Antisemitic and violent themes taught in Palestinian schools administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as well as their employment of teachers linked to terrorist organizations, fostered the extremism that underlaid Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, experts from Israeli education watchdog Impact-se told a U.S. Congressional subcommittee on Tuesday.
Impact-se, provided their testimony amid news that the U.S. and 10 other nations have suspended their funding of UNRWA because of allegations that a dozen of its employees participated in Hamas’ atrocities and that roughly 12,000 have ties to terrorists.
“We know that UNRWA employees took part in this massacre, but these were not a few bad apples, rather, the institutional bowel is rotten,” Impact-se CEO Marcus Sheff told the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Oversight and Accountability. “How do we know? We know by researching UNRWA’s educational infrastructure. In it, textbooks teach that Jews are liars and fraudsters that spread corruption, which will lead to their annihilation. Students are taught about cutting the necks of the enemy, that a fire massacre of Jews on a bus is celebrated as a barbecue party.”
Sheff noted that Impact-se researches have determined that “at least” 100 members of Hamas who have perpetrated previous acts of terrorism were schooled in UNRWA operated facilities and argued that a majority of Hamas terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre were as well.
As The Algemeiner has previously reported, UNRWA textbooks are among the most antisemitic and inciting in the world. No discipline is untouched by the problem. From math to theology, to literature and science, their content promotes blistering hatred for Jews and Israel, indoctrinating students as young as six to commit their lives to “martyrdom” and inter-generational war. Compromise with Israelis is described as betraying Palestinian identity, suicide-bombings as intrinsic to it and a prerequisite for entry into heaven.
In the interim, US aid to UNRWA has been suspended, according to the Department of State as government officials prepare a “thorough and swift investigation” of the agency’s involvement in terror. The US is the agency’s most generous benefactor, giving it $340 million in 2022.
“UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support. Their work has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures, including reviewing its existing policies and procedures,” US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said in s statement on Friday.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Sheff argued UNRWA’s promotion of antisemitism and terror and the events of Oct. 7 are inextricable.
“Impact-se has warned for years about the consequences of this hate education, and I ask you: What can UNRWA possibly offer the next generation of Palestinians? Poisonous textbooks taught too often by extremist teachers? Quite simply, UNRWA is not fit for purpose,” he said.
For over two hours, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs heard from other experts — and, intermittently, hecklers — including, Richard Goldberg of Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, and University of Virginia professor Mara Rudman. They described a perilous situation, for both Israelis and Palestinians, that requires the immediate attention of the world community while sometimes disagreeing on what should be done now.
“When you look at the incitement of violence that has gone on for decades, the internalization in generation after generation to rise up and believe that they are refugees waiting to come back to what is today Israel to drive the Jews into the sea,” Goldberg told the committee. “October 7 is the logical conclusion of UNRWA. It is of course what they have been training generations to do with the resources we have provided going to these terrorist organizations to help carry out that mission. UNRWA is the problem. UNWRA is a part of what happened on Oct. 7, and it will keep happening again if we keep funding it.”
Mara Rudman, defended UNRWA’s role as a social service agency for Palestinians but explained that its officials have been “sanctimonious” and “blind” to problems within the organization.
“US aid to UNRWA is key to meeting basic needs of Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, and is critical to Israel’s security and to US security,” Rudman said. “For that aid to resume, we need a framework to assess what has gone so terribly wrong with the agency and whether it can be righted with internal reform or requires a transition of responsibilities to another organization, within our outside of the UN. The development and oversight of the audit necessary for such assessment should be led outside of UNRWA — no question.”
Rudman concluded by arguing that aid to UNRWA should be resumed while it is thoroughly examined by an outside party, insisting that a humanitarian crisis in Gaza will spread across the Middle East, endangering US and Israeli security.
Many, including nonprofit Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), do not want funding to the agency to resume.
“Today’s hearing only confirmed what we have known for a long time, that UNRWA will never be a partner who can be trusted to live up to its purpose of serving the welfare of the Palestinian people,” the group said in a statement issued on Tuesday. “The United States and its allies must cut funding for UNRWA completely and permanently and find alternative mechanisms to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinian civilians without undermining the security of Israelis.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
Jewish Graves Found in Gaza From WWI Fighting
Soldiers in the IDF’s 188th Brigade were surprised to find Jewish gravestones during fighting in the Gaza Strip. According to reports in Hebrew media, the soldiers were operating in the central Gaza town of Al-Maazi when they noticed stars of David on some of the tombstones at a cemetery in the town.
The cemetery, it turned out, was one of the fallen British soldiers of World War I who fought in the land of Israel against the Ottoman Empire some 110 years ago. The photos of the gravesite holding an Israeli flag went viral on social media due to the irony of the situation. One of the soldiers there, Lt. Col. Oren, told Hebrew media “It was damaged a bit in the battles, but it can be restored. We noticed the stars of David on the tombstones and names like Goldreich. We returned after a few days to the place and said Kaddish on the graves after many years.” The kaddish prayer is one typically said by Jews to honor the dead.
According to the troops, there are seven Jewish tombstones in the cemetery that was found near a Hamas weapons cache. Oren added “We also found there, next to the cemetery, a cache for the production of many weapons. We did not check if there was an underground tunnel under the cemetery because we did not want to harm its sanctity. In other cemeteries, we located combat tunnels that Hamas had built underneath. We were amazed that we found such a pure place in this cursed area.”
The land of Israel was a central battleground during World War I, after which the British took reign of the land from the Ottomans who had controlled it for centuries prior. Due to their control of the land for three decades, there are today eight British military cemeteries spread across the country, many of those buried being British soldiers or policemen.
