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  • Writer's pictureAvi Abraham Benlolo

TheFridayReport: Open Letter to Global Affairs Canada About UNRWA

March 5, 2021

Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Minister of International Development

Karina Gould, P.C., M.P.

Ottawa, Canada

K1A 0G2

Dear Minister Gould;

Thank you for your very thoughtful and detailed letter of March 3, 2021. From having gotten to know you over the last number of years, I know you deeply care about Israel, the concerns raised by the Canadian Jewish community and the fight against antisemitism. I appreciate your respect of Israel’s sovereignty and your belief in a two-state solution whereby the Palestinians live peacefully alongside Israel. As a proud Canadian, I have been advocating for these same principles for nearly 30 years on the basis of promoting human rights.

Unfortunately, the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) is part of the problem, not the solution that will bring about peace. True, a mechanism needs to be in place for providing and administrating meaningful aid that also contributes to stability. However, the current mechanism in place that we as Canadians are funding is reportedly reinforcing many of the problems our nation wants to help alleviate. While our national intent and inclination toward charity and good-will is in good spirit therefore, in my humble view, we need to find alternate financial allocation vehicles. Alternatively, we can set up an independent task force comprised of a cross section of concerned Canadians to provide oversight.

I understand from your letter that UNRWA “has in place a formal framework to review all textbooks”. As you are aware, there have been calls in our own parliament for more Canadian scrutiny regarding allegation of antisemitic curriculum found in UNWRA run schools A recent report produced by IMPACT-se shows that UNRWA curriculum has not changed significantly and that it still promotes terrorism and antisemitism against the Jewish state. The study reportedly advises that the curriculum encourages jihad, terrorism, and martyrdom, and present terrorists as heroes.

I would encourage our authorities to demand a review of these materials before we send any further funding to UNRWA. As it is, UNRWA perpetuates the so-called refugee status of Palestinians. Canada is a peace-loving nation that should not be complicit in indoctrinating children to hate as is alleged and reported. As significantly, our continued financial support frees up other resources for the Palestinian Authority to allocate over $150 million per year towards its pay-for-slay program – a program that rewards terrorism. We must demand this practice stop before sending any further funding.

One of the other significant issues now being studied and discussed is the assertion that UNRWA inflates the number of refugees. It says that all Palestinians and their descendants living in other countries and with citizenship are still refugees, instead of the original few hundred thousand displaced 73 years ago. This of course keeps their quest for more funding and resources going while keeping Palestinians from seeing and working toward a brighter future.

Minister, I trust our government is under equal pressure from the pro-Palestinian Canadian community. I also recognize your reassurance that “Canada exercises enhanced due diligence on funding for UNRWA”. This same sentiment has been previously expressed. Canada must find a way to alleviate our concerns about UNRWA and find alternate vehicles to help advance peace in the Middle East. An independent citizen based task force is highly recommended. We cannot play politics around issues that concern life and death and jeopardize the well-being of Israel. If children are still being taught to hate and we are enabling this, what true prospects for peace are there?

Once again Minister, thank you for taking the time to write to me. As the matter is of interest to my community, I hope you will not mind that I will be sharing your letter (and this reply) openly. I wish you continued success in your role and thank you for your service to our country.

Sincerely yours,

Avi Benlolo

Avi Abraham Benlolo has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights. His academic research, graduate studies and training focused on Holocaust and genocide studies. In recognition of his national and international leadership in this area, he has received numerous awards including an honorary doctorate from a prestigious Israeli university; an Order of Vaughan for his distinguished contribution to equity and diversity; the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada and a race relations award for best practice, based on distinguished service in promoting human rights.

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