Daily Briefing: Preparing Palestinians for Peace Starts in UNRWA Schools (July 4, 2019)

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Logo.
(Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

Table of Contents
Peace To Prosperity’ Starts In Palestinian Schools:  Marcus Sheff, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2019
New Generation Of Lebanese Palestinians Demand Normal Lives: Ahron Shapiro, AIJAC, July 1, 2019
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Peace To Prosperity’ Starts In Palestinian Schools
Marcus Sheff
Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2019The American “Peace to Prosperity” plan for the Palestinian people quite rightly focuses on enhancing Palestinian education, concentrating on funding higher education and, in particular, the creation of a new Palestinian university. Improving higher education in the Palestinian Authority is important. But it is the school system that passes on the values that shape subsequent generations. School curricula are the key to achieving the tolerant and open-minded societies of the future. But they are also where negative influences – skewed historical narratives, hatreds of “the other,” and political violence – take root.By the time Palestinian students reach higher education, they have already been thoroughly radicalized by the current Palestinian textbooks.
Comprehensive research by IMPACT-se has shown that the textbooks and materials being taught to Palestinian students are at complete odds with the values of the Western governments footing the bill for their production.The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through peaceful means is not taught. Peace agreements, summits, and proposals with Israel that previously appeared in PA schoolbooks have been removed.Antisemitism is now more prevalent than in previous curricula, as is the demonetization of Israel, which is described as the “Zionist occupation” and systematically characterized through examples of evil-doing.There are no examples of cooperation between Israel and the PA, and no education for coexistence, further removing any remnant of Israel recognized by the PA in the Oslo Accords.
Instead, Palestinian textbooks are replete with encouragement to violence. Children under the age of 10 recite a poem calling for “sacrificing blood” to remove the enemy from the land by “eliminating the usurper,” and to “annihilate the remnants of the foreigners.”Newton’s Second Law of Motion is taught by way of a slingshot and the image of a violent confrontation, thus encouraging young Palestinians toward actions of violence and self-sacrifice. They are taught to aspire to a life dedicated to jihad – that martyrdom is a realistic and recommended life goal. In perhaps the ultimate betrayal of youth, they are told that choosing death is better than choosing life.For a peace plan to succeed, children need to understand what peace looks like. And if children have graduated after 12 years of an intense radicalization program at school, all the training the academy can bring to bear will not contribute to a peaceful society. There have been more than enough terrorists with impressive engineering degrees.A bill passing through the US Congress deals with this issue. HR-2343, the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act, ensures that the State Department will annually review the Palestinian curriculum used by the PA and UNRWA for content encouraging violence, antisemitism, and intolerance. It mirrors European Parliament legislation passed in April 2018, stating that European Union funds to the Palestinian Authority must not be used for teaching hate.The European Commission is currently conducting its own investigation into the Palestinian curriculum. As commission vice-president Federica Mogherini stated, “Incitement to violence is fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-state solution and is greatly exacerbating mistrust between the communities.” Labour Friends of Israel members of the British Parliament reacted similarly when discovering that UK aid is funding lessons in hate.By concentrating on higher education, the “Peace to Prosperity” plan skips the hard part of ensuring that 1.3 million Palestinian children receive a peace education. That can only happen when the Palestinian school textbooks are changed.______________________________________________________
Time To Rethink Our Attitudes Toward Middle East Refugees
Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe
Tablet, July 18, 2018As the Trump administration prepares to release its Middle East peace plan, rumors are many, but few of the details have yet come into focus. Two elements that should be at the center are refugee crises, one real, the other not. There are currently 655,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan and another 1.1 million in Lebanon and 3.5 million in Turkey. In addition, there are over 6 million internally displaced persons. This does not begin to count other Middle Eastern refugees, in Yemen, Sudan, and elsewhere.
In contrast, the U.N. believes there are over 5 million Palestinians refugees worldwide, while a still classified report from the Obama administration may put the actual number remaining who fled in 1948 at around 30,000.
A report we recently authored laid out Middle Eastern refugee issues in historical and comparative perspective. The permanence and scale of the international response to the 1948 Palestine refugee crisis are unique, even compared with the colossal crises of World War I and World War II. In those cases, which affected tens of millions, the most effective responses were temporary organizations that approached refugee crises broadly and which were quickly shut down after the crisis was ameliorated, however imperfectly.
Even a casual glance at the bottom line shows the disparate allocation of resources to modern refugee populations. The international community has allocated $5.6 billion to Syrian refugees through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, while Palestinians receive $1.36 billion through UNRWA, an organization that has spent tens of billions since its creation in 1950. Permanent welfare organizations dedicated to specific refugee populations perpetuate themselves and the problems they purport to address.
The Trump administration has signaled displeasure with this open-ended expenditure and with the Palestinian Authority’s preemptive rejection of peace proposals by freezing some $65 million of the U.S. contribution to UNRWA. Palestinian leaders reacted with typical fury. But this should be put in perspective: Wages, salaries and employee benefits for UNRWA’s 30,000 employees comprise over $700 million of the total annual expenditure. Whatever else UNRWA does in terms of providing health, education, and welfare services for Palestinians, it is a vast internationally funded jobs program.
