The Biden administration has hired the former director of a United Nations agency accused of promoting antisemitism and terrorism in Palestinian schools to help oversee refugee issues and U.N. reform at the State Department.
Elizabeth Campbell was hired as deputy assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration last month, according to reports.
From 2017 to 2022, Campbell served as Washington, D.C., director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a U.N. agency that runs schools for Palestinian children and has used textbooks that teach antisemitic and pro-terrorist views.
Campbell’s appointment puts her in the position of working for the same State Department bureau that provides funding and oversight for the U.N. agency she previously helped run.
Rich Goldberg, a senior adviser with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Biden administration’s decision to hire Campbell shows it has no intention of demanding accountability from UNRWA.
“That is the height of outrage,” said Goldberg, who worked on UNRWA reform issues as deputy chief of staff for former senator Mark Kirk. “It shows the Biden administration has zero agenda to achieve any semblance of reform at that agency.”
Under Campbell’s tenure, UNRWA was accused of disseminating antisemitic and anti-Israel literature. The Trump administration cut the agency’s funding, and the European Parliament passed a resolution last April condemning UNRWA for textbooks that teach “hate speech and violence” in Palestinian schools run by the agency.
President Joe Biden restored UNRWA’s funding last summer after the agency signed an agreement promising to reform its textbooks and allow oversight from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, where Campbell will now serve as deputy assistant secretary.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last year that the administration was “determined that UNRWA pursue very necessary reforms” and stop “disseminating in its educational products antisemitic or anti-Israel information.”
As director of UNRWA’s D.C. office, Campbell vigorously defended the agency’s work against criticism. She also lobbied the Biden administration to restore the organization’s funding.
“UNRWA rejects allegations that it teaches hate or antisemitism,” Campbell told the Hill in April. “We do teach human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance, and our teachers, school environments, and student graduates are a testament to these values.”
The European Parliament and the Canadian government both recently threatened to cut funding to UNRWA over its textbooks.
A study last year by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education found widespread antisemitism, anti-Israel bias, and glorification of terrorism in textbooks used in UNRWA’s schools.
A report commissioned by the European Union in 2019 showed similar findings.
The textbooks promoted conspiracy theories, including claims that Jews falsified ancient artifacts to make it look like they have historical claims to Jerusalem holy sites, and that “Zionists” poison Palestinians by dumping radioactive material in the West Bank, according to the studies. Israel was also omitted from world maps, and was referred to as “The Enemy” and “the Zionist Occupation.”
The books repeatedly praised Dalal al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian terrorist who killed 38 Israelis, including 13 children, as a symbol of female empowerment, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Math sections also included references to terrorism, teaching Newton’s laws by citing Palestinians pelting Israelis with slingshots and asking children to count the number of “martyrs” killed in the First Intifada, the Post reported.
UNRWA has faced criticism for years over its connections to Hamas. In 2014, a United Nations investigation found that Hamas militants were using UNRWA schools for weapons storage. The agency also came under fire in 2017 for reportedly employing an elected Hamas official as a school principal, and another in its public relations department.
A 2017 study by UN Watch found dozens of UNRWA employees had posted antisemitic or pro-terrorist comments on social media, including praise for Hitler and Hamas.
A spokesman for the State Department stood by the hire in a statement to the Free Beacon.
“Each employee serving in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration serves with integrity and works diligently to promote U.S. interests by providing protection, easing suffering, and resolving the plight of persecuted and forcibly displaced people around the world,” said the spokesman, asking to speak on background.
“We do this by coordinating humanitarian policy and diplomacy, providing life-sustaining assistance, working with multilateral organizations to build global partnerships, and promoting best practices in humanitarian response.”
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