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UNRWA controversy Middle East education payments ‘funding terrorist propaganda’

Pupils at a school

Pupils at an UNRWA school in Gaza City.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Switzerland is looking into reports that foreign aid payments are being used to glamorise Palestinian terrorists in Middle East schools. The complaints centre around the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has been criticised in the past by the Swiss foreign minister.

The Sonntagszeitung newspaperexternal link has unearthed evidence that UNRWAexternal link money directed at educational projects is funding school material that praises so-called Islamic martyrs. Switzerland is one of the largest contributors to UNRWA, giving some CHF27 million ($27.4 million) to the agency last year. It is headed by Swiss national Pierre Krähenbühl.

The controversial educational material was found by the Israeli NGO Impact-Se that says Palestinian students are also being taught anti-semetic messages.

The Swiss foreign ministry said it was investigating the allegations. “School materials that run counter to the spirit of a two-state solution, glorify violence, incite racism and anti-semitism or trivialise violations of international law and human rights are not in keeping with the Swiss Middle East position," a spokeswoman told the newspaper.

The European Union, Britain and Finland are also looking into the issue, the newspaper reported on Sunday.

The UNRWA operates 711 schools in the Middle East. Spokesman Sami Mshasha said the teaching material had been approved by universities in Tel Aviv and Bethlehem. But it is unclear whether the 2013 study by the universities had seen all of the controversial material.

Last year, Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis sparked controversy when he said the UNRWA had become part of the Middle East problem by shielding millions of Palestinian refugees in camps that prevented them from integrating into neoghbouring countries.

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