- Israel accused 13 UN Aid employees in Palestine of helping Hamas attack Israel on October 7th.
- The US and 16 other countries paused funding to the UN Relief Agency in Palestine (UNRWA) pending an investigation.
- UNRWA was started as a temporary measure to assist Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
- Now, UNRWA uses UN money to provide Gazans with the civil services Hamas refuses to provide them.
This week, the US and 16 other countries paused funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) after Israel alleged 13 of the group’s employees participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
With 75% of its budget in the balance, UNRWA faces financial ruin — a potentially climactic end to the group’s controversial history.
Founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, UNRWA provides education, social services, healthcare and general aid people in Gaza, West Bank, and regions in Jordan and Lebanon.
The U.S., which funds an estimated 30% of organization’s billion-dollar budget, suspended aid UNWRA last Thursday after finding Israel’s allegations “credible enough” to warrant investigation, according to The New York Times.
A cascade of countries controlling an additional 45% of UNRWA’s endowment followed suit, including Canada, Australia, the EU, the UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Japan, Austria, New Zealand, Iceland, Romania and Estonia.
As of this week, Israel hasn’t released its investigation to the public, but several news outlets claim to have reviewed the dossier directly.
Piecing the allegations together reads like a horrific game of CLUE, deducing which employees killed and kidnapped civilians, received calls and text messages from Hamas, distributed ammunition, coordinated militant movements, and concealed murders.
Israeli intelligence implicates 12 UNRWA employees in the terrorist plot, the Times reports: seven teachers, two other school employees, a clerk, a social worker, and a storeroom manager. The 13th employee’s occupation has not yet been reported.
Another of these six could be the school counselor who allegedly “work[ed] with his son to abduct a woman from Israel,” based on reporting by the Times and The Washington Post.
Israel claims it surveilled an unknown number of the employees discussing their involvement with the attack over the phone. Three employees also purportedly received text messages from Hamas to rendezvous on the night of October 6.
The investigation claims the social worker helped coordinate Hamas’ assault, distributed ammunition to militants, and helped move the body of an Israeli soldier to Gaza, the Times writes.
It’s unclear whether this is the same employee who allegedly kept rocket-propelled grenades for the terrorist group.
UNWRA fired nine of the implicated individuals, the UN announced Sunday. Three remain unidentified and another was confirmed dead.
“Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” Guterres assured member states.
This isn’t the first time UNWRA has come under scrutiny. Israel has long accused the group of aiding and abetting Hamas and other Palestinian militants.
The UN formed Israel in 1948 as part of a proposed two-state solution allowing Jewish people devastated by the Holocaust to return to their ancestral land.
Under the UN’s original charter, existing Palestinian residents could have continued to live in Israel. The fledgling country only expelled Palestinians after many helped Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia try to destroy Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Recognizing its role in displacing Palestinians from their homes, the UN established UNWRA after passing UN Resolution 194, which:
- Gives refugees the right to return to their homes as soon as peacefully possible;
- Asks governments to compensate refugees’ whose property they have taken or damaged.
At first, UNWRA provided aid to true refugees — Palestinians whose “normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”
This definition has been extended to all male descendants of Palestinian refugees, which means most all of the five million people in Gaza and West Bank not only have access to UNWRA services, but a UN-guaranteed “right to return” to Israel.
UNWRA’s new definition of “refugee” ensures it will never be shut down.
Its long tenure and ever-flowing stream of foreign cash has allowed UNRWA to become a de-facto civil government in the region, providing services to Gazans that Hamas refuses to.
Acting as two arms of the same government, UNWRA and the terrorist group necessarily share a close working relationship.
The US paid UNRWA about $344 million in 2022— $122 million donated to the group specifically, and another $222 million from a $14 billion unearmarked donation to the UN more broadly.
America briefly stopped funding UNRWA in 2018 over its definition of “refugee” and who gets the “right to return” to Israel. Instead, the US chose to provide humanitarian aid to directly to West Bank and Gaza.
Funding to UNRWA was reinstated in 2021.
U.S. officials deserve praise for cutting off UNRWA’s funding pending an investigation. The United States cannot, in good conscience, fund organizations even remotely connected to Hamas and the antisemitic brutality unleashed on October 7th.
Taken in conjunction with the agency’s overreach of its original charter, American citizens’ can better steward their money by supporting pro-Israel charities providing relief in Gaza.