The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on Jan. 30 regarding allegations of widespread misconduct by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Israel still hasn’t publicly released all of the incriminating information it purportedly has on the U.N. agency. The Israel Security Agency, Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Directorate, Foreign Ministry and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories have put together a massive dossier detailing the agency’s illicit activities, only some of which has been leaked to American outlets.
Among those who testified on Jan. 30 was Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the U.N. Watch NGO, Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
UNRWA has been dealt an unprecedented financial blow due to the scandal, with the United States and a host of other donor countries suspended funding to the agency.
Here are the main pieces of information revealed so far, along with some new revelations:
• At least 12 UNRWA employees were in Israeli territory on Oct. 7 participating in the massacre, including murdering and kidnapping residents, kidnapping bodies, transferring weapons and relaying orders. Israel estimates there are tens of additional such employees about which information hasn’t yet been uncovered.
• Two UNRWA teachers held kidnapped Israelis hostage in their homes.
• One hundred and thirty teachers publicly praised the massacre.
• Three thousand UNRWA teachers are members of a secret Telegram group that glorified the massacre.
• One thousand two hundred agency employees, approximately 10% of its Gaza staff, are believed to be registered Hamas members. The security establishment has information enabling cross-referencing between member lists of both organizations. This critical information has so far not been made public.
• Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have representation in UNRWA worker committees, indicating integration between the agency and terror groups. During the war, hundreds of tunnel shafts and weapons caches were found in UNRWA schools. This terror infrastructure was clearly evident, making it implausible that school administrators were unaware of their existence.
• Gaza residents and those captured by the IDF have reported that “Hamas controls and manages UNRWA institutions in Gaza and the humanitarian assistance entering the Strip.”
• UNRWA educates toward terror and hatred of Israel.
• UNRWA perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by passing “refugee status” from one generation to the next, unlike the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.N. refugee agency responsible for all other refugees worldwide.
• Thirty thousand UNRWA employees care for 5.6 million “registered refugees” in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan. By contrast, 20,000 UNHCR employees are in charge of 108 million refugees globally.
• Of UNRWA’s 5.6 million “registered refugees,” hundreds of thousands (if not more) have long since left the camps and countries where they resided, yet UNRWA still counts them as being present.
• In 2017, Israel exposed that Hamas was behind the appointment of a UNRWA commissioner-general. He was fired as a result.
• Hamas has stolen goods worth at least $1 million from humanitarian aid transferred to UNRWA since the start of the war, including fuel and trucks.
The West also understands: UNRWA is Hamas.
Based on currently available information, one can justifiably claim that UNRWA is Hamas and Hamas is UNRWA. As the West also begins understanding this, the agency has been plunged into the worst crisis in its history.
In recent days most donor countries have temporarily halted funding to the agency, demanding a thorough investigation and even root-and-branch reform. The U.S. House passed a symbolic resolution banning the administration from funding UNRWA as long as it’s involved in terror, but it’s currently stuck in the Senate.
This isn’t the first time countries have halted UNRWA funding after exposure of scandals in the organization, but the severity and scope of the measures now are something never before seen. Accordingly, in the past the agency made a show of “throwing out bad apples” in its institutions, enabling the return of Western funding. A similar scenario can be expected now if Israel doesn’t act.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to instruct the ISA, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant needs to instruct the IDF Intelligence Directorate and Foreign Minister Israel Katz must instruct his ministry to expose all of the incriminating information they have on UNRWA. Moreover, so far, as stated, there has been no high-level political discussion regarding Israel’s overall policy towards the agency, and such a discussion must be had.
Failure to fully expose UNRWA will enable the agency to claim (again) that it has rooted out corruption, thus returning us to square one.
In fact, Israel only has a few weeks left to explain what UNRWA is and finalize with the Americans a plan to have it replaced, at least in part, by an alternative agency. This is the first such opportunity to arise in 75 years. We must not pass it up.
Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.