Sarah: Good afternoon, and welcome to yet another topical and timely EMET Webinar. Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “UNRWA is totally infiltrated by Hamas. It has been in the service of Hamas, in schools, and in many other things. I say this with great regret because we hoped that there would be an objective and a constructive body to offer aid. UNRWA is not that body.”
Recently, the Wall Street Journal, and other news outlets, have reported extensively on the United Nations Relief Work Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA was established in 1949 to provide services for approximately 700,000 Palestinian refugees. On its website, UNRWA boasts it is one of the largest agencies of the UN, employing approximately 30,000 people. According to Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, 10% of these employees are members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We also know from the Wall Street Journal report of January 29th, at least 12 UNRWA employees were directly involved in the October 7th massacres. This has led the United States, the European Union and seventeen other countries to temporarily suspend their funding to UNRWA.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on December 14th, 1950. This organization was created to deal with the massive number of European refugees displaced during World War II. Its job is to help resettle refugees in their host countries and to help them attain citizenship and find jobs. Its website says that it has “helped tens of millions of people to restart their lives”. The UN High Commission does not transfer refugee status from one generation to another. In this way, it is very different from UNRWA. UNRWA works to keep people in refugee camps. They teach successive generations they are victims who should seek return to their great-great-great grandfather’s homes in Haifa, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. They perpetuate the narrative that the Palestinian homeland reaches “from the river to the sea” and the role of a Shahid or murderer of Jews, is noble and glorious. The Palestinians are the only ethnic group with their own agency. This agency cuts open the wounds from 1948 and makes them fester. UNRWA schools and summer camps routinely train young children in military combat. This is against both national and international law.
It is my pleasure to introduce you to David Bedein. David has been working on UNRWA and related issues for decades. David is the Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research. He has been studying UNRWA run schools and summer camps for the last 35 years. On January 9th, 2024, David testified before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. David?
David Bedein: Thank you very much. It is wonderful that EMET is becoming involved with the UNRWA issue. UNRWA is not going to go away. There is unfortunately no way to cancel UNRWA because it has been embedded in the General Assembly from 1948 until now. We also cannot replace UNRWA with the UNHCR because there is a bylaw forbidding one UN agency from taking the place of another. Even though replacing UNRWA with UNHCR appears to be a logical decision, it is not possible. I learned this out when I, and four colleagues, addressed the United Nations Correspondents Association several years ago. All is not lost, however, because the other donor nations to UNRWA can make their voices heard to effect change.
If you are a citizen of a nation that gives money to UNRWA, you can do a lot. UNRWA is afraid of your feedback. The US Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate and the House can use the feedback they receive from you and force UNRWA reform.
I have testified, with others, in DC about twelve times. We present facts and not opinions. It is very important we find out and expose what is actually going on inside UNRWA. We have two journalists placed inside UNRWA, and we also work with Arab journalists who film their summer camps and schools. At the top of our websites, https://israelbehindthenews.com/ or https://www.cfnepr.com/, you will see the movies we made covering UNRWA’s camps and schools.
My involvement with UNRWA goes back 55 years. I was a senior in high school at Akiba Hebrew Academy in Philadelphia. I had a teacher visiting from Israel who said, “Now, the issue of the refugees is in our hands.” That inspired my Aliyah two years later because I had identified a practical issue that I wanted help resolve. I was also familiar with the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia. This Committee was a respected peace organization which was given responsibilities by the American government in the wake of the six-day war. Their mandate was to ensure there was a peaceful atmosphere in the refugee camps that were in our hands. It was only after 1988, when the PLO took over UNRWA, that the organization became, in a sense, a hostile force to Israel.
In addition to filming UNRWA schools, our agency has commissioned studies of their school books and have reviewed more than 1000 of them. You can view the results on our websites.
A prominent rabbi asked me, “Is there one expression for peace? We will use it.” Well, I wish there was. If there were, it would make my life a lot easier. As a professional, I do not want to be the guy who is always saying war is the only option. I have worked my whole 53-year career to foster dialogue between Jews and Arabs. I do not think every Arab wants a war. I do think however, that UNRWA does not want peace.
