Paul Schneider

It’s Time to Pull the Plug on UNRWA

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini (Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this month, UN Watch reported on a Telegram group of 3,000 schoolteachers in Gaza, “replete with posts celebrating the Hamas massacre of October 7th minutes after it began, praising the murderers and rapists as ‘heroes,’ glorifying the ‘education’ the terrorists received, gleefully sharing photos of dead or captured Israelis and urging the execution of hostages.” All of these teachers are employed by UNWRA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees), which runs the educational systems in Gaza and the West Bank.

That’s not all.

On January 26, The New York Times (and other news sources) reported that 12 UNRWA employees stand accused of actually helping to plan and carry out the October 7 assault. Israel presented the allegations. The teachers have been fired, the Times reported, and are subject to a criminal investigation. “The stunning accusation and the UN’s swift reaction, however, contrast with previous UN denials of Israeli allegations.” Moreover, the Times reported, “The accusations led to swift action by the United States, one of the agency’s largest donors, which temporarily halted funding to the organization.”

On the same day as the Times Article, the US State Department issued a statement saying, “The United States is extremely troubled by the allegations that twelve UNRWA employees may have been involved in the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel.” After noting the halt in UNRWA funding, the statement went on to “welcome the UN’s announcement of a ‘comprehensive and independent’ review of UNRWA.” One hopes the US Congress will weigh in with its own review as well.

The Commissioner General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, has issued an expression of concern that might well be compared to the famous line from Captain Renault in the film Casablanca: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

Nobody should be surprised by any of this.

For decades, UNRWA has told Palestinian refugees that their situation is temporary, that they need not be resettled, and that the day will come when they can return to what is now the sovereign state of Israel. As Adi Schwartz and former Knesset member Einat Wilf have written in their book, The War of Return, “UNRWA, its policies, and its practices have effectively given an international stamp of approval to the idea that the war of 1948 is not over.”

As part of its school curriculum, UNRWA teaches Palestinian students that the Jewish state is illegitimate and that they should look forward to a violent return to what is now the State of Israel. As Schwartz and Wilf have shown, UNWRA schools are “an instrument for the mobilization of the population of the camps for the Palestinian armed struggle.” Lessons frequently glorify terrorism.

According to UNRWA, nearly all of its employees are Palestinian, with “a small number of international staff.” As Wilf put it in a recent talk she gave in Washington, UNRWA is “a Palestinian organization completely devoted to the idea that Palestinians do not have to come to terms with the existence of the state of Israel.”

Hopefully, the United States will halt its UNRWA funding permanently. It’s past time to do that.

About the Author
Paul Schneider is an attorney, writer and member of the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), an affiliate of B’nai B’rith International. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland and frequently travels to Israel.
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