WASHINGTON - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced it would pull funding for a Palestinian children's magazine due to anti-Semitic content.
The magazine, Zayzafouna, published an article in February written by a teenage girl who presented four role models: a medieval Persian mathematician, a modern Egyptian novelist, the Muslim warrior Saladin, and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
In the article, the author has Hitler telling her in a dream that he killed Jews "so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world." He advises her to be "resilient and patient concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands."
"Thanks for the advice," the narrator responds.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that “membership of UNESCO goes beyond raising the flag" at the organization’s headquarters. “It means sharing values - the values of tolerance, respect for others,” she said. UNESCO member states voted to accept the PA as a member in October.
Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO headquarters in Paris (Photo: Reuters)
The agency's decision to stop funding the magazine came in response to a letter from the US ambassador to UNESCO, David T. Killion. "You must take action immediately to let the Palestinians know that the kind of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel venom their educational system and media is introducing to young Palestinians is not the way forward towards tolerance, respect and peace,” Killion wrote in his letter to Bokova.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center also asked UNESCO’s director general to suspend its sponsorship of the Palestinian children’s magazine
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israeli organization that tracks incitement in Palestinian media, said the magazine regularly includes terms glorifying jihad against Israel, as well as suicide bombers. It also portrays Hitler and the Nazis in a positive light, the group said.
The American Jewish Committee welcomed UNESCO's decision. "The ongoing failure of the Palestinian Authority to reform its textbooks and other educational materials regarding Israel and Jews is a huge obstacle to achieving a culture of peace,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
"Children taught to hate at an early age too often live lives filled with hate."
"Ideally, of course, UNESCO would have recognized sooner that its funds were being misused to promote such vile hatred of Jews,” said Harris. “Still, we are pleased that Director-General Bokova, once alerted, moved decisively. We trust that, against this revealing backdrop, UNESCO will immediately take all necessary further steps to investigate how its funding of Palestinian projects is, in fact, being used.”
In November the United States announced it had stopped its funding of UNESCO, which is estimated at $80 million a year (one-fifth of the agency's annual budget), following its vote to grant the Palestinians full membership.
In light of Washington's decision, UNESCO said it won't take on any new projects until the end of the year. Director-General Bokova said the agency would also tap its reserve fund – $30 million - set aside to weather such storms.
Israel responded by freezing tax revenues it collects for the Palestinian Authority, but it eventually released the money.
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