The United States, as confirmed by the State Department, has contributed $121 million to a U.N. relief agency since October 1, 2023, despite concerns about its connections with Hamas.
This funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is part of the U.S.’s continued support of Palestinian refugees, despite Israel’s allegations of UNRWA employees’ involvement in a Hamas-led attack.
Allegations and actions against UNRWA employees
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller revealed the funding details on January 30, amidst accusations from Israel of UNRWA staff participation in a Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, 2023.
Following these allegations, UNRWA took action by dismissing the implicated employees.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, in a statement on January 26, asserted the agency’s commitment to accountability, including potential criminal prosecution for any staff involved in terror activities.
U.S. halts additional funding to UNRWA over staff’s alleged role in violence
This development has led to a suspension of additional U.S. funding exceeding $300,000 for UNRWA. However, the exact amount of the suspended funding has not been disclosed by Mr. Miller.
The suspension was a direct response to the allegations of UNRWA staff involvement in the Hamas attack, which was marked by rocket launches from Gaza into Israel and culminated in significant violence.
The United States, as the largest contributor to UNRWA, faces a complex situation.
UNRWA’s controversial role and U.S. support in Israel-Hamas conflict
While the Biden administration reinstated funding for UNRWA, which had ceased under the Trump administration, the agency has been criticized for promoting anti-Israel sentiments and being a haven for Hamas activities, including storing rockets in schools.
Despite these criticisms, the State Department views UNRWA as a crucial partner in addressing the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the importance of UNRWA’s work during his January trip to the Middle East.
Critics raise concerns over UNRWA’s operations
Critics, however, remain skeptical of UNRWA’s operations. Foreign policy analyst Irina Tsukerman, in a statement described the latest scandal as indicative of a more significant issue of corruption and misdirection of funds toward terrorism.
John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, echoed these sentiments, condemning UNRWA’s complicity in Hamas’s actions.
Arthur Maserjian of the Combat Antisemitism Movement similarly criticized the funding of UNRWA as tantamount to supporting terrorism.
Ongoing debate over UNRWA’s role and criticisms
The debate around UNRWA’s role and effectiveness in addressing the Palestinian issue is ongoing.
Critics argue that the agency perpetuates the Palestinian refugee status uniquely and opposes their integration into the Arab world.
The American Jewish Congress highlighted the agency’s failure to curb anti-Israel indoctrination and terrorist incitement, with UNRWA buildings reportedly being used for Hamas activities.
Calls for reforms or dissolution of UNRWA increase
As the situation evolves, calls for significant reforms or the dissolution of UNRWA are intensifying.
Critics like Ms. Tsukerman and the American Jewish Congress suggest that mere staffing changes are insufficient and advocate for a new mechanism that addresses the shortcomings of UNRWA’s operations and aligns with international standards.