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Gaza after UNRWA: Reforming Education for Peaceful Coexistence

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established in 1950 after the
Second World War to aid the millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. According to
its mission statement, “The High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated by the United Nations
(UN) to lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the
resolution of refugee problems. UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-
being of refugees. In its efforts to achieve this objective, the Office strives to ensure that everyone
can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, and to return home
voluntarily. By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle permanently in
another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight.”

UNHCR is responsible for all global refugees – except for one category. The United Nations Relief
and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), also established in 1950, is a
UN agency that specifically supports the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees.
According to its mission statement, “The UNRWA mission is to help Palestine refugees achieve
their full potential in human development under the difficult circumstances in which they live.”


But is UNRWA solving the refugee problem? According to its definition, a “refugee” includes any
person who is descended from a person who was displaced in 1948, including people who have
settled in another country. Unless every single person descended from a refugee is returned to
their place of origin – an untenable solution – the number of Palestinian refugees will grow
exponentially, perpetuating the need for an UNRWA-like organization.

UNRWA performs an array of missions in Gaza. According to its website, “UNRWA human
development and humanitarian services encompass primary and vocational education, primary
health care, relief and social services, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance and
emergency response, including in situations of armed conflict.” While this sounds benign, and even
laudable, ample evidence shows it to be a compromised agency that became entangled with the
Hamas apparatus in Gaza:

  • Hamas has stated on numerous occasions that it is not responsible for the welfare of the Gazan population. UNRWA allowed Hamas to abdicate responsibility and avoid the difficult task of actually governing Gaza by doing much of the daily work of local administration. According to the Jewish Policy Center, “Hamas can continue to divert international monies that should be earmarked for food or electricity to the stockpiling of weapons and the creation of anti-Israel or anti-American propaganda as long as UNRWA provides the services that the negligent Hamas government should fulfill.”

  • UNRWA schools and medical buildings in Gaza have been found to conceal entrances to Hamas-built terror tunnels.

  • Empty UNRWA classrooms have been used by Hamas to store weaponry.

  • UNRWA produces many of the textbooks used in the hundreds of schools it runs. For years, these books have been riddled with hatred for Jews and Israel.

  • Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh was an UNRWA teacher.

  • UNRWA officials participated in the October 7 massacre.

  • UNRWA officials held Israeli hostages in their homes.

A New Education System
While the “Swords of Iron” war continues, preparations for rebuilding civil society in Gaza should
start now. Whatever mechanism of rule and administration is implemented in Gaza cannot include
UNRWA. Given the amount of destruction in Gaza and the resulting displacement of roughly two
million people, designing and fielding a replacement organization is a large task. This whitepaper
concentrates on one mission of this new organization: education and the organization that will
further this mission, the Alternate Gazan Education System (AGES) Fund.

The AGES Fund recognizes that Gazan children of all ages have been indoctrinated to hate their
Jewish neighbors, and U.S. taxpayer money has sponsored this radicalization through UNRWA. The
AGES Fund seeks to reform the Gazan education system through several key parameters including
a strong coalition of international partners, curriculum in textbooks, and teachers. The goal should
be “Teaching to Coexist” instead of “Teaching to Hate.” This is doubly critical as Israeli security
forces will likely remain in Gaza for many years. To this end, we make the following

  • The AGES Fund should be administered by an international coalition that recognizes Israel, including:

    • The U.S., Germany, the European Union, Sweden, Norway, Japan, France, and Switzerland. These entities are among the top donors to UNRWA.

    • Abraham Accord countries — the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. This historic agreement is proof that years of animosity can be replaced by an alliance that benefits all sides through peace and economic prosperity.

    • Israel must be a part of this coalition as it directly affects them. However, Israeli leadership could be interpreted as a step in the “reconquering” or “occupation” of Gaza, something that Israel has no interest in. Israel should not take a leading role to avoid potential problems. Instead, Israel should advise the coalition about potential red flags and nuances in language as it will have a unique perspective given security conditions on the ground.

    • Other countries may have an advisory role (i.e., Saudi Arabia and Indonesia), but should be based on progress toward normalization with Israel.

  • The AGES Fund should develop a new curriculum and prepare updated textbooks. There must
    be full transparency in all educational materials, and they must be approved by the
    international coalition.

    • A recent example is Saudi Arabia, which is thought to be a future country to normalize
      relations with Israel and is also a top contributor to UNRWA. Last year, the kingdom
      removed references in schoolbooks to Jews as monkeys and pigs who worship the devil,
      and descriptions of them as traitors and sworn enemies of Islam. Anti-Israeli materials
      were also removed, including reports of the use of women, drugs, and the media to
      achieve their goals and conspiracies according to which Israel has plans to expand its
      borders from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates in Iraq. Gazans can learn from the
      Saudi example that there is a better way and education reform is possible.

  • The AGES Fund should also focus on preparing a new workforce of educators. Textbooks and
    curricula are only as strong as their implementors. Teachers and administrators must be
    heavily vetted before entering the Gazan school system, and teachers should come from
    outside nations like the UAE, Morocco and Bahrain, among others. Future Gazan teachers
    should serve as understudies and be allowed to teach independently only after they have been vetted and have completed a course (1-2 years) in “Education Towards Coexistence.” Teachers should serve in Gaza for a limited time of up to 4 years initially. In this way, AGES Fund teachers maintain currency without becoming affected by the “old way.”

What the U.S. Can Do:
U.S. funding should be shifted to a new entity immediately, a sort of “escrow” account, to begin this
process. These funds could initially be redirected from existing programs including UNRWA and
the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA). The U.S. could also work toward building the
international coalition of partner nations and the establishment of the multinational AGES fund for
the future.

USIEA’s Unique Role
USIEA’s mission is to educate Members of Congress and senior government leaders on issues
related to strengthening the U.S.-Israel collaboration.

USIEA has been deeply involved in educating Members of Congress on the Palestinian incitement
to terror, specifically through the Palestinian Authority policy of “pay for slay.” These educational
efforts informed the Taylor Force Act, a Congressional action to ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars do
not fund terror.

Today, as the international community is eager to plan for the “day after” the war in Gaza,
Congress can proactively ensure the seeds for peace are planted with a revised Gazan educational
system devoid of incitement to terror.

USIEA has been successful in the past educating U.S. leaders on unique avenues toward regional
coexistence, and the AGES fund is an additional solution.

USIEA will provide educational briefings for Congress and U.S. government officials at the State
Department. Additionally, USIEA will connect officials in Israel and the other Abraham Accords
countries with their U.S. counterparts to educate and facilitate discussions.

About USIEA:

U.S. Israel Education Association (USIEA) advances important dialogue and cooperation between bipartisan senior government leaders in the United States and Israel by filling existing information gaps and enhancing understanding of issues critical to a mutually beneficial partnership. Founded in 2011, USIEA empowers U.S. leaders with innovative initiatives on the path to Middle East peace, connects Members of Congress with direct access to West Bank visits, and educates as thought leaders in the media and through strategic global partnerships. To learn more about USIEA’s work, visit

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