Varkey Foundation defends award to Palestinian teacher
Published 31/03/2016 | 16:51
The Varkey Foundation has defended its decision to award a Palestinian schoolteacher a prize for preaching non-violence after it emerged that the woman's husband participated in an attack that killed six Israelis three decades ago.
Earlier this month, the UK-based foundation awarded Hanan al-Hroub its 1 million US dollar (£700,000) Global Teacher Prize.
In its selection, it cited her slogan "No to Violence" and her efforts in protecting Palestinian schoolchildren from the effects of living in a conflict zone.
Ms Al-Hroub's husband, Omar, served time in an Israeli prison for serving as an accomplice in a bombing attack that killed six Israelis in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1980.
In a statement, the Varkey Foundation said "the judging process examines the qualities and achievements of the candidates themselves only".
The foundation was set up by Sunny Varkey, who established the for-profit GEMS Education company.
When it granted Ms Al-Hroub the award on March 14, it made no mention of her husband's past.
An article in the Qatari newspaper al-Araby al-Jadid drew attention to him by praising him as a "freedom fighter ... who took part in one of the most daring guerrilla operations in the occupied territories".
The 1980 bombing attack killed six Israelis as they were walking home from sabbath prayers. According to an Associated Press account at the time, Omar al-Hroub was a chemist who provided chemicals needed for making the bombs.
Meir Indor, chairman of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, an Israeli advocacy group, said he did not blame the teacher for her husband's actions, but that she nonetheless should not have received the prize.
It made "a mockery of those murdered by her husband", he said.
Both of the Al-Hroubs declined to comment.
Qadura Faris, the director of the Palestinian prisoners' association, said that after serving a 10-year sentence, Omar al-Hroub accepted the 1993 Oslo interim peace accord with Israel, served as a deputy Cabinet minister in the Palestinian Authority and supports a two-state solution with Israel.
He said Mr Al-Hroub remains a senior Palestinian official who is close to President Mahmoud Abbas and "believes in his peaceful approach".
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, said it was unfair to hold Ms Al-Hroub responsible for her husband's actions, and the award was a source of Palestinian pride.
She said the Oslo agreement was meant to turn a "whole new page", and that leaders on both sides of the conflict have been involved in bloodshed.
She added it was unfair to blame only the Palestinians for the violence - especially after nearly 50 years of Israeli military rule.
"We cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of every individual when pushed beyond endurance by a ruthless occupation," she said.