Since its establishment, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] has received billions in international aid, including more than $4 billion dollars of US taxpayers’ money. While UNRWA’s mission is to “relieve” and “support” the Palestinians, it has been doing exactly the opposite. It has been keeping Palestinians in pens as refugees and obstructing them from integration and from normalizing their lives, all while UNRWA seems to be funnelling international aid money to whitewashing and supporting the terrorist organization Hamas; promoting the illegal Turkish flotilla which included members of Turkey’s terrorist group the IHH, and which tried to subvert Israel’s protection of its borders; and misrepresenting and politicizing the situation in Gaza. One has to wonder if UNRWA is not actually an obstacle to peace in the Middle East Although UNRWA was established in 1948 as a temporary institution, more than six decades on it still exists, larger than ever, growing exponentially, and with an annual budget exceeding half a billion dollars US, paid by the international community. Such a huge budget not only covers a large and growing number of people on the payroll – UNRWA is now the UN’s largest entity with over 30,000 employees – it is a boondoggle of a jobs program; it almost cannot let the Palestinian refugee problem be solved. If it did, 30,000 people would be out of work. If that problem makes UNRWA “too big to fail,” this experiment is nothing but torture by other means, conducted on innocent human lives, forcing literally millions of people to live in squalor in perpetuity. By comparison, maintaining a handful of prisoners caught in active anti-American combat at Guantanamo Bay should seem like a week at a country club. UNRWA, on the contrary, has been focused on keeping the Palestinians and their great-grandchildren stuck in the refugee trap. UNRWA is not there to settle the refugees, it is there not to settle the refugees.
How good, then, is UNRWA at “relieving” the Palestinian refugees?
A prominent Australian Member of Parliament, Michael Danby, protested Australia’s funding of the UNRWA in 2007, describing it as “a notoriously corrupt” institution, and claiming that UNRWA was channelling the funds for “arms purchase, terrorist operations, and anti-Israel incitement as well as into the pockets of the PA leadership.” On the corruption claim, Danby is not alone. Palestinians agree: in March 2011, the Palestinian Human Rights Foundation condemned the UNRWA for what it called “disregard for the lives of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.” This charge surfaced after a Palestinian boy died “at the door of a hospital” after being denied admission afterUNRWA’s refusal to pay for his medication.
A few months later, in June, 2011, Palestinian refugees in Southern Lebanon burned the UN flag in front of UNRWA’s headquarters to protest what they described as “UNRWA’s corrupt practices.” They waved banners reading: “No to UNRWA’s corrupt policy”, and “People want medical care and medication”. Munir Maqdah, the Fatah military commander in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, told the Lebanese newspaper, the Daily Star, that UNRWA had brought 43 “foreign” staff to Lebanon “with a mission that does not serve the Palestinian people.”
While the Palestinians say they think UNRWA is corrupt, UNRWA issues “transparency” testimonials to Hamas. In May 2008, the Iranian English TV Satellite network, Press TV, reported UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Karen Abu-Zayd, as saying that “institutions affiliated with Hamas were corruption-free” and that “Gazans are gripped with a daily battle to survive” as “the siege of Gaza has deprived its people of fuel, crippling all aspects of their lives.” Unsparingly, Abu-Zayed did not mention that Hamas was carrying out daily rocket attacks against Israeli cities as well as its own bloody takeover of the Gaza strip, in which members of both Fatah and Hamas threw each other out of the fifteenth and eighteenth floors of buildings.
In 2011, Ayman Taha, a senior Hamas official, was suspended over allegations of corruption and embezzling money. That’s one person who was apprehended, but how many others are still free, and how come UNRWA never made any statements about this?
Over six decades, the US contributed more than USD $4 billion to the UNRWA. Nonetheless, in May 2009, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that included UNRWA’s admission that it does not screen potential staff or aid recipients for ties to Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Islamic Jihad. According to the report, the UN does not list Hamas as a terrorist organization — the UN only lists the Taliban and al Qaeda as terrorist groups. This is the very same UN that designated “Zionism Equals Racism” through UN General Assembly Resolution number 3379, adopted in 1975 and revoked after 16 years, only thanks to the efforts of future US Ambassador John Bolton.
About the Author: Mudar Zahran is a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan, who now resides in the UK as a political refugee.
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