Samantha Wampold

From Relief to Radicalism: UNRWA’s Troubled Legacy

In the past four months, the world has slowly become aware of the horrors that took place on the 7th of October, when nearly 1,300 innocent people were slaughtered in cold blood by Hamas terrorists. The CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) has concluded that the October 7th terrorist attack ranks as the third deadliest attack since data collection began in 1970, and on a per capita basis, it is the most lethal. Since that day, the mass media has adeptly portrayed a narrative that absolves Hamas of its wrongdoings. Notable news agencies, such as CNN and Al-Jazeera, have understated the degree of violence by intentionally replacing the term “terrorists” with “militants” and omitting that it was the deadliest killing of Jewish people since the Holocaust to uphold this baleful narrative.

Unfortunately, some have chosen to portray the attacks as resistance and the terrorists as freedom fighters. These reports are replete with information that paints October 7th as resisting an occupation of Israeli oppression, which has not had any physical presence in the Gaza Strip since 2005. The public has been duped into believing that a UK and US proscribed terrorist organization slaughtered teenagers at a music festival, raped young women, and tortured family members in front of one another, all in the name of peace and freedom, not hatred and extremist violence. These acts were supposedly committed to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea, which translates to the establishment of a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and the erasure of a Jewish one.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the Israeli government has shed light on another disturbing element of the October 7th massacre. There is now credible evidence documenting UN-employed workers participating in the attacks. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, is a UN agency that works specifically with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories. UNRWA is responsible for providing medical services, schooling, and other crucial social services. In 2022, UNRWA announced that it needed approximately US $1.6 billion annually to provide these vital services to Palestinians. They maintain that the services they provide to the Palestinians are necessary to ensure continued survival for their refugee population. The UNRWA website states that over 50% of their budget is “earmarked for education,” while 15% is dedicated to the health of Palestinian refugees.

After October 7th, their “services” have come under scrutiny, as it was revealed that United Nations employees actually took part in a massacre that killed over 1,300 people. When this information was published, countries that allot millions of US dollars to UNRWA annually, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, etc, all decided to temporarily freeze these funds. The agency has since demanded that this aid be unfrozen, as they claim these services are essential for Palestinians. Government officials and international taxpayers are beginning to question how exactly these funds are being allocated and how it is affecting Palestinian society. What is the curriculum in these UNRWA schools? Is this assistance truly paving a path toward peace? Should another agency be instated to replace UNRWA?

These are incredibly worrying but increasingly relevant questions that must be answered. UNRWA claims that it is running an independent investigation into the actions of its employees on the day of the massacre. Nevertheless, it is crucial to note that this is not the agency’s first time in the spotlight for negative purposes. Four years ago, the i24 news channel published a report critiquing UNRWA textbooks used in Palestinian schools. According to this report, the UNRWA curriculum entails the glorification of jihad and martyrdom against Israeli citizens, particularly its Jewish citizens. As the majority of UNRWA’s donations are used for education, it is entirely justifiable that the international community is scrutinising a curriculum that incites violence for impressionable young children and teenagers. United States Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania stated in one of the reports that “the harsh reality is that the American taxpayers were unknowingly funding the systematic hatred because key information was withheld from the American public.” After this report was made public, former US President Donald Trump discontinued all funding to the organisation. When President Joe Biden was elected, he reinstated this funding, supplying a whopping $343,937,718 in 2022 alone. This controversial decision has since enabled UNRWA to continue pushing its anti-American, Antisemitic curriculum, with the outcome of radicalising Palestinian youth. The American public must realise that President Biden bears a degree of accountability, as at least 32 American citizens were murdered by the terrorists on Oct 7th, some of whom receive a monthly paycheck from the very organisation that Biden is funding with several hundred million dollars of American taxpayer money.

