Israel’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations was barred on Monday from bringing a photo into the General Assembly highlighting the anti-Semitic views of a school teacher in the Gaza Strip.
Erdan had meant to show the picture during a discussion on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in an effort to highlight the problem of incitement in UNRWA-operated schools in Gaza. However, a security team was instructed by UNRWA staff to prevent him from entering the General Assembly hall with the photo, which showed an online post by the UNRWA-employed teacher in which he spread anti-Semitic views and quoted Hitler as a source of inspiration.
This, said Erdan, was “a very dangerous precedent … preventing my freedom of expression, preventing my freedom of speech, and hiding the truth from the U.N.”
“Let’s be clear,” he added, “UNRWA has a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech, incitement, discrimination, hostility or violence. I am, however, acutely aware that we are operating in a highly divided and emotionally charged environment where zero risk does not exist.”
The accusations being leveled against the agency’s education system, he said, were politically motivated, and were “increasing in frequency and in aggression.” Those behind the attacks, he said, “do not have the well-being of Palestinian refugee children at heart.”
Erdan rejected the suggestion that his criticism of UNRWA was political and not factual.
“Hamas has built terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and stored weapons [in them],” he noted. “Textbooks used in UNRWA schools have glorified terrorists, called Jews ‘Satan’s helpers’ and display maps that erase Israel,” he added.
“UNRWA is part of the problem, not the solution, and the time has come for the international community to hold it accountable,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Erdan called the incident a “disgrace.”
“The U.N. isn’t just biased, it also shuts mouths. The UNRWA commissioner-general said here that he was proud of his teachers. I didn’t allow his lies to go without a response. I will continue fighting for our truth,” he said.
On Friday, the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Nazhat Shameem Khan, cut off a video presentation by U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer highlighting anti-Semitic social media posts by UNRWA teachers. Khan claimed that quoting the posts constituted a “derogatory, insulting and inflammatory” attack on the teachers in question. She then turned the floor over to the U.K.-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which has been accused of having links with Hamas.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.