Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director, Dr David Cumin, is calling on New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to immediately freeze funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in light of a Human Rights Commission investigation into the use of New Zealand taxpayer funding to incite violence.
According to Dr Cumin, UNRWA funding is being used for a variety of purposes – including the use of Palestinian Authority school textbooks which fuel hatred.
“For decades, groups like the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education have been producing reports clearly identifying material in the textbooks that glorify terror and teach children to hate.
In 2019, even 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 and cautioned that these would further fuel antisemitism.
These textbooks are used in schools operated by UNRWA which receives funding from New Zealand to the tune of around $1 million per year. This is disgraceful and makes a mockery of any government rhetoric that opposes extremism.”
Dr Cumin says that, according to the reports, textbooks and classroom materials produced and distributed by UNRWA to children in Gaza and the West Bank portray terrorists as heroes and role models. He said that UNRWA has recently admitted their textbooks were “not in line with U.N. values”, claimed they were “mistakenly” produced and distributed to Palestinian children, and then hateful material was once again exposed among their school texts.
“UNRWA’s own teachers produced and distributed material that promoted terror to more than 300,000 children. When they were caught, they said sorry and then tried to hide the practice continuing. New Zealand must demand accountability from an organisation that MFAT continues to support with taxpayer money and political goodwill.”
Dr Cumin says that, in addition to the antisemitic curriculum, UN Monitoring Agency UN Watch exposed dozens of UNRWA staff inciting violence on social media and, in 2019, UN Watch executive director, Hillel Neuer, is quoted as saying that he was “not aware of a single UNRWA teacher who has been fired as a result [of inciting violence] despite the seriousness of the problem.”
According to Dr Cumin, the Human Rights Commission is now involved.
“Chief Commissioner, Prof Paul Hunt, has told us 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 and that public funds must be disbursed in a way that is consistent with NZ’s international human rights commitments.”
Dr Cumin says that Professor Hunt has also confirmed that the use of NZ taxpayer funds to publish antisemitic textbooks would place NZ in breach of its international human rights obligations.
“MFAT officials appear to have ignored decades of evidence and even a recent admission from UNRWA that they “mistakenly” included hateful material in material produced for remote learning during COVID-required lockdowns, preferring, instead, to wait for an EU-commissioned report to be produced by the Georg Eckert Institute that is, itself, the subject of controversy.”
“The interim GEI report looked at Israeli textbooks and had fundamental Arabic translation errors. The lead investigator admitted the mistakes, which may be why the report was due in December and has still not been produced.”
Dr Cumin says that New Zealand should follow the lead of traditional allies like Australia, which cut almost half of its funding to UNRWA last year.
“The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has also, recently, said it will investigate the issue of hateful and inciting educational material used in UNRWA schools.”
Dr Cumin says that, in 2018, the United States cut all funding to UNRWA, calling the agency an “irredeemably flawed operation”. And last year Norway withheld funding to the Palestinian Authority over the antisemitic and jihadist content in their textbooks that are used in UNRWA schools.
“Kiwis need to know that one of their core Ministries is knowingly ignoring our human rights obligations and choosing to support the promotion of violence and hatred”.
“This needs to stop. New Zealand must show leadership by calling for a review of the current UNRWA mandate and identifying alternative methods of delivering core education to Palestinians that do not violate the principle of UN neutrality and do not incite violence in the region.”