'The summer camp teaches us that we have to liberate Palestine'

Palestinian kids taught to hate Israel in UN-funded camps, clip shows

Teachers at UNRWA summer camps filmed declaring ‘Jews are the wolf,’ telling young campers they will return to Haifa, Jaffa, Acre

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Palestinian children in the Balata refugee camp at storytime in a summer camp run by the United Nations Relief Works Agency. (photo credit: Youtube/ screengrab)
Palestinian children in the Balata refugee camp at storytime in a summer camp run by the United Nations Relief Works Agency. (photo credit: Youtube/ screengrab)

New video footage appears to show Palestinian children in summer camps run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) being taught that “Jews are the wolf,” and that they will one day conquer Israeli cities by force.

The video, uploaded to Youtube in late July and screened in part on Channel 2 news on Tuesday night, was directed by journalist David Bedein, who has written extensively about United Nations activities for the Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem. Channel 2 said the UN had promised to look into the indications in the report that UNRWA-funded camps were inciting hostility to Israel among young Palestinians.

Entitled “Camp Jihad,” the report says it shows footage from UNRWA summer programs in the Balata refugee camp north of Nablus and in the Gaza Strip. The focus of the camps, according to campers and staff in the clip, is educating the young Palestinians about the “Nakba”, the Palestinian term for the consequences of the 1948 war in which Israel won its independence.

In one scene, Amina Hinawi, director of the Gaza camp, explains her educational approach: “We teach the children about the villages they came from…,” she says, “this way, every child will be motivated to return to their original village.”

“UNRWA finances this summer camp,” she continues. “I’m very, very, very appreciative of UNRWA.”

The United States was the largest single donor to UNRWA in 2011, according to the organization’s website, with a total contribution of over $239 million, followed by the European Commission’s $175 million. These two sources accounted for about 42 per cent UNRWA’s income for its core program budget.

“We teach the culture of the Nakba to campers,” emphasized Nasrin Bisharat, an UNRWA social worker at the Balata camp, in the report. “That way they know their origins. Even the names of their teams are, for example, Haifa, Acre… We try, on days like Nakba Day, to commemorate the Nakba in the school.”

In another scene, a teacher is heard asking the students, “Do you want to return to Jaffa?” They respond enthusiastically, “Yes!” “Haifa?” “Yes!” “Nazareth?” “Yes!”

All these cities are inside modern sovereign Israel.


Created in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, UNRWA has been slammed by some in Israel and the US for backing terror organizations and causing more harm than good.

In one case, former UNRWA head Peter Henson was heavily criticized for saying “there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don’t see that as a crime.” During 2010, the Canadian government cut off funding to the organization, saying its money would be transferred to projects in a more accountable way.

“Neutrality is critically important to United Nations humanitarian agencies,” reads the UNRWA website, “– as well as ICRC and NGOs – to gain and maintain the confidence of all needed to operate independently, safely and effectively, especially in politically-charged or conflict situations. Neutrality is also a core obligation and value of UN staff and an important condition for our donors’ continued trust and financial and political support.

“UNRWA’s adherence to UN neutrality is absolutely incompatible with funding or in any way assisting terrorism, terrorists or members of guerrilla-type organisations.”

That message conflicts starkly with a burka-clad speaker in the report who tells a circle of young campers, “With God’s help and our own strength we will wage war. And with education and Jihad we will return to our homes!”

Another scene shows a young girl singing to a circle of her clapping friends. “I will not forget my promise to take back my land,” she sings.

“We are filled with rage,” sings an older camper.

Many of the children and teachers return to the theme of an idyllic, worry-free Palestinian existence, sitting on the beach and sailing the Mediterranean, until the Jews expelled them.

“Our parents were on the beach,” a teacher in Balata tells the young campers sitting around her during story time. “They sailed ships, they would travel, they had cars, palaces, and villas… Every night they would tell stories.”

She then asks the children if Palestinians still have the sea, and if they want to go to the sea in Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre. Notwithstanding her passion for teaching about local geography, she asks the children if they would like to return to the sea in the land-locked city of Nazareth.

Her story soon takes a chilling turn. The Palestinians were having a nice barbecue on the beach when a wolf appeared, she recounts. “Who is the wolf?” the teacher asks. “The Jews! Isn’t it true that the Jews are the wolf?”

“Who expelled us?” she asks the kids, who listen with rapt attention. “The Jews!” they yell energetically.

“I will defeat the Jews,” a camper named Tayma tells the documentary crew. “They are a gang of infidels and Christians. They don’t like Allah and do not worship Allah. And they hate us.”

One young campers sums up, “The summer camp teaches us that we have to liberate Palestine.”

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