 2020

    NZ Human Rights Commission meets with MFAT to discuss funding hate.

    The Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Prof Paul Hunt, and the Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, and their colleagues met with MFAT staff. Prof Hunt told The Israel Institute of New Zealand that he conveyed the following points to MFAT in their meeting:
    “NZ’s international human rights obligations do not stop where its territorial sea ends.
    When NZ Ministers enter the meeting rooms of the United Nations, they carry with them NZ’s international human rights obligations. These binding obligations are not left in the cloakroom outside the meeting room.
    Furthermore, the HRC stated that “the same principle applies to public funds from the NZ taxpayer. Such funds must be disbursed in a way that is consistent with NZ’s international human rights commitments. Of course, among those obligations are those enshrined in CERD. If NZ taxpayer funds are being used to publish antisemitic textbooks, this would place NZ in breach of its international human rights obligations.”

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  45. MFAT claims they take concerns about the curriculum seriously and are awaiting the final Georg Eckert Institute report.

    MFAT wrote in response to further questions from IINZ that “…New Zealand is aware of claims about the inclusion of anti-Semitic teachings in Palestinian Authority textbooks used in UNRWA schools. These are accusations that New Zealand takes extremely seriously… The European Union [via the Georg Eckert Institute*] is currently reviewing the contents of the textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authorities. We await the outcome of this review.”
    *An interim report from the Germany-based Georg Eckert Institute was found to have major flaws, including reviewing the wrong textbooks (Israeli instead of Palestinian), mistranslations of basic Arabic, a lack of familiarity with Palestinian culture and, citing non-existent research.

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  46. Head of the Georg Eckert Institute study group admits serious errors made in interim report.

    Dr. Riem Spielhaus, the head of the Georg Eckert Institute study group commissioned to undertake the EU-funded review, admits that they mistakenly included Israeli textbooks in their work. This contradicted official EU statements that said no false textbooks had been included in the report. Niclas Herbst, a member of the European Parliament, said “these are serious mistakes and the E.U. commissioner is trying to cover it all up.” Christian Tybring-Gjedde, vice chair of Norway’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said he is “concerned about the quality of the GEI report,” and that there are “some significant shortcomings” in it. Steve McCabe, a UK MP, said the British government was spending taxpayers’ money “on a review which appears deeply flawed” and accused the government of “hiding behind the E.U. to escape accountability for its own inaction,”

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  47. Nov 2020

    MFAT officials brief incoming Minister Mahuta, saying they are are awaiting the final Georg Eckert Institute report.

    MFAT submit briefing for incoming minister of foreign affairs, including “Claims have been made about the inclusion of anti-Semitic teachings in Palestinian Authority textbooks used in schools funded by the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA provides humanitarian support and basic services to Palestinian refugees. New Zealand has supported UNRWA since its establishment in 1949 and has provided $7 million in funding since 2015. With the exception of the US (which withdrew funding in 2018), other donor countries continue to support UNRWA. UNRWA’s mandate and operations face intense scrutiny, and it has policies and systems to monitor and alert donors to potential breaches in neutrality across its operations. New Zealand takes the accusations regarding textbooks extremely seriously. There is public interest in this issue, which has been brought to the attention of the New Zealand Human Rights and Race Relations Commissioners. We are awaiting the outcome of a review by the EU [via the Georg Eckert Institute] of textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authorities (expected in the coming months), and will work with other donor countries to assess the implications for UNRWA. Depending on the review outcome, this issue may require a response at ministerial level.”

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The Human Rights Commission, like MFAT, has resolved to wait for the Georg Eckert Institute before making further comment or taking any action. There was no explanation given by either the HRC or MFAT about why they ignore the evidence from the IMPACT-se, UN Watch, Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and United Nations reports.

There is also new evidence that the UNRWA curriculum in Gaza is even worse than the PA curriculum. New Zealand is expected to pay another $1m to UNRWA in March unless there is intervention. If you are concerned about your tax funding hate, please consider raising your concerns with Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, MFAT officials, The Human Rights Commission, or your favourite media outlet.