MEP Assita Kanko at the International Summit for a Future Beyond UNRWA

Hon. Assita Kanko, Member of European Parliament

Full remarks: 

Thank you very much, Hillel. I’m honored to be here. I’m happy that we are here because it’s important.

We are not here only to speak about the future of UNRWA. It’s about our common future as fellow human beings. This is what it is about.

I learned about World War II, I learned about everything that happened in history when I was a child in Burkina Faso, growing up in a traditional family, growing up in a poor village, walking barefoot, not even knowing that Belgium existed, and just aspiring to learn and to become a free, independent, emancipated human being and girl. I grew up in an Islamic environment. Anything could have happened to me. I could have never been here. All I knew was that people like Rousseau were also in Geneva, but I didn’t know anything more than that.

But, thanks to education – education provided by other people than organizations like UNRWA – I’m here today, and I know the things that I know. I learned that I have a responsibility as a human being and that we are all equal. 


Nobody should ever have to convince anyone that Jews are human beings. 


But in the religion that I’ve seen, Jews are called dogs. They call people like me, who become secular, dogs. This must change.

So, I would like to share a short story with you to begin with. I went to my first-ever Shabbat dinner, and I saw this woman, this friend of mine, preparing for dinner. And like in any other family – she had four kids with her husband – they were being rushed, slowing down, arguing, laughing – everything you can find in a family, everything that we daily consider as super boring or irritating. But this is actually what we all fight for.

And then, when I looked at her and her kids, I thought: What I’m seeing now – this beautiful woman and everything I’m seeing now – is what the radical Muslims and Hamas do not want to see existing. They don’t want these people to exist and share these moments that every other person would like to share with their family – that I also share with my daughter, and that I shared with my siblings and parents growing up.

When I went to speak in January at a school in New York, a little girl of 9 years old followed me until I was putting on my coat and about to leave. And she asked me – she obviously didn’t want to ask in front of everyone – she asked me, “What can I do if people hate me because I am Jewish?” And I could see she was expecting an answer. 

What could I say? I am not Jewish. I am a human being. I am a secular Muslim. And I love you so much, and so many people love you too. Just be you, be yourself. And I still feel that we owe this kid and everyone else who asks themselves this question. We are responsible to build a world where nobody should ever have to ask himself this question. 


And in that world, UNRWA does not exist.


Radical Islam does not exist. 


The values of the Enlightenment, European values, do exist and are much stronger. I’m very ashamed that my country, Belgium, is not refraining from sponsoring UNRWA. And you know why? It’s because of this deep philosophy of victimhood. When they see people like me, they want to treat us like victims. I know why they hate people like me – because we don’t want to be victims. We are human beings, and we have the potential to achieve.

They treat Palestinians like victims, they treat immigrants in Europe like victims, they do not want to unlock your potential. The reason why they continue giving the money is to continue having the votes from a certain population in Europe that refuses to integrate and that puts Islam above our constitution, above our laws and above everything we have inherited, everything that says that people like me should be free, that all of us are equal. 

So I think that we need to continue pushing for Europe and for the remaining countries to stop funding UNRWA. We need to make sure that other agencies can take over the job. They’re doing it well in other countries. Look at UNICEF, look at UNHCR. 

I think also that whatever replaces UNRWA should make sure that the employees are not necessarily from Gaza. They need to have international, unbiased people to work for them. 

To see the son of Ayelet, who spoke here earlier, being dragged into an UNRWA car – who wants to be paying for this? Do we want to be paying for terrorism? 

And I did not read my speech, because seeing you today just inspired me to say something else, so I didn’t want to read the speech that my advisers wrote for me, together with me. They are going to be very disappointed because they spent all weekend working. I just spoke from my heart, because we have to do something here, and we are all a giant family of human beings, and the individual exists beyond his color, his gender, his race, his history. We are all human beings and that is what we need to push from.


And if I were Guterres, I would do my job. I would do my job. That’s what I’m calling him for.


Thank you.

UN Watch