UNRWA has adopted the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mantra and they promote a full-fledged war against Israel. I met with Yasser Arafat prior to 2000, at the suggestion of a prominent rabbi who was engaged in dialogue with the Palestinians. This was around the time when new Palestinian school books were published. I asked Arafat when he intended to promote peace in Arabic. He replied that he did it all the time. I said, “Mr. Arafat, I have no record of that.” He said, “You must see my new school books.” We took him up on his offer and we now have a standing order at the Palestinian Ministry of Education to view their school books.
One of their most egregious books carries a dedication to Dalal al-Mughrabi, a woman who carried out a terror attack in 1978, murdering more than 35 people, including 13 children. You can see the review of this book on our site. After we showed this book to Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, he told UNRWA to get rid of it, and they did for four years. After four years, they published a 2023 edition of the book and distributed it again. They made sure everyone knows they still support the content of this book. No country funding UNRWA has asked for this new edition of the book to be removed.
You may be asking what you can do about UNRWA’s actions. The book I discussed is an example of something you can take concrete action on. The US is the leading funder of UNRWA followed by Germany. Citizens of any of the nations that give to UNRWA, can contact their political representatives and lodge complaints about these types of situations. In that way, you too can work to effect change.
We have had some successes. There is good news because both Democrats and Republicans have supported creation of the US-UNRWA accord. The US-UNRWA accord declares the United States will give money to UNRWA only if it cancels its curriculum. Because they did not cancel their curriculum, UNRWA did not receive any funding for two and a half years. It is only because of the Gaza war and the need for humanitarian aid that UNRWA started receiving money again. Although the credibility of UNRWA overall is very low, there is an issue of how Israel is going to get humanitarian aid across to Gaza without UNRWA.
In the 1980s, I was involved in a study of the medical products and assistance that UNRWA received but which never reached the intended population. The head of health services at that time in Gaza helped us to resolve the issue. He noted afterwards that he must have been working for Mossad because he said it appeared to be a military secret that he had helped us in this regard. Sometimes, there is good news, but no one knows about it because it does not fit the narrative.
Now, let me go back in time to the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. At that time, Shamir was Prime Minister of Israel and Bush was President of the United States. 28 donor countries agreed to review different aspects of UNRWA and relay the information they found. Unfortunately, the Oslo process superseded all that. Those promoting Oslo determined that resolving the political situation was their first priority and the UNRWA investigations were postponed.
Following the current Gaza war, there will be investigations of how Hamas got to be so strong, how they got so much military equipment and how the tunnels were built. There was essentially no supervision or little supervision of products coming into Gaza, and that is one of the issues that will be dealt with. UNRWA’s role on October 7th will be part of that investigation.
In 2009, our agency was the first agency to get a grant from the European Parliament and we covered the UNRWA elections. When they elected Hamas and Islamic Jihad to run their unions, the Canadian government pulled their funding, and that caused a lot of problems with UNRWA. We hoped the Canadian withdrawal was going to set a precedent but unfortunately it did not. However, it is a very good example of what can happen when you take action.
Interestingly, one of our most enthusiastic supporters was Archbishop Pietro Sambi. Archbishop Sambi was the Pope’s ambassador. At that time, he was under the tutelage of Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul II demanded the Catholic Church get involved in stopping any aspect of antisemitism and was the first one to request and review UNRWA’s school books. After confirming their antisemitic content, he made a direct appeal to the Italian government to pull all their support from UNRWA. His actions were very important in establishing a precedent. Any of you who are scholars of Catholicism, or in touch with the Vatican, should look him up.
Ten years ago, we came to Washington with one of our scholars, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, to make a presentation at the National Press Club. Archbishop Sambi was supposed to be on the panel but he died the week before. Unfortunately, he was a chain smoker. It hurt us very badly to lose the person from the Catholic Church who actually knew what was going on. He advised us all the time and gave us the moral support that we need. We did not get such moral support from many Jews, but we got it from him.
