OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Canada is aiding terror by resuming UNRWA funding

No cash should be forthcoming until a thorough investigation of the agency and all terror-connected NGOs is complete.

A Palestinian man outside an UNRWA office in Gaza City protests cuts to aid, June 20, 2023. Photo by Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.
A Palestinian man outside an UNRWA office in Gaza City protests cuts to aid, June 20, 2023. Photo by Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.
Gerald M. Steinberg
Gerald M. Steinberg is president of NGO Monitor and a professor of politics at Bar-Ilan University.

In case there was any doubt, recordings newly released by the IDF confirm the horrible truth: U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA staff members were enthusiastic participants in Hamas’s Oct. 7 atrocities. This is just the latest evidence, including videos, that has led many governments to suspend their support for UNRWA.

Despite this evidence, Canada has resumed funding the agency via a $25 million payment. This is a serious and dangerous mistake. It is also a symptom of a larger disease: A lack of accountability among those who distribute global humanitarian aid, particularly to various U.N. agencies that are active in terrorist-controlled areas such as Gaza.

My organization NGO Monitor’s detailed research has found that of the $100 million in humanitarian assistance that Canada allocated to Gaza either directly or through the United Nations since Oct. 7, more than $78 million has been channeled through intermediaries that work directly with terror-linked NGOs. 

Canada is the first G7 country to restore funding to UNRWA, which has an annual budget of around $1.6 billion. According to Canadian officials, UNRWA needs that money “because of the dire humanitarian situation on the ground.” There is no doubt that people in Gaza who are unconnected to terror should be helped, but UNRWA cannot be trusted with the essential yet complex task of delivering aid.

More than 1,200 UNRWA employees—about 10% of its workforce—have significant links to Hamas, according to Israeli intelligence reports. There are many examples of UNRWA facilities—offices, schools and warehouses—being used to launch rockets at Israeli civilians and to store weapons. Critically, UNRWA and other organizations have failed to prevent Hamas from looting supplies. Hamas terrorists, either by force or possibly with the cooperation of the large contingent within UNRWA, habitually steal the aid and sell what they do not want on the black market at hugely inflated prices. 

The problem of government aid money ending up in the hands of terrorists goes beyond UNRWA. It extends to funds for many NGOs that support terror and incitement to violence.

Millions in Canadian taxpayers’ money are doled out to various U.N. agencies that use it to fund a variety of NGO programs. However, the UN does not properly screen these NGOs or hold them accountable for connections to terror and/or incitement.

One group that benefits from Canadian money via the U.N. is the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), an NGO with multiple links to terror groups. Its leader Mustafa Barghouti has praised the Oct. 7 massacre in interviews. Another recipient, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), is identified by the Palestinian political party Fatah as an official “affiliate” of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). On Oct. 22, 2021, Israel’s Ministry of Defense declared UAWC a terror organization

The Canadian government also funds problematic organizations directly. For example, the government matched donations for the Humanitarian Coalition’s Gaza Emergency Appeal. This coalition of NGOs includes World Vision International. World Vision itself no longer operates in Gaza because in 2016 its Gaza operations manager Mohammad El-Halabi was arrested by Israeli authorities and accused of diverting $50 million to Hamas. El-Halabi was convicted in 2022. Also included in the coalition is Islamic Relief Canada, which admits to working “alongside” the notorious Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

Terror-promoting NGOs have taken advantage of the government’s lax approach to promote incitement on Canadian soil. A prominent example is Samidoun (Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network), a registered Canadian non-profit with extensive, clear and direct ties to the PFLP.  

Designated a terrorist entity by Israel and banned from operating in Germany, Samidoun rallies often feature violent speech and chants, such as “Death to Jews.” At an April 2023 event in Ottawa, Samidoun leader Khaled Barakat called on supporters to “salute” the armed wings of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PFLP—as well as Hezbollah and other terror groups.  

To remedy these failures, Canada can take three important steps: First, Canada and like-minded U.N. member states should demand that the U.N. formally list Hamas and the PFLP as terror groups. They should further demand that the U.N. ensure that money and materials are not distributed by U.N. agencies directly or indirectly to any party that works with these groups. Second, there must be full transparency regarding where funds are going and how they are being used. Third, the Canadian government should only work with NGOs and U.N. agencies that adopt a zero-tolerance approach to incitement and antisemitism among their employees, board members and partners. 

Canada needs to take these steps now. This requires waiting to resume support for UNRWA until investigations are completed. Only through accountability and transparency can Canada guarantee that taxpayer money is not supporting terrorism and incitement and that the intended beneficiaries are receiving the aid they need.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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