Israel is set to revoke permits issued to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNWRA, to operate schools for Arab residents in eastern Jerusalem over allegations of inciting terror, The Times of Israel reported Sunday.
According to Israeli media reports, the nation’s National Security Council will start enforcing the decision next school year by which time UNWRA-operated schools will be replaced by schools run by the Jerusalem municipality, under the jurisdiction of Israel’s education ministry.
UNRWA currently operates seven schools within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, serving over 3,000 students.
The decision was reportedly reached during a National Security Council meeting last month, following the announcement by the United States that it would cease funding of the agency over a lack of reform.
TIP CEO and President, Josh Block, wrote in an op-ed published in The Algemeiner in August that “UNRWA has created a mentality of perpetual victimhood among Palestinians — i.e. the right of return — an ideology that perpetuates a false promise (the end of the Jewish state) and legitimizes an often violent addiction to the destruction of Israel.”
He added that “UNWRA’s role in perpetuating that false notion is a major impediment to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Israel rejects UNRWA’s Palestinian-only definition under which refugee status is extended not only to the tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled Israel but also to over five million of their generations of descendants.
According to UNRWA, a Palestinian refugee is anyone who resided in “Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict,” as well as all their descendants. Meanwhile for UNHCR — the UN agency that deals with all other refugees in the world — to classify someone as a refugee requires that person to be either persecuted or stateless.
Distrust in UNRWA crosses Israel’s political spectrum. Yesh Atid opposition party leader Yair Lapid said in September that UNRWA is guilty of “providing cover to terror,” and has “lost sight of its purpose” by servicing “5.5 million fake refugees.” He was referring to the agency’s unique policy of counting descendants of refugees as refugees.
UNRWA, Lapid added, “perpetuates the big Palestinian lie, as if there are 5 million Palestinian refugees who have a ‘right of return.’ There aren’t 5 million refugees, and they don’t have a right of return.”
In May of last year, Switzerland’s new foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis, said that UNRWA hindered the prospects of peace in the Middle East by fueling “unrealistic” hopes of Palestinians returning to their homes.
Earlier this month, Conservative Friends of Israel urged Britain’s International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt to take “a firmer approach” to UNWRA over inciting violence against Israelis. In a letter to the minister, the group conveyed “longstanding concerns” over “the presence of antisemitism, violent rhetoric and incitement within the Palestinian Authority (PA) curriculum,” which is dispersed by UNRWA across its network of some 700 schools.
[Photo: rusticus80 / WikiCommons ]