ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Swiss parliament votes to cut funding for UNRWA amid incitement allegations

Watchdog says educational system of agency for Palestinian refugees ‘taught hate every day’ to those who took part in October 7 massacres

Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) agency talk together in the playground of an UNRWA-run school that has been converted into a shelter for displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 25, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) agency talk together in the playground of an UNRWA-run school that has been converted into a shelter for displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 25, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The lower house of the Swiss parliament has voted to cancel the funding it provides the UN agency for Palestinian refugees amid persistent accusations that the organization glorifies terror against Israel.

The decision made Tuesday sees Switzerland move to cut some $21 million in annual funding from the United Nations Relief Works Agency. Switzerland was the ninth-biggest donor.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini bemoaned the move, tweeting that he hoped the Swiss Senate would overrule the decision.

“Disheartened by Switzerland Parliament’s national council move to cut aid to @UNRWA, as the Agency is recognized as a major humanitarian actor in #Gaza & the region. Hope the Senate will revise this decision as @UNRWA is the first responder in Gaza and a lifeline for millions,” he posted on X.

“As a country that leads on International Humanitarian Law, I am disappointed in this decision to cut aid to the largest and most active Humanitarian Agency on the ground in #Gaza today. Cutting funds jeopardizes services during an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Swiss move to cut aid was led by People’s Party MP David Zuberbühler, according to IMPACT-se, which lobbied in favor of the move.

IMPACT-se, an organization based in the UK and Israel, monitors education curricula around the world to determine whether they are in compliance with UNESCO standards on peace, tolerance and nonviolence.

“Israelis have been let down disastrously by the gaggle of international organizations that make Switzerland their home, and none more so than UNRWA, which taught hate every day to the October 7 terrorists. Now, the Swiss parliament is having its say. We hope the diplomats are paying attention to their hosts,” said IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff, welcoming the move.

Israel and other groups have long argued that UNRWA school materials glorify terrorism and anti-Israel incitement.

A recent IMPACT-se study found that several UNRWA staffers have expressed praise for the atrocities committed by the Hamas terror group on October 7,  when terrorists stormed across the border from Gaza, killing some 1,200 people in Israel, mainly civilians massacred in their homes and at a music festival, and taking some 240 hostages.

The report detailed social media posts by numerous Gaza- and West Bank-based members of UNRWA, which provides welfare and humanitarian services for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars and their descendants. The posts by staff members, including teachers and educational staff, expressed praise or approval of the devastating onslaught.

The report said that over half of Gaza’s 500,000 school pupils attend UNRWA-operated educational institutions, and that the Palestinian Authority curriculum taught in these schools “is replete with antisemitism and encourages violence,” while UNRWA staff add their own harmful educational materials to the curriculum.

Previous IMPACT-se reports have demonstrated that “UNRWA educational materials incite to violence, glorify martyrdom, demonize Israel, and promote antisemitism,” the report added.

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