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Australian lawmakers slam government for renewing UNRWA funding

“The decision to resume funding to UNRWA without any independent findings is an appalling affront to the people of Israel and to Jewish Australians," says Australian MP Andrew Wallace.

A Palestinian man outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza City protests cuts to aid on June 20, 2023. Credit: Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.
A Palestinian man outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza City protests cuts to aid on June 20, 2023. Credit: Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.

The Australian government’s decision to renew aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency before any independent inquiry into the agency’s terror links violates the country’s domestic laws, a group of Australian lawmakers said this weekend.

The parliamentary condemnation came just hours after Australia announced that it was resuming funding for UNRWA, following similar moves by Sweden, the European Commission and Canada even before the U.N.’s own investigation of the agency is completed.

“Australians are right to expect the Federal Government to withhold any further funding to UNRWA, and they are rightly concerned that the Federal Government has breached its responsibility to uphold the norms and mechanisms of accountability, community development, fundamental human decency and its own domestic laws,” according to a statement by Australian MP Andrew Wallace on behalf of his parliament’s 22-member Israel Allies Caucus.

“The decision to resume funding to UNRWA without any independent findings is an appalling affront to the people of Israel and to Jewish Australians who continue to suffer at the hands of Hamas terrorists and their allies,” he said.

A bombshell Israeli intelligence report, shared with the U.S. administration, showed that dozens of UNRWA employees actively participated in the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, and that the agency has 450 “military operatives” belonging to Hamas and other terrorist groups on its payroll.

The intel prompted 18 nations, led by the United States and Germany, UNRWA’s biggest donors, to suspend contributions to the agency totaling $438 million, or more than half of this year’s expected funding.

However, several countries, voicing concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, have since resumed their donations. The United States, which provides about 30% of UNRWA’s budget and is its largest donor, has frozen its donations, something that may become permanent in the wake of congressional legislation.

“The best available current advice from agencies and the Australian government lawyers is that UNRWA is not a terrorist organization,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong told reporters Friday in Adelaide while she announced the aid package.

“[We have] been working with a group of donor countries and with UNRWA on the shared objective of ensuring the integrity of UNRWA’s operations, rebuilding confidence, and so importantly, ensuring aid flows to Gazans in desperate need.”

The Australian lawmakers said that the government’s “inexplicable decision” funded in part by the tax dollars of Australians was both an egregious betrayal of Israel and an affront to the Australian public.

“What Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Wong have failed to understand is that the Australian people do not want their hard-earned money falling into the hands of terrorists—or those who aid and abet them,” the statement read.

The lawmakers stressed that they welcomed the distribution of aid to Palestinians in Gaza through alternate humanitarian organizations.

Israel is already working with other international and U.N. agencies to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

The Oct. 7 massacre has placed renewed international focus on UNRWA’s terrorism ties and led to calls from across the Israeli political spectrum to cut all ties with the organization, while the heads of the agency, backed by the E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borell, are attempting to rescue the agency and to placate international donors with an investigation into its wrongdoing.

However, after decades of on-again off-again criticism of the agency for perpetuating the conflict, the wealth of intelligence information uncovered during Israel’s military operation in Gaza has called the continued existence of the organization into question as never before, setting off an intense diplomatic showdown over the organization’s future.

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