At the start, I mentioned UNHCR as a model agency for helping people get repatriated and resettled. Anyone here can ask UNRWA to follow that model. You can do that by connecting directly with UNRWA and also with the committees in Congress that deal with foreign affairs.
Let me move on for a moment. The way in which we find out what is going on with UNRWA is via direct contact with the people. Our Arabic-speaking staff and the Arabs who work with us set up cameras at their summer camps and in their schools. I would like to show you two of the 24 films on our website. We welcome the opportunity to present our movies to any group. We can show these to you at any time, and we are happy to do so. We are also making a movie showing all of the incitement that happened before October 7th. October 7th was inspired by this. It was not something that came out of nowhere. We are looking for private support to help fund this movie. What you see in our movies is practice for attacks like October 7th. We show Palestinian children at the summer camps simulating the murder of Jews. So, let’s take a look at our two movies
David: Okay. The children that you saw in this movie and those you will see in the next one, are children who are fighting Israel right now. The majority of the armed Hamas fighters are under 14. The Hamas health ministry is now making a program, a movie, and a booklet to show all the so-called innocent children who were killed without mentioning that they were armed and trained.
The next movie, called UNRWA Child Soldier, shows the children being trained with lethal weapons along the fence of the Gaza fence. This is exactly where the attacks took place on October 7th. Let’s take a look at the movie since it speaks for itself. Thank you.
David: The laws of the United Nations forbid the arming of children. What we have here is a statement and we will keep speaking up. Our hope is to take this statement to six parliaments in the world. We have translated this into German, into Swedish, and into French, and we intend to share this information with their governments. It may surprise you, but 7.2 million people have seen these videos in the last two months. Our hope is to be able to present this to staffers in Congress as well.
One of the people, who contacted me about this information, remembers me from the peace movement when we were hoping that there would be a partner for peace. Unfortunately, that did not happen. So, those are some thoughts and we are pleased to work with everyone. We are in a situation now where people are more open to listening than ever before. In the last few months, many weapons were found in UNRWA schools. The army has not even entered the UNRWA schools in Bethlehem or in Jerusalem. It is very important to see what is going on in those schools as well. The State Department Spokesman, in answer to our questions, said, “Oh, it does not exist.” Well, let us take a look and see if it does exist.
Sarah: Thank you so much. “A picture is worth a thousand words”, as the saying goes. The videos are absolutely chilling. Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Jerusalem and proposing yet again another pause in fighting, which Hamas wants to be permanent. According to the Palestinian Center for Survey and Research, 82% of people polled at the Khalil Shikaki center in Ramallah were in favor of the acts of October 7th. How can it ever be possible to have peace while UNRWA’s educational system is in existence?
David: We have faced a denial of reality all along. After October 7th, it was no longer possible to continue denying reality. Our movies expose how the children are being prepared for war. Right now, UNRWA is preparing summer camps for the children. You can provide your input on this to the US embassy. Their contact details are available on the web. While Blinken is in Israel, ask him if he has ever seen these videos. We did a showing for John Kerry when he was in power at the State Department. So far, the current US embassy has not allowed us to present this information as we did previously. We have translated the whole curriculum and we do have someone at the State Department asking questions.
The State Department said the curriculum is for peace and they would work with it. I do not know to what extent this has been publicized, but the American government is now saying, “We will recognize a Palestinian State.” What they will be recognizing is a PLO Hamas State, not a Palestinian State. The more feedback people give, the better. The influence of public opinion at this point is crucial. There are few people who make their voices heard, and it is extremely important.
What Sarah is doing is helping people like us to access the right people and make presentations to them. We have four experts who are Arabic speaking at the PhD level. We would be pleased to bring them to your homes through Skype and also in person. When you come to Jerusalem, ask for a session with our experts. This is very important because we have to deal with a whole world of people who do not know what is actually happening at UNRWA.
Sarah: Okay. Now, I am going to hand the webinar over to my wonderful colleague Joseph Epstein. Joseph is going to read some of the questions that have come in and perhaps pose some of his own. Joseph?