Israelis Continue to Protest Entry of Aid to Gaza
Dozens of Israelis formed a human chain at a Gaza border crossing, as protests against the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip continued. The demonstrations have led to the IDF closing off two of the crossings, labeling them as “closed military zones.”
Those gathered against the aid consisted of family members of those being held by Hamas in Gaza, as well as every day Israeli citizens opposed to the entry of goods. Of those, 18 were detailed at the Kerem Shalom crossing, one of the main border points between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Despite the demonstrations, 137 trucks passed through for distribution among Gazans.
The decision to close two of the crossings, Kerem Shalom and Nitzana, came in an announcement by Southern Command Commander Major General Aaron Fineklman, who extended the closure to a highway leading to the border.
The issue of aid into the Strip has been a contentious one since the beginning of the war, when Hamas surprised Israel with a barrage of rockets and an invasion that resulted in the murder of over 1,200 Israelis and the taking hostage of over 240. In the days that followed the attack of October 7, Israeli leaders pledged to not allow any aid in, as well as cutting off water and electricity. Following large international pressure, mainly from the United States, aid, water, and electricity started coming in. Additional aid also accompanied the November hostage deal that saw more than 100 hostages sent free.
Despite this, many Israelis have remained firmly opposed to any entry of aid, especially as it is presumed much of it enters into the hands of Hamas and is used in its war against Israel.
In a poll published by Israel’s Channel 12 on Tuesday, 72% of Israelis said that all aid should be stopped until all the hostages are released, with only 21% supporting its entry. The government has not signaled that they will stop aid at the moment.
‘There is No Antisemitism Here,’ South African Justice Minister Claims, Despite 631 Percent Increase in Attacks on Jews
The claim of South Africa’s Justice Minister that there is no antisemitism targeting the country’s Jewish community drew a forthright response from Jewish leaders on Wednesday, who also accused the South African government of “creating an environment that emboldens antisemites.”
In an interview with the BBC’s “Hard Talk” program on Monday, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola flatly denied that antisemitism — which has soared in South Africa in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel and the Israeli government’s military response — was a problem.
When presenter Stephen Sackur quoted South African Jewish leader Howard Sackstein saying that he was “staring at my suitcase contemplating whether it’s time to leave the only home I’ve ever known,” underlining as well his fear that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government had been “captured by radical Islamists,” Lamola dismissed these concerns outright, going on to attack the “Zionist state.”
“It’s a very unfortunate statement not backed by any facts, it’s a figment of his own imagination,” Lamola said.
Lamola added that the case charging Israel with “genocide” brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by South Africa was “not against the Jews as a people, it’s against the Zionist State of Israel,” which was “maiming and killing the Palestinians as a group in Gaza,” he said.
The ICJ’s ruling last week essentially rejected South Africa’s argument, with no immediate order issued to Israel to halt the war, only the demand that assistance must be provided to improve humanitarian conditions and measures taken to prevent acts or incitement against the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention.
When Sackur pointed out that there had been a precipitous rise in antisemitic attacks in South Africa since Oct. 7, Lamola fired back, “there’s no such…there is no antisemitism in South Africa against the Jewish people.”
A statement from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) on Wednesday highlighted that between October and December of last year, in the weeks following the Hamas assault, 139 antisemitic incidents were recorded, compared with 19 in the same period of 2022 — an increase of 631 percent.
The statement pointed out that there had also been as “a sharp increase in physical attacks against Jewish persons or property, something which had occurred only rarely in previous years. There were six cases of physical assault, whereas the annual average had been only one in the preceding decade.”
Among the violent incidents recorded were two cases of assault outside a Johannesburg synagogue, an attack on a Johannesburg rabbi, and a Jewish community member being repeatedly struck over the head with a pole at a pro-Hamas rally in Cape Town. Vandalism included damage and desecration to Jewish cemeteries in Pretoria and Durban.
During the incident in Cape Town, the targeted individual was surrounded by dozens of violent protestors who bellowed “Viva Hamas” and “Murderers,” telling him “Hitler did not kill all of you guys, just so that we could all see exactly why he did it.”
South Africa’s Jewish community “has prided itself on the relatively low levels of antisemitism compared to other Jewish Diaspora communities,” the SAJBD remarked. “However our government has created an environment where antisemitism can flourish with Minister Lamola’s comments being an example. We call on Minister Lamola and the ANC Government to stop dismissing antisemitism and to stop creating an environment that emboldens antisemites.”
A report on South African antisemitism submitted by the SAJBD to the US State Department and shared with The Algemeiner described how South African Jews increasingly face opprobrium and hatred in their daily lives.
“A ‘naming and shaming’ process has been adopted, where people are encouraged to shun those characterized as ‘genocidal baby killers’ and the like,” the report noted.
In one of several hateful emails sent to members of the community, a Jewish doctor in Cape Town was virulently abused by a former patient who accused him of financial dishonesty.
“I don’t expect anything from a Jewish c*** like you; it’s true what they say about you Jews, it’s ******* huge noses ***** greedy,” the email ranted. It ended, “my sexy rat-eyed y*d, we are coming for you. Hail [sic] HITLER.”
Lamola’s denial of South Africa’s antisemitism problem followed his assertion last week that the ICJ case brought against Israel meant that Nelson Mandela, the late South African President who led the ANC in its struggle against apartheid, “will be smiling in his grave.”
ANC leaders have repeatedly invoked Mandela in a political campaign against Israel that has intensified over the last decade. However, Mandela was a supporter of the two-state solution, declaring in a 1993 address to the Jewish community, “As a movement we recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism just as we recognize the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish nationalism. We insist on the right of the state of Israel to exist within secure borders but with equal vigor support the Palestinian right to national self-determination.”