by Rabbi Chaim Silberstein and Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in The Jewish Press
The recent exposure of UNRWA’s complicity in the Hamas massacre of October 7 has fittingly prompted many countries – including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France – to suspend their funding of UNRWA. This awakening resulted from the overwhelming evidence that UNRWA in Gaza is not only permeated with Hamas members and supporters and allowed its facilities and vehicles to be used for terror, but also that UNRWA in Gaza has itself become a wing of Hamas. Its permanent defunding and disbandment should follow naturally.
At the same time, we would be wise to note UNRWA’s nefarious activities in Jerusalem that greatly resemble its activities in Gaza. For example, UNRWA subsidizes and controls seven schools in eastern Jerusalem located in Shuafat, Silwan, Wadi-al-Joz, the Old City, the Mount of Olives, and Sur Baher. The curriculum of these UNRWA schools is rife with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement. The students – some as young as first and second graders – are educated to believe in Israel’s illegitimacy as well as the noble virtue and religious imperative of murdering Jews wherever they can be found. A video dating from 2022 which recently surfaced saw students in these UNRWA schools boasting of their willingness to become suicide bombers, that they are taught “all Palestine is ours and the Jews are terrorists,” and that “stabbing Jews brings honor to Palestinians.”
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These schools are unconscionably spawning the next generation of terrorists, all sponsored by the international community. According to its own reporting, UNRWA spends more than half of its more than billion-dollar budget on education. Indeed, these schools are generally unlicensed and are illegally built on Jerusalem municipal land. Past efforts by the government of Israel to close these schools or remove UNRWA from their management have failed, even though Israel’s Ministry of Education is responsible for their supervision. These efforts have failed mainly due to inertia, lack of will, and international pressure.
Additionally, UNRWA years ago illegally seized, built on, and now occupies land in Jerusalem that is owned by the Jewish National Fund. This area, on an area of many acres, is located in Kafr Akeb within the municipal borders of Jerusalem and close to the Kalandia crossing. UNRWA even uprooted a grove planted decades ago by the JNF in order to take over this territory. UNRWA should be removed, and the land restored to JNF.
Today, UNRWA maintains extensive office facilities in Jerusalem, including its local headquarters as well as the UNRWA Microfinance Department on Shlomo Zalman Shragai Street between Ramat Eshkol and Maalot Dafna, even as UNWRA does not recognize this area as Israeli Jerusalem. The latter office purportedly provides credit and financial services to households, entrepreneurs, and small-business owners. Its Jerusalem center is considered part of UNRWA’s “West Bank” engagement. Its every action is designed to undermine Israeli sovereignty and weaken Israeli security.
UNRWA’s Jerusalem activities are inimical to Israel’s security. UNRWA has interfered in the Israeli legal system, including protests against the lawful eviction of Arab squatters in Jerusalem neighborhoods. UNRWA maintains a daily log of incidents in which Israeli security forces “reportedly opened fire” on Palestinians, almost never providing the context, background, or anti-terror nature of these interactions.
UNRWA exists exclusively to perpetuate the refugee status of a fourth and fifth generation of purported descendants of the refugees from the 1948 War of Independence. It assists the refugee camps in Jerusalem by maintaining them, by making no effort to resettle its inhabitants in permanent residences, and stoking Palestinian grievances against Israel through its educational, cultural, legal, and political activities.
It is nothing less than a hostile entity openly operating with impunity in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city, waging a cold war against Israel’s existence. It is corrupt, anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and an ill-concealed cover for Hamas terror.
UNRWA’s network of schools in East Jerusalem should be shuttered by the Israeli government, its management taken over by Israel’s Ministry of Education, and its curriculum completely revamped. Its illegal seizure of land across Jerusalem must be reversed, UNRWA evicted, and the area restored to the control of the Jewish National Fund.
Indeed, the time has come to banish UNRWA itself from Jerusalem and from the State of Israel. It is an anachronism and a harmful and counterproductive one at that. Arab refugees in the land of Israel, like refugees across the world, should fall under the purview of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The goal should be to resettle these refugees rather than keep them as useful pawns in the war against Israel. Palestinian refugees are the only refugees remaining from the post-World War Two refugee crises and re-drawing of international boundaries who are still considered refugees, have not been resettled, and transmit their refugee status from generation to generation. This has no precedent in world history and Israel should no longer indulge the prolonging of this conflict by artificially construing Palestinians as refugees ad infinitum. UNWRA is part of the problem, not the solution.
The presence of UNRWA and other United Nations institutions constitutes a clear and present threat to Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem and across the land of Israel and to the lives and well-being of all Israelis. It is an inexcusable encroachment on Israel’s land and internal affairs. It should no longer be tolerated.
Originally published in The Jewish Press
Photo Credit: UNIS Vienna on Flickr