Any readers who are curious to see these egregious educational materials with their own eyes should watch this report, published by CBN News over two years ago. For Americans, it should be inconceivable to imagine that American taxpayer money is being funnelled to a United Nations agency, ostensibly a mediator and peacekeeper, to instil a sense of hatred into innocent young children and encourage them to take their own lives and the lives of others. The AIJAC (Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council) recently released a video featuring interviews with UNRWA students at the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. The AIJAC video exposed the adulation of suicide and the blatant indoctrination of students, which is subsequently weaponized to incentivize Palestinians into sacrificing themselves to liberate the land of Palestine. It is unsurprising then, that the Askar refugee camp is home to the three terrorists who brutally murdered British citizens Maia, Rina, and Lucy Dee just last year. Their killers are hailed as heroes in the eyes of the inhabitants of the refugee camps, as they took to the streets handing out sweets in celebration. Sadly, this is one of many examples. A 2020 report published by B’nai B’rith UK reveals a disturbing level of admiration for terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who was responsible for the 1978 Coastal Road massacre that killed 38 Israeli civilians. Terrorist sympathy is so deeply embedded into Palestinian education facilitated by UNRWA that al-Mughrabi has three schools named after her in the West Bank and Gaza. The warped reality of Palestinian children learning hatred in a school dedicated to a terrorist responsible for the murder of 13 Israeli children is simply harrowing.

In stark contrast, the notion of endorsing or even funding an Israeli curriculum that encouraged students to follow in the footsteps of Baruch Goldstein–an avowed Kahanist sympathiser and terrorist responsible for the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron, which saw 29 civilians murdered more than 125 injured–is rightly, utterly inconceivable. Were the Israeli education system to permit such rhetoric within its classrooms, with signs honouring Goldstein, the societal uproar would certainly and rightly demand reform. It is glaringly obvious that any curriculum paying homage to terrorism will effectively sabotage any chance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the context of UNRWA’s egregious record, these new allegations are hardly surprising. These allegations accuse at least 12 individuals employed by UNRWA of participating directly in the October 7th massacre. US Secretary of State Blinken certified that the intelligence is credible but requested that UNRWA itself carry out an independent investigation. It is profoundly concerning that Blinken entrusted UNRWA with this task, particularly given the direct involvement of its personnel in shaping the agenda propagated to the Palestinian people in its refugee camps and the international community since October 7th. Israeli intelligence estimates that nearly 50% of UNRWA employees in Gaza have a direct familial relation with members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Additionally, one of the men employed by UNRWA is being accused of being armed with an anti-tank missile, with another UNRWA teacher being “accused of filming a hostage being taken captive during the onslaught.” Another man employed by UNRWA, who happens to be an elementary school teacher, allegedly “served as a Hamas commander and participated in the massacre in Kibbutz Be’eri.” Another man is said to have been involved in kidnapping the body of an IDF soldier on October 7th. Out of the 12 UNRWA staff accused of their participation in the massacre, “seven were reportedly teachers, two were educational consultants, and the others were humanitarian aid warehouse managers.” Additionally, an in-depth report published by UNWatch highlighted that a Telegram group of over 3,000 UNRWA teachers in Gaza celebrated the death toll and rape of Israeli women on October 7th. This horrific result is not merely due to a few people with nefarious intentions but rather reflects the fundamental nature of the entire UN agency.

The international community must confront a pressing question: Can another agency replace UNRWA in providing essential services to Palestinians without propagating a radicalised curriculum that glorifies martyrdom and suicide? Surely the answer is yes, especially in light of these horrific allegations against UNRWA staff. It is one thing for UNRWA to prolong and provoke the conflict, it is another entirely for UNRWA to participate. President Biden bears responsibility for channelling millions of American taxpayer dollars to an organisation that incentivizes Palestinians to kill themselves and Israelis alongside them. Both communities deserve to live in a society without the glorification of suicide and martyrdom. If the public does not open its eyes to the apparent wrongdoings laid out in front of our eyes, there will only be a continuation of terrorist attacks, which will only contribute to the loss of invaluable Israeli and Palestinian lives and obstruct any path for peace. To ensure the safety of these two communities, UNRWA must be dissolved and replaced by an agency offering genuine essential services to Palestinians without indoctrinating them with ideologies that contradict our core values.

About the Author
Samantha Wampold, born in Seattle, WA, is now pursuing a postgraduate degree at King’s College London, studying Terrorism, Security & Society. She recently graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Global and Regional Studies. Samantha is also a policy fellow at the Pinsker Centre, a campus-based think tank that facilitates discussion on global affairs and free speech.
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