January 6, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

The UNRWA are ensuring the ‘day after’ includes more wars

UNRWA has encouraged generations of Palestinians to wallow in the hell of refugees, stuck with the "right of return" promised to them by radical factions committed to eternal war with Israel.
January 6, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

The UNRWA are ensuring the ‘day after’ includes more wars

UNRWA has encouraged generations of Palestinians to wallow in the hell of refugees, stuck with the "right of return" promised to them by radical factions committed to eternal war with Israel.

Many words are being written these days about the “day after” in Gaza, but most of the writers ignore one organization, which bears considerable responsibility for the impossible situation the Gazans have reached. UNRWA: “The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East” is an organization sponsored by the UN and funded mostly by Western countries, led by the United States and Germany, but it does not carry out its require mission as a refugee aid agency.  

UNRWA was established after Israel War of Independence, which the Palestinians call “the Nakba”. As a result of the war, some 800,000 Palestinians left their homes, a common phenomenon in wars at the time, and in 1949 the UN established UNRWA to take care of this population. In retrospect, it is very strange that a unique agency was established solely to deal with Palestinian Arab refugees. UNRWA has never been incorporated into the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees,  The agency responsible for resettling every other refugee population in the world. 

Over the years, UNRWA has become a central component of the anti-Israeli narrative. The Arabs claimed that as a result of the establishment of the State of Israel, millions of Palestinians had become refugees, living in poverty and longing to return home. Until these people will get their “right of return,” the Arab world insisted, there will not be peace in the Middle East.

At the same time, the US became UNRWA’s leading donor, and between 1950 and 2018, the US taxpayer contributed about $6 billion to UNRWA, although lawmakers from both parties expressed concern about the agency’s behavior, particularly in Gaza after the Hamas takeover in 2007.

Some UNRWA employees have begun to act as terrorists and it has been proven with certainty during the current war. Hamas has used UNRWA schools as human shields, built terror tunnels beneath them, stored missiles inside them and fired them on Israel. In addition, Congress exposed waste, fraud, corruption and misuse of agency funds.

UNRWA text books promote hatred and incitement against Israel and Jews. In 2018, Trump suspended funding for the agency. In 2021, UNRWA’s Director-General confirmed that there was a problem, but in practice no change was made, and the UNRWA curriculum treats Israel as an enemy, promotes “martyrs” and claims that “jihad is the road to glory.”

The corruption and absurdity at UNRWA runs much deeper. The agency lists 5.6 million refugees, an inconceivable number. If there were indeed 800,000 refugees in 1948, how could that number have increased sevenfold as the population has aged and died? It’s mathematically impossible, but it’s part of how the agency does business, through a mechanism that keeps the number of refugees rising, thus ensuring that the issue is never resolved and the need for UNRWA is maintained.Advertisement

There have been many attempts to get to the root of the problem in the US, but it wasn’t until January 14, 2021, as the Trump administration was preparing to step down, that outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended secrecy, tweeting: “UNRWA is not a refugee agency. It is estimated that some 200,000 or fewer Arabs displaced in 1948 are still alive and most of the others are not refugees by any logical criterion. Taxpayers deserve the right to know the basic truth: most Palestinians under UNRWA’s jurisdiction are not refugees, and UNRWA is an obstacle to peace. The US supports the peace and human rights of the Palestinians, but UNRWA does not support any of them.  It’s time to end UNRWA’s mandate.” 

Pompeo confirmed that of the 5 million identified as “Palestinian refugees” by UNRWA, fewer than 200,000 meet the international criteria for refugee status. Apparently, the number of Palestinians living today who meet the criteria for refugee status is less than 30,000. For the first time a senior American official revealed the numbers, before that administration after administration, both Democratic and Republican, allowed UNRWA to perpetuate the lie.

Lying not only leads to waste and corruption, it is also a significant obstacle to peace. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is responsible for all other refugees, has a mandate to pursue sustainable solutions for the refugees under its responsibility, through voluntary return, integration into the host country, or resettlement in a third country. UNRWA, on the other hand, has no such mandate. The agency admits that it does not have the authority to pursue long-term and sustainable solutions for refugees,  Including resettlement in third countries. 

UNRWA has encouraged generations of Palestinians to wallow in the hell of refugees, stuck between a possible new life and the “right of return” promised to them by radical factions committed to eternal war with Israel. It is clear to the Palestinians, who admit this in private conversations, that the “right of return” is not realistic, but it was and remains one of the main stumbling blocks in future peace negotiations. Instead of helping solve the problem, UNRWA is exacerbating it.

However, in April 2021, president Biden decided to renew funding for the agency, without explanation. The president has not explained why America is willing to support more than 5 million people through a refugee agency, when perhaps only 30,000 of them qualify to be called refugees.

The FDD has been calling for years to shake up the organization. Until the current war, the call to Congress and the Senate was not to cut aid entirely, but to work with the relevant regional actors to find bilateral solutions. It is time to call for the closure of this unnecessary and harmful organization.During the 2021 conflict, Matthias Schmala, UNRWA’s operational director in Gaza, said in an interview that the IDF’s operations during the war were carried out “with sophistication and precision.” In doing so, he was seen as confirming that Israel acted within the boundaries of international law.

Shamala also noted, “During the 11 days of fighting, we did not run out of food, water or supplies, and from my point of view, there is no severe or acute shortage of medical equipment.  Food or water.” Finally, Shamala admitted that UNRWA “cannot work in a place like Gaza without coordination with local authorities and Hamas, this is true of any authoritarian regime of this kind.” 

Cooperating with Hamas terrorists

The interview was nothing short of amazing. He acknowledged that Israel had made an effort to avoid collateral damage, that it had helped ensure the flow of aid to Gaza even as rockets were being fired at Israeli civilians, and that UNRWA was coordinating with Hamas, an organization designated as a terrorist organization under existing law in most Western countries that support its agency. 

Already in 2021, during an examination of the possibilities of shielding the UNRWA building, a hole and a tunnel were discovered in the location where missiles were launched. The depth of the hole, which was about 7.5 meters below the floor of the school, actually revealed the existence of a tunnel under the UNRWA building. UNRWA strongly condemned (only verbally and externally, of course) the fact that such tunnels may exist, and the use made by Palestinian armed organizations under its schools.  UNRWA argued that it was inconceivable that students and staff would be put in danger in this way. UNRWA also “demanded” that all sides cease any activity or conduct that endangers the organization and its staff and impairs UNRWA’s ability to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees in security and safety, but of course THEY did nothing to remove Hamas from its facilities.

The revelations during the “Iron Swords” War proved beyond any doubt that UNRWA schools serve as a human shield for Hamas tunnels, that Hamas fires from them and that it uses the aid given to UNRWA for its needs. Some UNRWA personnel have simply become Hamas.

Until the current war, a question hovered in the air about the real number of refugees in the Gaza Strip, but after the war, the refugee problem in Gaza will be real and painful. Gaza residents are entitled to a refugee aid agency aimed at providing real assistance to those in need. UNRWA has lost all rights to be this agency, because of its support for terrorism and corruption. Apparently, the time has come for the main donors to UNRWA: the United States and Germany, to divert their donations and support from UNRWA to another aid organization that will engrave on its banner a real desire to help Gazan refugees truly rehabilitate, under close supervision of the UN and donor countries.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Prof. Jacob Nagel is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a professor at the Technion. He served as National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu and as Head of the National Security Council (Acting). 


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