Lazzarini suspends UNRWA union chief for Hamas ties, staff rally in his defense

(Reuters reports that Fateh Sharif is accused of ties to the Hamas terrorist group)
Palestine Refugees Portal
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Report by Omar Tafesh – Ezz El-Din Yassin

The promises made by the Director of UNRWA in Lebanon, Dorothy Klaus, regarding the issue of the head of the Agency’s Teachers’ Union, Fatah Al-Sharif , were nothing more than “ink on paper,” say teachers at the agency.

“Dorothy” promised to solve the problem and be satisfied with a verbal warning. Things returned to normal after that, but only days passed until an official email arrived from the Agency’s Commissioner General, Philippe Lazzarini, with the decision to place Professor Al-Sharif on leave for three months without pay and to ask him to hand over all his work belongings and not enter the agency’s institutions, a decision that coincided with other measures against his deputy, Mr. Raif Al-Ahmad, by deducting a full month’s salary from his salary and referring him for investigation based on his previous participation in 2019 calling for the establishment of the right to work for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Once again, the issue of the UNRWA administration’s dealings with its Palestinian employees regarding attempts to “subjugate” them to the so-called “policy of neutrality” adopted by the street among Palestinian refugees, who at all popular, factional, union and civil levels refuse to allow UNRWA employees to be punished against the backdrop of their humanitarian activities. And patriotism and exercising their rights to express their belonging to their homeland, Palestine, and solidarity with their brothers who are subjected to genocidal crimes in the Gaza Strip.

As part of an escalating protest movement called for by the agency’s teachers’ union, Palestinian factions and forces, and a widespread strike, Wednesday witnessed a massive demonstration in front of UNRWA’s main headquarters in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Under the title “No compromise on our national affiliation,” it arrived at noon on Wednesday, March 27, carrying hundreds of Palestinian refugees from various Palestinian camps in Lebanon, in front of the agency’s headquarters.

It was an angry protest in which representatives of the Palestinian factions and human rights and civil society institutions also participated, raising flags. The Palestinian Authority and banners in solidarity with the head of the Teachers Union, which took punitive measures against Fathi al-Sharif, as well as banners condemning the agency’s decisions against him.

The square quickly became very crowded in front of the closed door of the UNRWA headquarters. They gave speeches and sent letters to the agency expressing their rejection of its practices and emphasizing the rights of workers in UNRWA. The agency stands by the besieged Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, as they have been facing Israeli genocide for about 6 months.

The reason for the sanctions is known: belonging to Palestine, and UNRWA is a right for the Palestinians until return

The head of the Workers Union and the director of Deir Yassin High School, Fath al-Sharif, was present, and the participants cheered for him in solidarity. He told the Palestinian Refugee Portal: The UNRWA administration must resolve the issue as quickly as possible, otherwise “things will go to bad consequences,” indicating that “He is a son of that institution in which he spent more than 29 years and will never abandon it so easily.”

Sharif added: He will not accept that his reward from the director of the agency in Lebanon will be his suspension from work and without pay for a period of 3 months, explaining that the reason for him is “known, which is his belonging to the Palestinian people, whether inside or outside UNRWA.”

The director of the Hattin School in the Sidon region, Mr. Ibrahim Mari, pointed out to the Palestinian Refugee Portal that UNRWA “is a right for the Palestinians until they return to Palestine, and it is not a favor from anyone,” saying: “Send us back to our land and take a million UNRWA, and no institution in the world will be able to flay us.” About our people and our land.”

Director of the Thabet Foundation for the Right of Return, Sami Hamoud, said: The stand in front of the agency’s main office comes as part of protest movements rejecting the agency’s administration’s decision against Professor Fateh Sharif, adding to our website: The Palestinian people of all segments, even students, came to express their solidarity with Professor Sharif and send a message that this The measures are shameful measures against our Palestinian people.”

He expressed that the charge of national affiliation is “an honor for any Palestinian who defends the issues of his people, and it is not a crime. Rather, it is a badge and honor on the head and chest of Professor Fateh Sharif.”

There are those who practice intellectual genocide against the Palestinians in the camps

In turn, the official of the National Alliance forces in Ain al-Hilweh camp, Ammar Houran, expressed his joy at these Palestinian groups that responded to the call for solidarity with Professor Fatah Sharif, and said: The camps in these issues must be at the heart of one man so that we can overcome UNRWA’s punitive measures and so that they do not In the future, you dare to think about harming any employee,” he said.

He said: “We came from all the camps to say, in light of the genocide that our people are facing in the Gaza Strip, that there are those who are trying to annihilate us intellectually in Lebanon, and we will not accept unjust decisions against any employee, regardless of his job position, and these decisions will not pass because we will continue until the end.”

Student Ilana Abdel-Ghani from Ain al-Hilweh camp expressed her solidarity with her teacher, Fath al-Sharif, and said: He is being subjected to injustice by the agency’s administration.

She pointed out that Al-Sharif is “the one who raised the generations to love Palestine and taught us to love the homeland and redemption, so how can we, as students, leave him in this ordeal? We are students and teachers who have come to raise our voices loudly and say that he is our teacher, and harming him means harming us, and we will not return to school until Dorothy Klaus withdraws on its punitive measures.”

Likewise, the official of the independent popular movement in Ain al-Hilweh camp, Youssef al-Youssef, said: “It is our duty to be in the stance and defend our teachers and role models and affirm our solidarity from Ain al-Hilweh to Professor Fateh Sharif because it is a national issue par excellence and because the agency’s administration, with its decisions, did not affect Professor Fatah, but rather wants to break “The prestige of the Palestinian people is what we will never accept.”

About a month ago, the case of Professor Fateh Al-Sharif exploded after the agency’s administration asked him, who is the head of the agency’s teachers’ union in Lebanon and the director of Deir Yassin Secondary School in the Al-Bass camp, to resign and referred him to investigation after relief campaigns he carried out to help starving civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Then, on March 2, specifically, the Palestinian camps witnessed a widespread movement against the agency’s practices against him, which ended with the agency’s director in Lebanon, Dorothy Klaus, resolving the case by withdrawing all decisions, but the agency’s commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, soon returned to imposing sanctions on Al-Sharif.

This issue, which has turned into an issue of public opinion that is strongly raised among Palestinian refugees, highlights policies related to so-called “neutrality” imposed on the management of UNRWA, which the latter accepts to ensure its continued funding by donor countries, as donor countries ask the agency to oblige its employees do not express their affiliation to Palestine or condemn “Israeli” crimes, otherwise they will be subjected to investigation, termination of their work, and threats to their sources of livelihood in exchange for continued funding, which the Palestinian employees of the agency, and Palestinians in general, see as political “blackmail” aimed at compromising the livelihood of Palestinian refugees and the services provided to them. By the agency in exchange for silence about the crimes committed against them, most notably the crime of expelling them from their land and establishing the “Israeli” occupation entity on it.

See also: The crisis between UNRWA and the Teachers Union in Lebanon has been resolved. What happened during the Al-Sharif-Klaus meeting? (March 7, 2024)

UN Watch