Al-Akhbar: Head of UNRWA Teachers is “Senior Leader of Hamas“

BELOW: Al Akhbar reports accusations that Fathi al-Sharif, principal of an UNRWA school and President of the UNRWA Teachers Union in Lebanon “holds a senior leadership position” in Hamas, and that he traveled to Turkey and other places to meet with other “senior Hamas leaders.” 

As documented by UN Watch’s new report, UNRWA knows about al-Sharif’s role in promoting Hamas terrorism yet refuses to fire him, and has also withdrawn its prior demand that he resign.


Al Akhbar

German director bans solidarity with Gaza: A political purge at UNRWA

Politics Case of the Day  | Ibrahim al-Amin, Faten al-Haj 

March 25, 2024 — The pro-Israeli Western capitals are sweeping through all UN institutions involved in providing humanitarian support to the Palestinian people inside and outside Palestine.

The concentrated campaign on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) came in the context of attempts to close the agency, which Israel considers a symbol of keeping the refugee issue alive in the world.

The enemy resorted to fabricating news and information about the involvement of UNRWA employees in military actions against the occupation forces, whether in Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7, or in talking about the agency allowing resistance factions in the Gaza Strip to use its headquarters for military purposes, and the existence of tunnels under the agency’s headquarters, a campaign that facilitated a long-sought decision by Western governments to cut off funding to the agency in preparation for its removal.

In Lebanon, agency workers have long faced administrative issues. But the new campaign took on a different dimension after German Dorothee Klaus took over as UNRWA’s director in Lebanon in February 2023. Klaus has served in various positions at the agency in Jordan and Palestine, and is seen as an expert on Palestinian affairs (her doctoral dissertation was titled “Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon – Where Do They Belong?” and followed extensive studies Klaus conducted among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon between 1996 and 1999).

However, contrary to what was expected of her as an expert in refugee affairs and knowledgeable about the oppression of refugees in Lebanon and the world in general, during her year of administration, Klaus showed a clear bias towards Western policies to eliminate the idea of resistance from the minds of refugees, while her activism to improve the conditions of refugees in Lebanon took on a political dimension supporting their settlement by urging them to be granted all the rights of residents of Lebanon.


Since assuming her post, the German official, like all foreign ambassadors, has been making constant rounds to all officials, until there is hardly any official left whom she has not visited publicly or out of the spotlight, including Hezbollah. Experts on the work of foreign delegates in Lebanon note that the German embassy in Beirut exercises “guardianship” over Klaus, who meets periodically with the German ambassador and embassy staff in Beirut, under the pretext that they are “helping to address issues facing civil society allies.”


After the outbreak of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, the German official personally took a political stance in solidarity with Israel. She led a campaign to “save UNRWA” by adopting policies of political cleansing within the agency and seeking the dismissal or resignation of any employee “who does not comply with the conditions of political silence,” knowing that the agency’s workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are Palestinians, are concerned with the genocidal war being waged against Gaza.


She also took advantage of the Israeli campaign to take steps aimed at eliminating any activity, position or policy that opposes Western trends, in addition to always talking about precautionary measures it is taking as a result of data it receives that the enemy is about to launch a major war on Lebanon, and that it wants to spare UNRWA centers in the camps or outside them from what is happening in Gaza. She studied a plan to invest in new headquarters in areas she considers “outside the scope of the Israeli army” in case of war.


In response to this mission, the German official tried to grasp all the joints of the administrative work, and moved to work among teachers in UNRWA schools. She started from the fact that most of the activists in the union, or those who won its management, are not from PLO organizations and are not particularly affiliated with Fatah. She reacted to “security data” and other “political data” indicating that these teachers support Hamas, participate in activities that support the liberation of Palestine, and work to demonstrate their position during their work as well. This led Klaus to conduct investigations with quite a few of these teachers to determine “the truth about their involvement in activities that conflict with their work at UNRWA.”


The most notable step was the campaign against educator Fathi al-Sharif, the head of the Agency’s Teachers’ Union sector. Klaus personally campaigned against him and tried to get him to resign from his position, communicating with a large number of Lebanese political forces and Palestinian parties to achieve this goal.


After he refused to comply with the decision, she asked UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini to act, and the latter issued a decision to suspend Sharif for three months without pay, renewable, and asked him to hand over all his belongings and subject him to investigation on the basis of accusations, including:


  • First: Violating the principle of neutrality through his ideological and political affiliation with Hamas and holding a senior leadership position in the organization.


  • Second: Traveling abroad, especially to Turkey, without obtaining permission from the administration and meeting with senior Hamas leaders (although the visit was for purely family reasons, and there is irrefutable evidence and proven documents in this regard).


  • Third: Conducting activities in support of Gaza and Palestine


In explaining the reason for the action, Klaus said that the donor countries that provide funding to UNRWA have feedback, and “they want explanations and steps to confirm that there are no Hamas elements” in the agency.

After scrutiny, Klaus herself acknowledged that the relevant embassies in Lebanon had talked about “security reports about some employees, including al-Sharif, doing political and organizational work and visiting Turkey to hold meetings with the Hamas leadership there.”

Lebanese sources following the file found that the embassies of the United States, Germany, France and Britain focus on the Palestinian security file, request data from Lebanese political, security and official bodies, and use non-governmental organizations (funded by these embassies) to collect information on the activities carried out by UNRWA employees outside their official duties, including any cultural, sports and social activities, with a focus on collecting data on everything they have done since the Al-Aqsa flood battle, whether in terms of organizing vigils or solidarity marches with Gaza or calling for support for the Palestinian resistance, as well as monitoring their posts on social media pages.

As in every internal Palestinian file, the UNRWA administration cooperates with the security authorities of the Ramallah authority and its representative in the Palestinian embassy in Beirut, and coordinates information with him, especially with regard to the teachers’ union, which is the most heated file, after the elections in the union led to the fall of the candidates of most factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, especially Fatah. The “Ramallah men” in Beirut accuse the independents who won the elections of being “secret members” of Hamas, and talk about the close ties of some of them with Hamas officials. In one interview, Klaus even went so far as to tell a senior UNRWA employee, “You have to choose between your work at UNRWA and the liberation of Palestine!”

In an attempt to provide Lebanese coverage for this decision, Klaus contacted the Director of Intelligence of the Lebanese Army, Brigadier General Tony Kahwaji, the Acting Director General of General Security, Major General Elias Bisri, and the Internal Security Forces Command to inform them that the pressures on the agency are forcing it to take measures against employees who have political and practical ties with the resistance forces.


The Socialist Party and Hezbollah deny covering the decisions to punish employees of the Teachers’ Union

Klaus also turned to Hezbollah and held two meetings with the party’s international relations official, former MP Ammar al-Moussawi, who explained to her that the party is not interested in asking anyone to change their speech or behavior, and that the party has nothing to do with the internal work of the agency. All the party did after the meeting was to inform the Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ahmad Abdul Hadi, that Klaus had discussed al-Sharif’s file and wanted him to resign.

However, Klaus misrepresented the party’s position and rumored within UNRWA that she had convinced Hezbollah of her point of view and asked it to intercede with Hamas and Sharif to convince him to resign in exchange for a large financial compensation, suggesting that the party understood her position, which the latter categorically denies.

She also tried the same thing with the Progressive Socialist Party, whose officials initiated contact with the Hamas leadership, explaining that they are not concerned with Klaus’s actions and that they are convinced that the issue is political and targets the resistance project: “We are with you.”

UN Watch