Joseph: Thank you so much, Sarah, and thank you so much, David. We have quite a few questions from the audience. One that we received a few times is about the fact that a lot of what UNRWA has been doing to brainwash Palestinians has been known to people for decades. Can you talk about what’s being done to condemn UNRWA’s behavior? More importantly, what is being done to influence or change UNRWA or the education system in general in the West Bank and Gaza?
David: Unfortunately, we have been blocked in all of our attempts to provide input to the curriculum. I was involved with a team of people who prepared a peace curriculum, but it was declared to be a capital crime to use any of that material. When the new school books came out in 2000, they were supposed to be school books for peace with a supposed peace curriculum. There was a sleight of hand here, the curriculum was switched and we were able to see the difference. The Vatican asked for the peace curriculum, and they did not get it. So, it does exist and what is very important here is the influence of donor countries.
If donors and countries were to say, “You are not going to get a penny if you do not change your curriculum,” that would change things. Unfortunately, that is not happening. Germany is the worst. Germany said they are not giving money from their general fund. However, there are 12 German foundations who are giving money. You can find them on our sites, https://israelbehindthenews.com/ or https://www.cfnepr.com/, under the word Merkel. You will see, the most prominent German foundations are directly behind the funding and operation of the schools.
You ask the right question, Joseph, “What about the input to change?” There is input provided, and it is being ignored. No one is saying, “If you do not make changes to the curriculum there will be consequences.” The US-UNRWA accord is on our site, https://israelbehindthenews.com/. We need to use this to hold them accountable. This is not a right wing or left-wing issue. It is a very clear humanitarian issue which anyone can support.
Joseph: Thank you. So, as a follow-up to that question, why do you think it is that donor countries are not more insistent when they see these brutal images and understand the level of brainwashing happening in the schools?
David: If you view UNRWA’s website, you will assume there is no problem with the organization at all. Similarly, if you read the article written two days ago by the Foreign Minister of Norway, you would think there was absolutely no issue with UNRWA. This article was published on the front page, New York Times. As a matter of fact, if you viewed UNRWA’s website, you would actually give money to them. You would think UNRWA is the best organization ever. UNRWA wields a tremendous amount of influence. The UNRWA public relations campaign is unbelievable in terms of its ability to misinform and disinform. The dissonance between reality and their falsification of what is going on, is unimaginable.
People do not ask questions and that is the problem. Of course, people are afraid to criticize. The Palestinian Authority reports to the Palestine Liberation Organization and other terror groups and people are afraid to speak out. The twelve German foundations supporting Palestinian education, all work with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of the most important and vicious terrorist organizations. The PFLP is on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization watch list. Even the UN recognizes them as a terror organization. So, the PFLP has a great influence through German foundations.
Joseph: We know now that many UNRWA members are actually also members of terrorist organizations such as Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We also know that multiple UNRWA members took part in the October 7th massacre. Given these revelations, do you think there will be more serious pressure to make UNRWA change or do you think it will just make the headlines for a while and then go away?
David: It depends on you. If 30 people a day sent a personal note to Blinken on this, it would have a great effect. I have the United Nations Correspondents Association on my website. This provides a list of all the spokespeople for the donor nations and for the UN. 30 to 40 people calling them daily would make a huge difference. I had a teacher named Eliezer Jaffe. May he rest in peace. He used to say, “A problem is a problem when someone makes it into a problem.”
We showed Guterres the school books. We are in touch with one of the people in his office now. If he were to receive lots and lots of letters about this, it would make a difference. There are people on the other side who want them to ignore this issue. They are actively pushing them to ignore it by calling us names and saying that people like us do not want peace. What I am asking of you is very easy. Please correspond with individual letters to Guterres. Remember, Guterres saw the book praising a terrorist with his own eyes and asked for it to be removed. As we discussed, it has been put back and I do not know if he is aware of this. Your input is very important and it is what is going to make a difference.
