Photo Credit: Nahum Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research)
US taxpayer money, thanks to the Biden administration, is now once again going directly to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), an agency that promotes messages of hate against Israel and denies its right to exist. Pictured: A still shot from the documentary film "Camp Jihad," featuring a summer camp in Gaza sponsored and funded by UNWRA.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was created in December 1949, after six Arab armies were defeated in their failed attempt to destroy the newly founded State of Israel.

Almost from its inception, UNRWA was hijacked to serve the ongoing battle against Israel’s existence, with a set of refugee conditions and policies that were exclusively and uniquely applicable to Palestinian Arabs.


These conditions and policies were created because, unlike Israel, which absorbed the vast majority of Jews forced out by the Arab and Muslim world, the Arab countries refused to accept Palestinian refugees. Despite their abundant resources, these countries chose to keep people in refugee camps, rather than helping them build new lives. The Palestinians in Jordan’s illegally occupied West Bank were eventually granted Jordanian citizenship, but somehow still kept their refugee status — in contrast to what happens to all other refugees who gain citizenship.

UNRWA was tasked to look after the needs of Arabs displaced by the conflict, by providing aid, education, and accommodation, but, instead, it became twisted into a mechanism for continuing the Arab war on Israel.

UNRWA created a farcical definition of a refugee, designating it as anyone “whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.” Worse, this was later expanded to include all descendants, meaning anyone who lived in Mandate Palestine for less than two years and left for any reason would be declared a refugee — a status that would be passed on to their descendants and descendants’ descendants until the end of time, even if they attained citizenship in another country.

This is in stark contrast to every other refugee group on earth, and it explains the ever-increasing Palestinian refugee numbers from roughly 700,000 in 1948 to at least 5.9 million today.

Every facet of UNRWA is geared towards perpetuating these people’s existence as homeless “refugees” until the day they can “return” to non-existent ancestral homes in Israel — a dangerous fantasy that will never happen, as it would eliminate the world’s only Jewish state.

UNRWA’s mandate forbids the resettlement of any refugee, instead actively requiring they be kept in this permanent state of statelessness and rootlessness. Its education system teaches Palestinians to hate Jews, and that Israel is an illegitimate state. In textbooks, the entire area of the Jewish state is labeled as “Palestine.”

Needless to say, UNRWA’s unprecedented policies and behavior align perfectly with Hamas’ ideology and charter that call for the destruction of Israel through armed violence and the death or expulsion of its Jewish citizens.

When Hamas seized power in a violent coup in Gaza in June 2007, it began to embed its fighters and military infrastructure and equipment in all of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure including UNRWA facilities. It must also be remembered that Hamas already had popular support in Gaza, winning a plurality of votes in the 2006 Palestinian elections, and as that support grew, more UNRWA staff members were affiliated with Hamas.

In May 2023, just a few months before the October 7 terrorist attacks, the EU Parliament passed a resolution, for the fourth year in a row, that condemned the “hateful” content in Palestinian Authority textbooks used by UNRWA, and demanded that “all anti-Semitic references are deleted, and examples that incite hatred and violence are removed.”

That request was ignored, yet the money from donor states to UNRWA kept on flowing.

Unsurprisingly, when Hamas terrorists, including civilians and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations, invaded Israel from Gaza on October 7, UNRWA employees participated in the slaughter, rape, torture, and kidnappings. Even most of the terrorists who were not UNRWA employees, would have been educated in the culture of hate taught in UNRWA schools.

So it’s difficult to take UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seriously when he says that he was “horrified” by the revelations that at least 12 UNRWA officials and members were directly involved in the massacre that day, along with allegations that 10% of the 13,000 UNRWA staff in Gaza are members of terror groups, and perhaps half have a close family connection to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Israeli officials have warned about UNRWA for decades. The UN — where anti-Israel bias has been entrenched into the bureaucratic structures — deliberately chose to ignore the warnings.

As a result of these revelations, many countries, including the US and Australia, have suspended funding to UNRWA, pending an investigation into its terror links. And while it’s true that UNRWA distributes most of the humanitarian aid in Gaza, it’s also true that over the past four months, Hamas has been stealing up to 66% of that aid, according to Israeli intelligence sources. So, in effect, UNRWA acts as a supply line for Hamas, rather than for needy Gazans.

For UNRWA, the 1948 war continues forever, and UNRWA’s very existence is designed to ensure an open, festering wound of the eternal, ever-expanding Palestinian refugees, which is never allowed to heal.

For any progress toward genuine peace, UNRWA needs to be dismantled sooner rather than later, and its duties taken over by other, less tainted UN bodies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN’s main agency for looking after all the world’s millions of refugees who are not Palestinian. UNHCR, unlike UNRWA, has successfully resettled more than 50 million refugees and helped them to rebuild their lives, rather than remain immersed in violence and hatred.


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Justin Amler is a noted South African born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues.