OpinionIsrael at War

Evict UNRWA from Jerusalem

Israel should no longer indulge an organization that is pro-terror and anti-peace.

An UNRWA school in eastern Jerusalem on Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
An UNRWA school in eastern Jerusalem on Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Chaim Silberstein
Chaim Silberstein is the founder and chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Applied Policy (JCAP) and the Im Eshkachech-Keep Jerusalem public diplomacy organization.
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky Esq. is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Applied Policy.

The recent exposure of the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA’s complicity in the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre has prompted many countries—including the United States, the United Kingdom and France—to suspend their funding of the organization. This awakening resulted from the overwhelming evidence that UNRWA in Gaza is not only permeated with Hamas members and supporters and has allowed its facilities and vehicles to be used for terror, but that UNRWA itself has become a wing of Hamas. Its permanent defunding and disbandment should follow.

At the same time, we should not neglect UNRWA’s nefarious activities in Jerusalem, which greatly resemble its activities in Gaza. For example, UNRWA subsidizes and controls seven schools in eastern Jerusalem located in Shuafat, Silwan, Wadi-al-Joz, the Old City, the Mount of Olives and Sur Baher. The curriculum at these UNRWA schools is rife with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement. The students, as young as first- and-second graders, are educated to believe in Israel’s illegitimacy as well as the religious imperative of murdering Jews wherever they can be found. A video dating from 2022 recently surfaced that showed students in these schools boasting of their willingness to become suicide bombers. They proclaim that “all Palestine is ours and the Jews are terrorists” and “stabbing Jews brings honor to Palestinians.”

These UNRWA schools are spawning the next generation of terrorists under the sponsorship of the international community. UNRWA has reported that it spends more than half of its billion-dollar budget on education. Its schools are generally unlicensed and illegally built on Jerusalem municipal land. Past efforts by the government of Israel to close these schools or end UNRWA’s management of them have failed, even though Israel’s Ministry of Education is legally responsible for supervising them. These efforts have failed mainly due to inertia, lack of will and international pressure.

In addition, UNRWA long ago illegally seized, built on and now occupies Jerusalem land owned by the Jewish National Fund. This area, spanning many acres, is located in Kafr Akeb within the municipal borders of Jerusalem and close to the Kalandia crossing. To take over this territory, UNRWA even uprooted a grove planted decades ago by the JNF. Clearly, this land should be restored to the JNF and UNRWA’s presence removed.

UNRWA maintains extensive office facilities in Jerusalem, including its local headquarters and the UNRWA Microfinance Department on Shlomo Zalman Shragai Street between Ramat Eshkol and Maalot Dafna. It does so even though it does not recognize this area as under Israeli sovereignty. The Microfinance Department purportedly provides credit and financial services to households, entrepreneurs and small-business owners, but its Jerusalem office is  central to UNRWA’s involvement in Judea and Samaria. Its every action is designed to undermine Israeli sovereignty and weaken Israeli security.

UNRWA’s Jerusalem activities are inimical to Israel’s security. UNRWA has interfered in the Israeli legal system, including protests against the lawful eviction of Arab squatters in Jerusalem neighborhoods. The organization maintains a daily log of incidents in which Israeli security forces “reportedly opened fire” on Palestinians, almost never providing the context, background or counterterror nature of these incidents.

UNRWA exists exclusively to perpetuate the refugee status of a fourth and fifth generation of purported descendants of refugees from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. It maintains refugee camps in Jerusalem and makes no effort to resettle its inhabitants in permanent residences. It seeks to thwart any chance of peace by stoking Palestinian grievances through its educational, cultural, legal and political activities.

Put simply, UNRWA is nothing less than a hostile entity operating with impunity in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city. It is waging a cold war against Israel’s existence. It is corrupt, antisemitic, anti-Israel and an ill-concealed cover for Hamas terror.

Action must be taken immediately. UNRWA’s network of schools in eastern Jerusalem should be shuttered by the Israeli government. Management of education in these areas should be transferred to Israel’s Ministry of Education and the curriculum completely revamped. UNRWA’s illegal seizure of land across Jerusalem must be reversed, with the organization evicted and the area restored to the control of the Jewish National Fund.

Indeed, the time has come to banish UNRWA entirely from Jerusalem and the State of Israel as a whole. UNRWA is an anachronism, and a harmful and counterproductive one at that. Actual Arab refugees in the Land of Israel, like refugees around the world, should fall under the purview of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Their descendants should not be considered refugees at all. The goal should be to resettle genuine refugees rather than keep them as useful pawns in the war against Israel. The Jewish state should no longer indulge UNRWA’s absurd attempt to prolong the conflict by producing new “refugees” on an industrial scale.

The presence of UNRWA and other U.N. institutions in Jerusalem constitutes a clear and present danger to Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and the entire Land of Israel. It threatens the well-being and the very lives of all Israelis. It is an inexcusable encroachment on Israeli land and domestic affairs. It should no longer be tolerated.

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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