Our recommendations have long been for international donors to redirect UNRWA funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in order to let it fulfill its obligations like the state it claims to be. Oversight mechanisms must be dramatically enhanced to limit financial corruption. But a debate should be held about whether the PA should be bypassed altogether in favor of local Palestinian service providers. But we need to go beyond simply the matter of money. A change of culture is needed on all sides, first and foremost the recognition that there are far more pressing crises in the Middle East and around the world and that the Palestinian issue is an obstacle to providing for real refugees.
For the international community it means realizing, at long last, that Palestinians are not refugees; they are residents and citizens of various countries, including the nascent State of Palestine. Descendants of Palestinians who left what is now Israel 70 years ago may have claims for compensation but there is no “right of return” to their ancestors’ homes. Countries like Lebanon, which have discriminated against Palestinians in housing and employment markets must be forced to accept reality and integrate the populations they have hosted for decades. If they refuse, then their international support should be reexamined. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]______________________________________________________Europe is the New Front in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Gavin Mortimer
The Spectator, May 18, 2019Gaza has a galvanizing effect on Europeans. Jeremy Corbyn, for example, appeared to have no consolatory words for France after last week’s Islamist knife attack in Paris, yet on Monday he posted messages on Twitter and Facebook expressing his disgust with Israel. Likewise in France, the far-left, curiously quiet whenever there’s a terrorist attack on their patch, have this week staged protests in Lyon, Marseille, Rouen, Paris and Bordeaux to voice their opposition to Israel’s killing of 62 Palestinians, the victims including several children and fifty members of Hamas, an EU-designated terror organisation.
But what do the protestors in France hope to achieve? Emmanuel Macron reportedly “condemned the violence and underlined the importance of protecting civilian populations” in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In addition, France has expressed its disapproval of America’s decision to relocate their embassy to Jerusalem.One should at least be grateful that the demonstrations in France passed off peacefully. That wasn’t the case in the summer of 2014 after Israel launched an offensive in retaliation for the kidnap and murder by Hamas of three teenage boys. The military action angered thousands of French and the protests, spread over several weeks, grew increasingly violent with the worst scenes in Sarcelles, a suburb in northern Paris known as ‘Little Jerusalem’ because of its large Jewish community. Shops and synagogues were attacked by a mob chanting ‘Kill the Jews’, and overall in 2014 anti-Semitic attacks in France increased by 130 percent.That explains why Jews in Paris have a foreboding about this latest violence in the Middle East. They know the likely consequences: more attacks in a city that is becoming a dangerous place in which to be a Jew. The unease will be felt to a lesser extent in the Élysée Palace because French presidents know that whenever trouble erupts in Gaza, the tremors are felt at home.Marc Hecker, the author of a ‘French Intifada’, told Le Figaro in July 2014 that “the importation of conflict into our country dates from the Second Intifada in 2000”. Many young French Muslims see in Gaza the same oppression that they experience every day – or so they’re led to believe in fiery YouTube videos, and radical mosques – and so they identity with the Palestinians’ cause in a way previous generations of French Muslims never did.The nervousness Macron feels will also be furrowing the brows of his counterparts in Germany, Holland, Britain and Belgium, countries that are also experiencing a worrying rise in anti-Semitism.In contrast, Donald Trump doesn’t need to worry about how Israel’s actions in Gaza might play out at home. America’s Muslim population is minuscule: 3.3m in a country of 323m (one percent), and there isn’t the Islamification of inner-cities that is happening across western Europe. Only this week, a paper in France reported that one district south of Paris is now largely controlled by Salafists, with a “religious police” patrolling the area to enforce Islamic law. The next day in Le Figaro, an anti-terrorist lawyer warned that France is in a period of “false calm” and “the worst is yet to come”. Scores of Islamists are scheduled to be released from prison in the next two years, he explained, and the growing fear in France is that there will be attacks similar in scale and organisation to the Bataclan slaughter of 2015. Some of those due for release were imprisoned for participating in the 2014 pro-Palestine riots. France experienced the most serious violence but there were also ugly scenes in Belgium and Germany, the latter including chants of “Jews to the gas” and “Allahu Akbar”. The trouble prompted the New York Times to comment that:“As European support for the Palestinian cause and criticism of Israel have hardened, many Jews describe a blurring of distinctions between being anti-Israel and being anti-Jewand many Jews who have voted with the Socialist Party in France and Belgium worry that those parties are weak and becoming more dependent on fast-growing Muslim voting blocs.” [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________A Framework For European-Russian Cooperation In Syria
Julien Barnes-Dacey
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 17, 2019After more than eight years of conflict in Syria, it is now clear that there won’t be a near-term political transition away from Bashar al-Assad. This is a reality that Europeans, by and large, now accept. This does not mean, however, that Europeans are prepared to re-engage with Syria’s new landscape without conditions. On the contrary, European policy remains focused on the need to secure still meaningful gains and European tools, including sanctions, reconstruction funding and any political legitimation remain tied to this end. Key European governments continue to hope that these cards can be used to extract compromises out of Damascus.

