IN THE MEDIA

UNRWA is unfit to deliver aid to Palestinians

Feb 29, 2024 | Alana Schetzer

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Daily Telegraph – 29 February 2024

 

Many would be shocked to learn that at least 12 staff members from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) took part in Hamas’ barbaric October 7 mass terrorist attacks across southern Israel, and that a Hamas data centre has been found directly under UNRWA’s main Gaza City headquarters.

Yet those familiar with the controversies UNRWA has repeatedly engendered over recent years are not likely to be surprised.

In recent years, there have been many reports of UNRWA facilities found to contain weapons or other military infrastructure from terrorist groups; stories of UNRWA employees engaging in blatant antisemitism or incitement to violence; and scandals involving the teaching of antisemitism, incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism in materials used in UNRWA schools – which the European Parliament condemned in 2022 and 2023.

The intelligence that 12 UNRWA employees participated on October 7 – intelligence the US confirmed as highly credible – appears to be only the tip of the iceberg. The Wall Street Journal has reported further allegations that about ten percent of UNRWA’s 12,000 employees in Gaza have direct ties to either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, while around 50% of UNRWA employees are closely related to at least one person with terrorist ties.

Meanwhile, the Hamas data centre drew its power directly from cables inside the UNRWA headquarters. It is simply not credible to claim that no one at UNRWA had any idea this was happening.

Earlier, it was revealed that a Telegram channel of 3,000 UNRWA school employees featured hundreds of posts celebrating the October 7 attacks, and calling for the murder of Jewish civilians.

Moreover, Israel’s invasion of Gaza has uncovered dozens of instances where UNRWA facilities – hospitals, clinics, schools, kindergartens etc. – housed weapons caches, or entrances to Hamas’ vast system of military tunnels.

It seems crystal clear UNRWA was heavily intertwined with and infiltrated by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.

Given Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist, it is unsurprising it has come to dominate UNRWA. UNRWA is essentially a Palestinian agency – more than 99% of its employees are Palestinian, with comparatively few foreign officials in its higher ranks. In normal times, it mainly provides health and education services to Palestinians officially labelled as “refugees” under UNRWA’s unique – and highly problematic – definition of what constitutes a “refugee” (see below).

UNRWA has not actually been involved in providing much humanitarian aid for a long time, but somehow, since the Israel-Hamas war started, it has taken charge of distributing much of the aid entering Gaza. Now, numerous countries, including Australia, have suspended funding to UNRWA because of the latest revelations about direct terror links – which the UN is investigating.

While it is essential that aid continues to reach Gazans in need, the widespread assumption that only UNRWA can provide such aid makes no sense. In every conflict or disaster not involving Palestinians, aid is supplied through UN agencies including the World Food Program, the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNICEF and especially the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These agencies are experienced at quickly reaching conflict and disaster zones anywhere in the world and getting aid to people in need. Why then is Gaza the one place they cannot do this?

It is not even clear that UNRWA is distributing aid effectively. Israeli intelligence estimates that up to 66% of aid entering Gaza is being hijacked by Hamas.

Given the overwhelming evidence that UNRWA is deeply intertwined with Hamas, channelling aid through that agency appears to amount to giving resources to the terrorist group. This is unconscionable. In addition, such aid diversion also lengthens the current war by giving Hamas fighters the means to hold out against Israel, thus prolonging the suffering of Gazans.

There is another vital reason to transition away from UNRWA to other methods of supplying Palestinians with essential welfare. UNRWA has long been a significant barrier to a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Unlike all other UN agencies, UNRWA’s definition of who is a refugee extends that status to all descendants of the original Palestinian Arab refugees from the 1948 war, meaning the number of such refugees will expand forever. UNRWA never helps any of these refugees resettle because it politically supports the legally baseless claim of a Palestinian “right of return” for all such “refugees” to Israel – not to a future Palestinian state. It also educates kids to prepare for this mythical “return”. Any plan to flood Israel with the descendants of refugees contradicts any hope of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and extends that conflict ad infinitum.

No one of goodwill who witnessed the October 7 terrorist massacre, or the terrible war it sparked, can possibly want that for either Israelis or Palestinians.

Hopes for a better future for both peoples require phasing out UNRWA.

Alana Schetzer is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

RELATED ARTICLES


(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Apr 18, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR, In the media
Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Apr 16, 2024 | Featured, In the media
Image: X/ Twitter

Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel was a strategic miscalculation. Can all-out war now be averted?

Apr 14, 2024 | Featured, In the media
Pro-Palestinian rally in Melbourne, Victoria (Image: Alamy Live News)

Contemplating ‘a return to Zion’ in the face of antisemitism

Apr 14, 2024 | Featured, In the media
A barge transporting humanitarian aid from the World Central Kitchen organisation off the coast of Gaza (Image: IDF)

Aid Worker tragedy should not be misused

Apr 12, 2024 | Featured, In the media
Foreign Minister Sen. Penny Wong at the ANU, Canberra (Image: Australian National University)

Peace won’t be achieved through speeches like Penny Wong’s

Apr 12, 2024 | Featured, In the media

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

SORT BY TOPICS