Australia/Israel Review

Deconstruction Zone: UNRWA is a threat to coexistence

Mar 1, 2024 | Shmuel Rosner

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Like all things, books have their peak moment. For many of them, it is when they are published. For others, like The War of Return by Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz, it is now – four years after publication.

The book hasn’t changed since it was written, neither did reality. But we did. We changed on October 7, when the tolerable UNRWA became intolerable. Ask Wilf and Schwartz, and they will tell you it was intolerable for a long time. They will tell you it is Israel’s fault – to some degree – that this organisation, an agency charged with finding a solution for Palestinian refugees, still operates, when a fourth or a fifth generation of supposed refugees is growing up. 

UNRWA is not a problem solver, it is a problem exacerbator. 

There are two problems with UNRWA, one of which became evident in the last two to three weeks, as more reports about UNRWA employees’ involvement in the October massacre and more evidence of UNRWA employees’ assistance to Hamas came out. There’s evidence in almost all UNRWA facilities: a tunnel beneath an office, a stash of ammunition or cash, a person who guards hostages, all courtesy of this UN-sponsored human rights organisation.

This current problem is the result of the original problem. As UNRWA became entrenched, its mission was no longer to settle the refugees and their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, but rather to keep their dream of “going home” alive. That is, to keep a sinister and disruptive vision for the Palestinians, one in which Israel somehow ceases to exist as millions of supposed exiled Palestinians go back to places that were resettled decades ago by other people.

Such a vision should not come as great surprise, because UNRWA is an international organisation by name and funding only. It gets its allocations from a naïve, or baleful, world, it draws its legitimacy from being an agent of the international community. But in fact, it is a Palestinian organisation funded by outsiders. Other than a few foreigners in managerial positions, almost all UNRWA employees are Palestinians. In Gaza, they are Gazans, and, in most cases, supporters of Hamas. They get their salaries from you – Americans, or Canadians, or Norwegians [or Australians, ed] – and they work for Yahya Sinwar, a coldblooded killer and a master of violence. 

When UNRWA takes care of schools and medicine in Gaza, all expenses are paid by you. It’s not because there’s no money in Gaza to fund these activities; it is because Hamas takes that money and uses it for other purposes, such as arming itself, digging tunnels, firing rockets. UNRWA is an agency whose work gets Hamas off the hook of having to provide for the population of Gaza. 

Hamas is engaged in violence, while UNRWA keeps the people of Gaza fed, clothed and schooled. Hamas has free hands to do what it wants to do, UNRWA has a mission that keeps it viable. All this is well known and documented. 

There’s no news – except for the fact that we were suddenly made to realize that UNRWA is not a nuisance, it is a threat. It is a threat that should be eliminated along with Hamas rule. There are less corrupt and less political aid agencies that can replace UNRWA, such as USAID, the World Food Program, and other groups that already have functioning operations in certain Palestinian areas.

The most eager supporters of this decision – to eliminate UNRWA – ought to be those who want to someday see a cure for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The cure will not come when the world funds an organisation whose main activity is to keep a wound open, to preach the gospel of victimhood, to educate the next generation of people with no dream other than the destruction of other people’s homes and country. 

That this organisation is also swarming with terrorist supportive employees is not a bug, but a feature. You can’t run an army by staffing it with pacifists, you can’t run a school by staffing it with illiterates – and you can’t run an UNRWA believing that its workers will be a peace-loving, solution-seeking, peace-promoting bunch.

Shmuel Rosner is a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute as well as an analyst for Kan News TV. He also writes a weekly column for the Jewish Journal in LA and for Maariv in Israel. © Jewish Journal (, reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.


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