The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is one of two United Nations organizations mandated to aid and protect the displaced. The other is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The latter is exclusively for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The former is responsible for the tens of millions of other refugees around the world.
The UNHCR has 18, 879 employees in 137 countries. The UNRWA employs roughly 13, 000 Palestinians in Gaza alone. The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that up to 10 percent of all UNRWA employees are members of terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Reuters also reported that at least 190 of them, including teachers, have doubled as militants.
Few – if any – international organizations are held to lower ethical and professional standards than the UNRWA. Last week, the U.S. State Department announced it would suspend funding to the UNRWA because at least twelve of its employees participated in the October 7 terrorist attack against Israel. Canada and more than a dozen other Western nations have since followed suit.
Good. The West is finally coming to its senses.
Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, acknowledged the veracity of these claims. He also announced that the organization terminated the contracts of the UNRWA employees in question and launched an internal investigation.
A New York Times report has since revealed some of the details. Ten of the twelve UNRWA employees were members of Hamas. Six were allegedly involved in the initial invasion of Israel on October 7. One distributed ammunition and coordinated vehicles. Another kidnapped an Israeli woman. Some used UNRWA facilities to store weapons. Others used them to hold and transfer hostages. The list goes on and on.
UN Watch, an NGO led by Canadian lawyer Hillel Neuer, has exposed the UN’s failure to stamp out antisemitism and incitement to terrorism at the UNRWA for years. It recently published a scathing report regarding more than 3, 000 UNRWA employees who shamefully celebrated the October 7 terrorist attack and praised the murderers and rapists as “heroes” in a Telegram group.
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who spent more than a few hours studying the Israel-Palestine conflict. Hamas built its terrorist infrastructure with the tacit – if not explicit – consent of international organizations like the UNRWA. Even worse, an entire generation of Palestinian children in Gaza were radicalized at UNRWA schools by the agency’s employees. All of this is well-documented.
“Progressives” have nonetheless expressed their faux outrage at the West’s choice to suspend funding to the UNRWA. They’ve criticized the Free World for distancing itself from a UN agency infiltrated by members of antisemitic and genocidal terrorist groups, citing this decision as evidence of Western “anti-Palestinian bias,” “imperialism,” and other buzz-words popular in the “progressive” lexicon.
Their accusations disregard the fact that the West has been the primary sponsor of the Palestinian cause for three decades. NGOs like the World Food Programme (mostly funded by the West) continue providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Countries such as Canada are even compensating for the shortfall in funding to the UNRWA by transferring money to other NGOs in the Strip.
Yet nothing the West does ever seems good enough for “progressives.”
We gave the Palestinians a state at Camp David in 2000. Transferred billions of dollars to Palestine’s institutions, including NGOs like the UNRWA. Compromised our ally, Israel, by failing to account for regional realities and holding the Israeli government to an unrealistic standard. Appeased Iran and its network of militias, including Hamas, to preserve “stability” in the Middle East. Even sabotaged our own security interests by tolerating terrorist groups that seek to destroy us.
The West tried to make everyone happy. “Progressives” complained that we didn’t go far enough. Meanwhile, Palestinians built monuments to honour brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein, shouted “death to America,” and set the Star-Spangled Banner ablaze at protests. Many entitled and indoctrinated Westerners did the same. Hamas raped, murdered, mutilated, and kidnapped both citizens of Israel and the West on October 7. Then the terrorist group promised to do it again and again and again.
Iran, like Hamas and the “progressives” who share their worldview, took the West’s kindness for weakness. That’s the “thank you” we get for neglecting our strategic interests and failing to live up to our own values and standards.
Leadership is often thankless. Despite Western generosity and prosperity, our time, attention and resources are nonetheless finite. The West has countless international commitments. Few – if any – are as one-sided and open-ended as our long-lasting and unconditional financial support for the UNRWA.
As a UN agency and a humanitarian actor, the UNRWA must be neutral. At the very least, the UNRWA employees affiliated to terrorist groups like Hamas must be fired immediately. Those who participated in the October 7 terrorist attack must also be brought to justice and held accountable.
In a perfect world, the UNRWA’s leadership would resign in disgrace after this scandal. The organization would then be abolished and folded into the UNHCR. Unfortunately, the world is imperfect. The UNRWA is indispensable for managing Gaza – especially during the war.
If the UNRWA can’t be de-radicalized and reformed once Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure in the Strip is dismantled, perhaps Iran, Hezbollah, the Houthis or Russia should pay to keep the organization afloat moving forward.