The heads of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus on Wednesday pressed Dutch legislators to cut funding to UNRWA altogether, as Israel seeks alternatives for the U.N. body over its ties to Palestinian terrorism.
The discussion, at the Dutch House of Representatives, comes amid Israeli calls for UNRWA to be replaced by responsible aid agencies; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the work and functions of UNRWA need to be preserved.
“With the recent horrific reports verifying UNRWA employees’ complicity in the Oct. 7 massacre, countries around the world are finally beginning to understand how this U.N. organization has long served as a right arm to terror,” caucus co-chair Knesset member Sharren Haskel said in a keynote address to the group of Dutch lawmakers. “And while many, including the Netherlands, have halted funding of UNRWA, UNRWA needs to be completely dismantled, and those who allowed these atrocities to occur to be held fully accountable.”
She told JNS that if Holland or another European nation were to halt funding altogether, it would create a snowball effect.
“We have been worried about the role that UNRWA plays in the conflict for a long time, and have often warned about the hatred that’s taught in UNRWA-school books” said Dutch lawmaker Don Ceder. “Now that it turns out employees have actually been involved in horrible acts of terrorism, we can no longer avoid the discussion about the legitimacy of UNRWA itself,” he added.
The discussion follows a bombshell Israeli intelligence report, shared with the U.S. administration, according to which about 10% of the agency’s 13,000 employees in Gaza are Hamas members.
Furthermore, at least 12 UNRWA employees actively participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, during which the terrorist group killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 250 others to Gaza.
The revelations have led more than a dozen countries, including the United States and Germany, UNRWA’s biggest donors, to suspend funding to the agency.
Amid a groundswell of national and international concern over the U.N. agency’s connection to Palestinian terrorism, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is proposing to redirect aid to the Palestinians through the World Food Program, an organization within the United Nations that provides food assistance worldwide.
Another option under consideration, pending American support, is funneling the support through USAID, an independent agency of the United States government primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance and which has carried out smaller aid activity in Gaza.
Perpetuating the conflict
Israel has long argued that UNRWA was created to perpetuate the conflict by granting Palestinians hereditary refugee status, a status afforded no other global population.
Established by the United Nations in 1949 to carry out relief and work programs for the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who fled their homes during the 1948-49 War of Independence, UNRWA grants refugee status to those refugees’ descendants in perpetuity, including those with citizenship in other countries. As a result, the number of Palestinian refugees registered with the organization has mushroomed from 750,000 in 1950 to nearly six million today.
The main U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, which cares for the rest of the refugees in the world, has no such policy.
Citing decades of hate and terror indoctrination, the Trump administration cut U.S. funding to UNRWA in 2018, a move President Joe Biden reversed shortly after taking office in 2021.
Last summer, the U.S. State Department allocated more than $200 million for UNRWA despite its schools’ glorification of violence and terrorism and an agreement conditioning funding on the prevention of teaching hate and antisemitism.
The new funding brought the total United States assistance to UNRWA during the Biden administration to more than $600 million, cementing the United States’ status as UNRWA’s largest donor.
The Oct. 7 massacre has placed renewed international focus on UNRWA’s terror 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, seek to salvage the agency with an investigation into the wrongdoing.
Israel must formulate new policy
Former diplomats and security officials told lawmakers at a Knesset hearing last month that Israel needs to formulate its policy on the U.N. agency going forward, and then enlist allies around the world to further its goal.
“UNRWA has long been used as a weapon against Israel,” said Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus. “Now the world is beginning to wake up.”