Two days ago, there was a very important congressional committee meeting on Capitol Hill. The Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing about UNRWA for the first time in years. Unfortunately, people think that if the United States makes a decision, it will affect other countries as well. That is a mistake. Let’s get the different donor countries together on this. Maybe EMET can take the lead on this. We need to bring together ambassadors from different places, show them these materials and work together to effect change. It is very important that we not be America-focused.
We spoke at the Swedish parliament five times and at the Bundestag twice. They are ready to listen. Diplomats are ready to listen unless they have been bought off or are pursuing some agenda. Most are ready to listen as long as we deliver the information in a straightforward manner and we do not come across as representing one specific sector of the community. It is important to present this information to audiences from all the major streams of Judaism and gain their support. This should not be considered a rightwing or anti-peace issue. That is very important and it depends on you.
As I discussed, these diplomats are very sensitive to public opinion. If UNRWA or the UN receive 30 or 40 letters, it will make a difference. It is also important to send Blinken letters through the US Embassy, while he is in Israel. Ask him if he is looking at UNRWA’s schools. He has given them a kosher card. That does not have to continue and will change if you give him feedback. A few letters will go a long way.
Joseph: We have quite a few questions asking about if you could share links to your resources and the videos, so that people could be armed with the necessary information.
David: I first presented videos on Capitol Hill around 25 years ago. It was very difficult. We had to go meet Arab journalists on the Gaza border and we had to sneak VHS copies back and forth. Now, it is much easier. If you have an index finger, you push a button on these investigative movies. At the top of our site, https://israelbehindthenews.com/ , you can find our information and simply press a button to learn more.
We need help. We need funds to translate this information into different languages and to make presentations in all those different languages. This is very important to do. I have been in attendance at presentations in Geneva at the UN and translations are appreciated. The government of Israel would prefer to maintain a laissez-faire, citizen’s approach. That is fine but it is very important that everyone views our materials and our school book translations. As discussed, the information is on the front page or on the homepage of our website, https://israelbehindthenews.com/. It requires an index finger and the willing people to say, “How do I get to see your books?” Well, it is there, it is easily available and it is not hidden.
All attempts to introduce a peace curriculum have been rejected. That is a serious problem because it could happen. There are rabbis I know who in dialogue with the Palestinians and the Palestinians praised the curriculum. Unfortunately, the rabbis fighting for Palestinian human rights have not fought to protect them with a peace curriculum. They have not insisted on a peace curriculum nor have they insisted on preserving the rights of Palestinian kids not to be indoctrinated into a culture of violence. Many of these children you saw interviewed in the movies we showed earlier, were killed in the last few months. It breaks my heart to think about them.
Joseph: Thank you. The link to David Bedein’s website is https://israelbehindthenews.com/. If you click on the link, you can access all the resources David showed today and more. Now, to move on to another question. We have had quite a few questions on the UNHCR. Have there been any efforts to have the UNHCR take over the role of UNRWA?
David: There is not good news with respect to the UNHCR taking over from UNRWA because of a technical issue. In the recent hearings in DC, it sounded like UNHCR could take over from UNRWA. They cannot. There is a bylaw which forbids it and we need to forget about UNHCR replacing UNRWA. What we can do is to demand UNRWA use UNHCR principles. That, we can do. We can make this very clear to US members of Congress and members of European parliamentary groups dealing with the UN. Please apply the UNHCR principles at UNRWA. It can be done. There is nothing that prevents this from being implemented. Replacing UNRWA with the UNHCR, unfortunately, cannot be done. I found this out from speaking three times at the UN Press Association.
Joseph: Thank you. So, it appears UNRWA cannot be dissolved but it can be changed. Is pressure from donor countries the only way you see change being implemented?
David: Absolutely. I have the principles of requisite policy changes on the front page of our site. Firstly, cancel their curriculum. Their new curriculum is worse than ever before. Secondly, disarm them. Make sure that all the donor nations require that UNRWA be disarmed. Get rid of any terrorists working for UNRWA and use the UNHCR principles I just mentioned. There are also audit issues that need to be resolved. We interviewed major ambassadors who are proud to say that they were giving money in cash to UNRWA. UNRWA receives most of their funds in cash. Since we are dealing with terrorist entities, I am sure you can imagine how cash donations may be used for nefarious purposes. How much money intended for medical services that wound up in the hands of terrorists? How much was used on the black market or even for sex trafficking? If anyone wants answers to these questions, write to us and we will provide them.
