The Palestinian Authority suspended ties with the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) Thursday due to the agency’s plans to change its curriculum, which currently contains material inciting violence against Israelis. The PA’s Education Ministry called the possible reforms “an affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles.”
“The changes, according to Arab media reports, include revisions to maps of Palestine to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities, a practice that numerous studies of Palestinian textbooks have labeled as ‘incitement.’ Other changes were reportedly planned to tone down praise for Palestinian prisoners and improve Israel’s image,” The Times of Israel reported.
UNRWA teachers have been found to regularly incite students to terrorism and anti-Semitism, including by praising Adolf Hitler. The agency has ties with Hamas, and last October, several members of its staff were fired for posting Facebook statuses inciting violence against Israelis. Hamas rockets were also found in UNRWA schools in three separate instances during the 2014 Gaza war.
Israel’s coordinator of government activities in the territories lauded the proposed revisions as a way “to create a balanced, positive curriculum with universal values free from violence and incitement.”
Earlier this month, an Israeli watchdog found that PA textbooks for the 2016 school year routinely demonized Israel and praised “martyrdom.” The textbooks glorified terrorists and featured math questions asking students to calculate how many martyrs had died in the First and Second Intifadas combined. Maps depicted “Palestine” as covering all of Israel. A previous report by the watchdog, issued last June, discovered that the word “peace” did not appear even once in its survey of 78 PA textbooks for grades one through 12.
The United States representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) strongly condemned the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday. Ambassador Kenneth P. Ward called the chemical attack launched by the regime on the town of Khan Sheikhoun a “direct affront to the Chemical Weapons Convention and, indeed, a direct affront to human decency, carried out by a State Party.”
“On April 4, the lifeless bodies of innocent victims, grotesquely contorted and twisted by the nerve agent sarin, tell the real story,” Ward continued. Syria “provided a grossly incomplete declaration to the OPCW of its chemical weapons program. It continues to possess and use chemical weapons.”
Following a lethal 2013 chemical attack on a Damascus suburb, Assad made a deal to get rid of his chemical weapons stockpile. Despite an announcement by then-President Barack Obama in August 2014 that the deal had eliminated Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, reports persisted that Syria continued using the proscribed munitions. Since the deal, Syria has mostly used chlorine–an industrial chemical that can also be deployed as a weapon–in “barrel bomb” attacks.
Ward was also fiercely critical of a major Assad ally: the “outrage is abetted by Russia‘s continuing efforts to bury the truth and protect the Syrian regime,” he said.
A French-Italian airplane manufacturing company signed an agreement Thursday to sell Iran Air at least 20 aircraft, the Associated Press reported, despite Iran’s continued use of civilian aircraft to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The European company’s spokesman, David Vargas, said, “They will definitely help Iran Air to modernize and develop regional connectivity across the country.”
Farzin Nadimi, an analyst specializing in Iran and the Persian Gulf, warned that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) uses such airplanes – as well as secondhand aircraft and parts from smaller entities – to destabilize the Middle East. Nadimi wrote, “The air bridge between Iran and Syria has been particularly busy of late, with planes from several civilian and military operators making the trip,” including Iran Air. “Besides the busy Tehran-Damascus route, three airlines…also visit Abadan Airport intermittently. There, Iraqi Shiite militia forces are bused in from Najaf and Basra to be flown to Damascus,” he explained.
Nadimi concluded that between the two of them, “Iranian and Syrian airlines have hauled about 21,000 passengers between Tehran/Abadan and Damascus in the past two months alone, along with over 5,000 tons of supplies. Very few pilgrims travel to Syria these days, so most of these passengers were military or paramilitary personnel. Almost all of the flights in question are fully chartered by the IRGC and usually unavailable to the general public.”
Boeing and Airbus both reached deals with Iran Air last December. Mark Dubowitz, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, testified earlier this month that "between January 16, 2016 [Implementation Day of the Iran nuclear deal] and March 30, 2017, Iranian airlines have flown at least 690 flights from Iran to Syria, including 114 on Iran Air.”
Iran Air was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2011 for, among other things, ferrying “missile or rocket components to Syria,” but was removed from the Treasury’s blacklist as part of the nuclear deal with Iran. But the airline, as noted above and elsewhere, continues to ferry materiel to fighters in Syria.
U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern about the sale of aircraft to Iran Air. “Iran Air’s aircraft will undoubtedly be used in the future to continue to funnel lethal assistance to [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad, to Hezbollah, and to other terrorist entities,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter last June to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, and then-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Sherman had previously described Iran Air as “an air force for terrorism.”
It’s the stuff of a heartwarming movie script: Some post-army buddies with a lot of friends and good hearts wanted to fund renovations and new activities like yoga and belly dancing at a daycare center for the elderly in Jaffa. Traditional fundraising appeals weren’t successful, so they did something they were all good at – throwing a party. The planners attracted 1,000 partygoers who were happy to know their admission fee was going toward a meaningful cause. That first party led to others and mushroomed into a nonprofit movement, Ze.Ze (This Is It), cofounded by twin brothers Jonathan and Daniel Winkler with Narkis Alon and Tana Warhaft Ashkenazi. Ze.Ze’s community of young adults creates and manages self-sustaining social businesses that develop the members’ own skills and talents while making a positive impact on society. Based in Tel Aviv, Ze.Ze has established three ongoing projects since August 2013: The Street Philharmonic, providing income to formerly unemployed street musicians; Zot.Zot design and print studio at an Israel Prison Service-run center for rehabilitating former female inmates; and People Who Don’t Usually Lecture, a democratized form of TED Talks. It also ran a onetime event, Touching Art, a collaboration between artists and people with no or low vision. All income generated from Ze.Ze projects and events, including lectures and workshops to others who want to learn about the model, is invested back into the nonprofit. (via Israel21c)