It’s time to end UNRWA, a/k/a Hamas Lite

The Palestinians in Gaza need relief, but it should not come from UNRWA, the embattled U.N. relief agency with a controversial present, and past.

UNRWA stands for United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and it deals exclusively with Palestinian “refugees.” 

The other U.N. refugee relief agency is the High Commission for Refugees and it covers the entire rest of the world. That’s one way Palestinians get special treatment, coddled, you might say.

One agency, the High Commission, with a decent reputation, serves the globe. Another, UNRWA, serves a tiny slice of humanity and can be called Hamas Lite.

It’s time to disband UNRWA.

Not because at least a dozen of its workers stand accused of actually participating in the Oct. 7 massacre of some 1,200 Israelis, almost all civilians, but also because the Wall Street Journal has reported allegations that as much as 10% of its 13,000 work force in Gaza is affiliated with terrorist organizations.

It employs mostly Palestinians, and reportedly not a single Jew, by design.

In contrast to the High Commission, UNRWA has extended refugee status to the descendants of refugees, thus continually increasing the number of people for which it is responsible. That’s another way Palestinians get special treatment.

An earlier controversy occurred in 2019, when several top leaders were accused of ethics violations, resulting in several resignations.

It has been reported several times that textbooks distributed by UNRWA to Arab school children glorify terrorism, and are filled with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel material.

It might as well be an arm of Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

It has to be terminated.

Its role can be assumed by the U.N.’s High Commission, or by an agency even more trustworthy — the Red Cross.

A cross in an Arab territory?

Controversial, yes, but when you are cold and hungry, will you refuse aid because it comes from the Red Cross?

If you do — that’s on you.

But having my tax dollars go to the corrupt UNRWA — that’s on me.

5 thoughts on “It’s time to end UNRWA, a/k/a Hamas Lite”

  1. A minor point, Stu. You are a little behind the times. The Red Cross is actually now the “International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.” No crosses need appear in Gaza. The Red Cross got “inclusive” years ago. Israel has its own aid organization “Mogen David Adom” i.e., Red Star of David (not to be confused with Mogen David red, the Kosher wine). It is modeled after the Red Cross, but is not directly affiliated with them as far as I can tell. It is Israel’s largest volunteer organization.

    On the UNRWA front, there is some distinction between UNRWA in Gaza and the West Bank, and its operations in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In education, for example, UNRWA uses the text books of the host country, and, of course, Hamas and the PA are (sort of) the governments of those territories. Israeli control of the textbooks used in the schools ended with Oslo. (Doubtless different countries have different spins on history. I doubt Russian or American history is taught the same way in Russia, versus, say Poland, Finland, Afghanistan, Cuba, Viet Nam, China, the US, Canada or Japan. But let me say this stuff went beyond a pro-Palestinian “spin.” The textbooks were well beyond the pale).

    UNRWA’s, shall we say, “flaws” have long been discussed, and it has been subject to suspension of contributions from various parties at various times over the years, just as the US and others are doing now. My take on the results of these previous suspensions is that UNRWA somewhat mitigated the particular problems each time, but never actually fixed or solved them. Certainly that bolsters the argument for bringing an end to the agency.

    In fairness to UNRWA, it is operating under Hamas, and when it resists Hamas’ blandishments, it is subject to strong-arm tactics (not a surprise that terrorists threaten people to get their way). For example, Hamas fire-bombed some UNRWA summer camps because they were co-ed. While UNRWA stood its ground on co-ed schools, which were also objected to, the summer camps became single sex. The former UNRWA chief in Gaza, John Ging, survived two assassination attempts while in office.

    UNRWA’s schools, at one time, were slated to teach the Holocaust to 8th-graders–a plan which Hamas denounced as teaching a lie. In any event, they argued that grammar school kids were too young to be taught about it in school, because it could undermine Palestinian national identity and purpose. The plan was suspended to study the issue in 2009, and it resurfaced again in 2012, at which point it was shelved again. (Perhaps not coincidentally, John Ging was the guy who promised the Holocaust would be taught. Haven’t checked the timing of the assassination attempts). As far as I can tell, it remains shelved. WWII history is taught without mention of the Holocaust (which seems somewhat similar to teaching Civil War history without mention of slavery–Sorry Nikki!)

    So, the most charitable assessment of UNWRA is that it is an organization caught between a rock and a hard place–the demands of its donors and a founding purpose to “to further conditions of peace and stability” versus guys with guns. He who pays the piper may call the tune, but I suspect most pipers would change the tune with a gun in their face.

    Hence my worry is that any organization, however constituted, would soon be in the same boat as UNWRA so long as Hamas runs Gaza. Maybe that is why despite the controversies and severe criticisms, the Israeli government, until Bibi’s recent (2018) call for its end, expressly supported UNWRA’s existence, despite “concerns regarding [its] politicization” and continued to cooperate with the organization, even under Netanyahu (although an Israeli bank froze its account this week, along with the account of an Israeli settler accused of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank). The practical reasons seem to be that much of UNWRA’s humanitarian responsibilities in the West Bank would fall on Israel, and in Gaza UNWRA is the only alternative to Hamas. Kids can go to UNWRA schools or Hamas schools (which likely make UNWRA’s classes seem pro-Israel), ditto summer camps, health care, etc. Hamas garnered political and financial support by providing social services, healthcare, charity etc., and making it the only game in town was/is not in Israel’s interests. And, of course, the US and international donors have at least some leverage over UNRWA’s activities, but none with Hamas.

    Still, it seems that UNWRA for whatever reason, has likely been irretrievably co-opted, compromised and infiltrated by Hamas. It is unlikely to be disbanded, because that is the purview of the UN General Assembly. The US, as it and other donors have done in the past, may halt funding, but other donors will not. (In the past suspensions, the first thing UNWRA cut was the summer camps, though under the circumstances, it seems unlikely that any funds have been reserved for those this year.)

    Maybe the US should do what Canada did, which was to cut funding to UNWRA, and, instead, fund specific humanitarian projects for Palestinians that can be closely monitored and controlled. Biden’s suspension of payments to UNWRA is already being characterized as “collective punishment.” The program should be replaced with other, effective aid.

  2. You’re absolutely right, except for the International Red Cross. The cross is supposedly for the Swiss flag, not religion. Despite that, they accepted the crescent many years ago but gave MDA a hard time. So much for the Jewish doctor stereotype!

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