We have a proposal for a complete overhaul of UNRWA’s financial system. Again, it takes your involvement. It takes a one-page letter or one-paragraph letter demanding transparency with respect to UNRWA’s use of funds. I have the donor nations listed on our site. They become very nervous when they get letters and public opinion forces them to act. Encourage all the donor countries to have sessions to deal with these issues and to come over to Jerusalem. We need someone to sponsor a major conference of the donor nations so they can talk with each other about this. If we are wrong then we are wrong. We have not been proven wrong yet because the corruption on the other side is so obvious.
We have 24 movies exposing UNRWA’s open support of terror and of corruption. There is no intrigue here. They know exactly what they are doing. Countries like Norway refuse to acknowledge this. As I mentioned, Norway is a major donor and boasted about it on the front page of the New York Times. We need to confront them and make them very nervous about their support. Our job is to make people nervous about supporting terror.
Joseph: Thank you. Another question we received relates to brainwashing. Extensive brainwashing over decades obviously leaves its mark. How long do you think it would take to prepare the next generation for some sort of peace with Israel?
David: My uncle participated in denazification programs for the American Army. One of the issues with denazification is that many of the youngsters in the Hitler Youth, transferred their hatred to the communists.
The ability and time to effect substantive change in this situation, is not something that has really been tested. The school system with its new curriculum began on August 1st, 2000. There is a whole generation now that is not just trained to hate but also to kill.
Between 1993 and 2000, there was a hope of instituting a curriculum of peace. Peres pushed for it as did many others in both the Israeli government and in the private sector. However, it never happened because they could not maintain it. It is going to take a long time. Palestinians have experienced 24 years of brainwashing since 2000. Think about it, since 2000, every child has been taught systematically that the only reason UNRWA exists and the only reason they are in terrible conditions in the refugee camps is because they are forced to be there by Israel. That is what they all think. That is also what American Jewish youngsters are being taught and what they believe. I have spoken a great deal with American Jewish young people and that is what they think. We have to clean out a lot of brain tissue here and replace lies with the truth. It is not easy.
Sarah: Thank you so much, David Bedein. I really want to thank you for sharing your very valuable footage with us. I mentioned the UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act last week and I want to bring it up again. The bill withholds US funding for UNRWA unless the Department of State is able to certify that UNRWA’s staff, partners, and funds have not, in any way, been affiliated with terrorism. They may not also not be involved in calls for terrorism, including calls for the destruction of Israel or describing Israel as an occupier. Additionally, the State Department must certify that UNRWA has passed comprehensive and independent financial audits and are not affiliated with financial institutions complicit in money laundering or terror financing. The bill is H.R. 1102. It was introduced by Chip Roy. There are 35 sponsors and requires 31. A similar bill was introduced by Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs or former Senate Foreign Affairs Committee leader, James Risch. We need all of the support that we can get on these bills.
Once again, I ask you to please support the Center for Near East Policy Research, which is https://israelbehindthenews.com/ or https://www.cfnepr.com/. And please, we need your support for EMET to continue our valuable work of getting this information out. That is https://emetonline.org/ . We work very hard. We’re on Capitol Hill several times a week, every week, getting this information out to our members of Congress. We have these webinars every single week, and we write and publish at least one article a week. So, thank you so much for your support. Bye-bye.
David: Thank you, Sarah.
PRESS RELEASE: EMET Applauds the House Resolution Condemning the Sexual Violence of Hamas on October 7, But is Shocked by the Stark Silence by Women’s Rights Organizations Since the Attack
PRESS RELEASE: EMET Applauds Rep. Chris Smith, (R-NJ), Brian Mast (R-FL), Joe Wilson, (R-SC), and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) as well as the Entire House Foreign Affairs Committee for their Vote to Disband Funding for UNRWA, But is Shocked by the Actions of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
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