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Canada is Being Misled on UNRWA Materials

An image of an UNRWA building in the Gaza Strip (JNS)

Feb. 18, 2021

OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada is urging the Government of Canada to immediately freeze its support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), after fresh revelations about its school materials have proved that the United Nations agency misled its donors, including Canada.


In January, The Honourable Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister for International Development, announced an investigation after discovering that UNRWA was using textbooks that promoted violence and erased Israel from the map. UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, claimed at the time that the materials were distributed “mistakenly” and “quickly replaced with content that adheres to UN values.”

But a new report released by the IMPACT-se monitoring group shows this to be untrue. In fact, UNRWA continues to use materials that erase Israel from its maps, describe cities such as Ramla in Israel proper as “occupied” and “Palestinian,” and encourage children to wage jihad against “the Occupation” and “the Enemy.”

Students are even asked to conjugate phrases such as “pieces of corpses,” “jihad is the road of glory” and “walking with a limp excuses its owner from jihad.”

More disturbingly, some of the violent material was not adapted from Palestinian Authority textbooks, but created by UNRWA-trained educators and does not appear in textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority. The Government of Canada pledged $90 million in funding for UNRWA over three years in December of 2020.

B’nai Brith has repeatedly warned that this funding faces the possibility of misuse and that the onus is on Canada to ensure that this does not happen.

“These fresh revelations demonstrate beyond all doubt that the most recent ‘lapses’ are not a one-time error and that UNRWA cannot be trusted to monitor its own materials,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “UNRWA is trying to take advantage of the Canadian government and Canadian taxpayers, and the only fitting response is to freeze funding.

“UNRWA has always said they have no choice but to teach the curriculum provided by the Palestinian Authority and has guardrails in place to ensure conformity with UN values. This is clearly not the case. No school in Canada would be permitted to use materials like these – so why should Canadians be asked to help finance such hatred abroad?”

Of the world’s refugees, one group — the Palestinians — is treated entirely differently from all others who are assisted by the UN High Commission for Refugees. UNHCR estimates that, over five decades, it has assisted 50 million refugees “to help restart their lives.”

The 1951 Refugee Convention explicitly does not apply to Palestinians, who fall within the purview of UNRWA. There is no equivalent UN body for anyone else in the world.

The definition of a refugee under the UNRWA mandate is also unique. It covers all descendants on the father’s side, without limit, of those deemed refugees in 1948. This helps explain why the original 720,000 refugees from the 1947-1948 period of war against the founding of the State of Israel now number close to 6 million according to UNRWA itself.

Unlike the UNHCR, UNRWA does not seek to solve the Palestinian refugee problem, but rather to perpetuate it as a political weapon against Israel by, among other things, insisting on a claim of the “right of return” to the Jewish state for those uniquely designated as Palestinian refugees.