For some European governments, the path to possible progress also depends on Russia, which is seen as being the only player that can force Assad to shift position. But while European officials are encouraged by recent US-Russian re-engagement on Syria, they remain cautious about what Moscow is willing to deliver. Until Europeans see some movement from Moscow towards delivering tangible progress on the ground, they will continue to believe that there is no justifiable reason to soften their position. There is some belief that Russia will only act once the costly burden of the longer-term management of Syria becomes more apparent, increasing Russia’s desire to lock in European financial and political support.

To this backdrop it remains hard to envisage space to forge a middle ground position which could still shape more constructive European-Russian cooperation in Syria. But while hope for progress is slim, it may be possible to outline the contours of an arrangement that could still prove mutually beneficial, delivering both ground improvements sought by Europeans and the European engagement sought by Russia. Ultimately, though, this pathway can only move forward if both sides shift position, accepting an outcome that delivers less than they currently seek.

Shared European-Russian interests in Syria?
Europeans believe that they share a number of key interests with Russia in Syria. Most fundamentally, the two are seen as wanting to secure stability, one that ensures that Syria is not a source of ongoing regional instability and terrorism threats that could impact both Europe and Russia. This necessitates the sustained defeat of ISIS and the closing down of space for other similar groups to emerge. For Europeans, the desire to secure a stable Syria is linked to the possibility of seeing Syrian refugees return home, from both within the region but also European states (though there is less domestic political pressure on this issue within Europe than Russia appears to believe). This is an outcome that Russia claims to support. Finally, there seems to be some shared desire to decrease Iranian influence in Syria, albeit in a more managed, diplomatically engaged and less zero-sum fashion that is now being advanced by the US administration.

If these broad principles are shared, there are nonetheless deep and critical differences over the mutual interpretation of meaningful stability. Europeans have no confidence that the Assad order – as it is currently being reconstituted – can secure real stability able to guarantee European interests. Whereas Russia appears to be betting on the Assad-led Syrian government to recement stability, Europeans see the current system as the fundamental source of ongoing instability. Assad’s ruthless ongoing policies towards detainees and returnees are seen as prime examples, with current government policies likely to feed ongoing polarisation and block any pathway to national reconciliation.

While most Europeans have given up on insisting on Assad’s departure, they broadly share the belief that the Syrian government has to change approach and establish a new national contract capable of holding the population together. This process could conceivably be led by Damascus, though few have any confidence in Assad, but needs to be meaningful and institutionalized in a fashion that has hitherto wholly not been the case. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

On Topic Links:
Declassified Report on UNRWA Accuses State Department of Misleading Congress on Palestinian Textbooks:  Jackson Richman,  JNS, Feb. 8, 2019 –– A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office accuses the U.S. State Department of misleading Congress over recent couple years regarding actions by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, over the distribution of textbooks that promote Palestinian violence against Israel, evidence that has long been documented.

 

Is UNRWA Crying Wolf?:  Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2019 – A new assessment of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East that was published Tuesday by the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) both contradicts and agrees with the United States’ assessment of the organization.

 

Hamas Endorsement Of UNRWA Elections Underscores The Agency’s Inherent Flaws:  Eliana Rudee, JNS, June 14, 2019 — Following the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) union elections in Gaza on April 24 and the publishing of the results mid-May, various terror groups, including the Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas, have endorsed the new leadership of UNRWA’s union of teachers and administrators.

 

Abbas Vows to Keep the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” Policy to Fund Terrorism:  Jonathan Wasserlauf, Isranet, June 20, 2019 — The Palestinian Authority (PA) funds a financial reward system, the Martyrs Fund, that pays families and their terrorist family members who are jailed or maimed as a result of attacks on Israeli soldiers or civilians, hence, “pay-for-slay”.