Biden administration cozies up to controversial UN agency for Palestinian refugees

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It wasn’t what was stated during a virtual meeting between the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the head of a controversial U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees that riled critics — it was what was missing from the conversation.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has continuously faced accusations of teaching hatred and incitement in its school system against Jews and Israelis. Yet none of this was even hinted at in an optimistic statement released following the meeting between Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and the head of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini. The readout seemingly lacked anything concrete on changing the continued provocation.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told Fox News that he was “extremely shocked and disappointed that the ambassador, according to this readout, failed to state openly and directly for its reinvestment in UNRWA. The American people expect that UNRWA will change its curriculum to teach the Palestinian children that Israel is a legitimate state [and] that terrorists are not to be promoted as heroes to children. In short, to change from a war curriculum to a peace curriculum.” 

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, January 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, January 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

Cooper, who is the associate dean at the Wiesenthal Center, noted that “failure to do so means [the] U.S. as major donor nation will facilitate the brainwashing of another generation of Palestinian children to hate their Jewish neighbors.”

The readout of the meeting between the U.S. ambassador and the head of UNRWA stated in part, “The two discussed U.S. re-engagement with UNRWA, including the recent announcement of the resumption of U.S. assistance to the agency. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield underscored the critical role that UNRWA plays in providing vital services to a vulnerable population and reiterated Secretary Blinken’s pledge of partnership with the agency.”

The statement concluded, “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield also committed to working together with UNRWA to achieve important reforms to strengthen​the agency’s effectiveness and efficiencies, as well as to promote shared UN principles of equality, neutrality, tolerance, and anti-discrimination.”

Fox News asked a spokesperson at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. if they could offer more information than was given in the statement, including whether UNRWA’s much criticized curriculum and incitement in its schoolbooks was discussed. The spokesperson said that there was nothing more to share beyond the meeting’s readout.


Earlier this month Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the U.S. would restore aid to UNRWA, which was halted by the Trump administration, in the amount of $150 million.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., told Fox News in a statement, “The Biden administration’s deafening silence on the anti-Semitism that has plagued UNRWA is nothing new.”

Zeldin continued, “In fact, earlier this month, not only did it resume U.S. taxpayer funding to UNRWA despite the Palestinian Authority’s Pay to Slay program to financially reward terror and incite violence against innocent Israelis and Americans, but it didn’t even address it in the funding announcement.

“In addition to offsetting the Palestinian Authority’s Pay to Slay program, we now know for sure the UNRWA textbook initiative is a sham.”

United Nations headquarters in New York City.

United Nations headquarters in New York City.

He concluded, “It is unacceptable the textbooks that are used delegitimize Israel and demonize the Jewish people. It is also unacceptable this program attempts to engrain this hatred in the hearts of children. Additionally, it is unacceptable Americans’ hard-earned money went towards this funding and the Biden administration is willing to look the other way while the U.N. actively perpetuates anti-Semitism. The Biden administration’s eagerness to bury its head in the sand is a continued betrayal of America’s greatest ally Israel.”

Zeldin is co-sponsoring a bill in Congress with Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., that calls for accountability for UNRWA’s curriculum.

The Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research, which reports on UNRWA’s curriculum, recently cited several examples showing what they claimed was anti-Semitic and religious incitement, such as a textbook given to fifth graders describing a terrorist as a martyr for killing 38 passengers, including 13 children, on an Israeli bus in 1978.

David Bedein told Fox News, “As of three hours ago, when we checked the latest UNRWA schoolbooks, they continue to promote total war against Israel and with new pages in the books that glorify those who have murdered Jews.”


UNRWA provides education, health care, financial assistance and food to 5 million people in the Middle East. According to UNRWA, its education system serves over a half a million students in some 711 elementary and preparatory schools.


Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.

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