Saturday, June 22

Our government needs to stop funding hate

If our government was funding schools that glorified the Christchurch terrorist, I have no doubt that there would be protests, letters to Ministers, and mass outrage from the Twitterati and lanyard-clutching commentators. Our media would headline stories about the issue, community leaders would be demanding action, and opposition MPs would be grandstanding.

Rightfully so. How dare our taxes go toward such hate.

But that would never happen, would it? What a totally ridiculous proposition.

Well, it has been happening for at least the last two decades. However, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials, like Deb Collins, Divisional Manager Partnerships Humanitarian & Multilateral Division; Peter Shackleton, Unit Manager Partnerships Humanitarian & Multilateral Division; and Jonathan Kings, Deputy Secretary Pacific and Development Group, never saw it as an issue to brief the Minister on.

I bet you haven’t heard anything about it.

The reason there hasn’t been a kerfuffle is because the hate is not directed at Muslims or Māori, “the LGBTQI++ community”, or any other group that is afforded the privilege of mass outrage when they are offended.

The targeted group is Jews. Children are taught in schools to glorify the murder of 38 Jews, including 13 children, who were on a bus, for example. Children are taught conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the world and teachers openly praise Hitler on social media – one calling for him to “wake up… there are still some people you need to burn.”

The schools are run by a United Nations organisation. I wish I were making this up. It’s called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and was set up as a temporary measure just 74 years ago. True story. UNRWA provides services to refugees, a little like the The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) does. Except UNRWA only deals with Arab Palestinians who may or may not be refugees – they provide services for people who are citizens of another country, for example. 

But I digress… UNRWA schools have been shown repeatedly over the last two decades, at least, to teach children to hate Jews and glorify their murder.

Winston Peters was the first Foreign Minister to make comment on the issue of hate in school curriculum that New Zealand funds – following a letter from the Human Rights Commission expressing concern. Yes, the NZ Human Rights Commission agrees that funding schools that teach hate is not acceptable.

Mr Peters responded that he was satisfied the policies and procedures of UNRWA, likely parroting the advice of MFAT officials that never thought the issue even warranted a mention in briefings.

Hon Minister Peters’ dismissal of the Human Rights Commission raising concerns was in 2020. Since then, the European Union has funded a report that found examples of egregious antisemitism, glorification of terror, rejection of peace, and incitement to violence in the curriculum used by UNRWA.

Following publication of that report – that is not different to twenty years of similar reporting – Hon Minister Mahuta told a Select Committee that “… if a concern such as [racism and hate being taught in UNRWA schools] has been raised clearly [by MFAT with UNRWA], we would want to satisfy ourselves [it has been dealt with] prior to making further contributions”.

She then promptly signed off on a further 3-year commitment, at $1m each year. And she publicly said she was “pleased” to be a longstanding supporter of UNRWA. Not a word about the antisemitism or glorification of terror.

Again, I suggest that if the school curriculum were glorifying the Christchurch terrorist and teaching egregious Islamophobia (or anti-Trans, or anti-Māori sentiment, etc), rather than anti-Jewish hate, then you might have heard about the issue before now. It would probably also have stopped. It probably would never have started!

But at least $1m each year has gone to UNRWA from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the last few decades at least. And Hon Minister Mahuta is pleased to send it for the next three years.

That’s despite a report just published that once more shows egregious material in the classroom. Some of it produced by UNRWA themselves. There are images of a 5th grade UNRWA classroom blackboard displaying a large photo of Dalal Mughrabi – who led the murderous attack on the bus of Jews mentioned above – along with text venerating her. 

There is a reading comprehension exercise in 9th grade Arabic Language study material created by UNRWA that contains a story about a firebombing attack on a Jewish bus that celebrates the attack as a ‘barbecue party’ (haflat shiwaa’).

There is another 5th grade classroom blackboard photographed with synonym exercises describing Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam as a “martyr”. The Hamas militia are named after Al-Qassam because he was a militant opponent of Israel widely regarded as a terrorist. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are a designated terror entity in New Zealand.

The list goes on. You get the picture.

Apparently our government, and our officials, think funding this hate is OK. They might say otherwise – the take the matter “extremely seriously”, they have a “zero tolerance approach to racism of any kind”, yada yada yada. But actions speak much louder than words.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has raised concerns, our Human Rights Commission has raised concerns, and I know a number of people who have written to the Minister and Ministry to voice opposition. Our Ministry officials and Ministers just don’t want to stop funding this sort of hate.

A silver lining is that they are proud to say they don’t fund any other hate – that would be unconscionable.

So what can we do?

The next step is a petition. Please read more, sign, and share at