UN Silences Watchdog for Calling Out Anti-Semitism at Relief Agency

United Nations Human Rights Council / Getty Images
October 5, 2021

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday silenced the executive director of a U.N. watchdog after he drew attention to anti-Semitic comments made by teachers for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The council cut off U.N. Watch director Hillel Neuer as he was testifying about his watchdog's report on anti-Semitic social media posts from teachers hired by UNRWA, a refugee agency tasked with educating Palestinian children. The report revealed that a teacher in the Gaza Strip had shared a video of Adolf Hitler "to enrich and enlighten your thoughts and minds." Another teacher had shared anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that blamed the Jewish people for the coronavirus pandemic and claimed they want to control the world and destroy Islam. The president of the Human Rights Council said Neuer was cut off because he made "derogatory, insulting, and inflammatory remarks" that amounted to "personal attacks" and were "not acceptable."

The Biden administration rejoined the Human Rights Council in February after the Trump administration had boycotted the agency since 2018 over its anti-Israel agenda and its inclusion of human rights abusers such as China, Russia, and Cuba. The UNRWA uses curriculum provided by the Palestinian Authority, and undercover videos taken at the agency's facilities have shown children calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Neuer called on Human Rights Council president Nazhat Shameem Khan to apologize to him and rescind her ruling, saying she "read out a prepared statement" against him. He also threatened to press U.N. secretary general António Guterres to proclaim that his remarks were incorrectly characterized and that the body was sending "a dangerous message" by silencing him and denying his right to freedom of speech.

"The highest human rights body of the United Nations has just sent a dangerous message to the world when, without any basis, you summarily and arbitrarily blocked me from presenting a report about systemic anti-Semitism incited daily by the teachers of UNRWA," Neuer tweeted.

U.N. Watch's report contains more than 20 examples of UNRWA teachers making anti-Semitic comments on social media.