OpinionIsrael at War

Hamas and UNRWA are one and the same

Feeding the Palestinian refugee agency money and supplies only prolongs the war.

A Palestinian carries aid from UNRWA in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, Sept. 27, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
A Palestinian carries aid from UNRWA in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, Sept. 27, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Naomi Kahn, director of the International Division of Regavim. Photo by Josh Hasten.
Naomi Linder Kahn
Naomi Linder Kahn is director of the International Division of Regavim, a research-based think tank and lobbying group dedicated to preserving Israel’s resources and sovereignty.

The debate surrounding humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza rages on, and rightly so, but there is an important element that deserves closer scrutiny: Who is on the receiving end?

The conduit for such aid is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has tended to Palestinian refugees since 1950. At first glance, it seems only natural that UNRWA should be the body entrusted to receive and distribute the aid. It has been operating in the area for over half a century and thus should know a thing or two about what Palestinian refugees need.

But is this true?

UNRWA is a unique creature and was created to tend to a unique population. Unlike the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees—the United Nations agency that deals with refugees everywhere else in the world—UNRWA perpetuates the very problem it is supposed to solve. It does so by granting refugee status to all descendants of the original refugees from the 1948 Arab war on Israel.

Moreover, nothing is permitted to change the refugee status conferred by UNRWA: Not citizenship of another country, not the fact that a “refugee” continues to live on the same piece of land and even in the same house in which they and their ancestors were born, not even the fact that a “refugee” may have been born on the other side of the world to parents who have never set foot in the Middle East. UNRWA sees to it that Palestinian refugee status is stronger than the laws of nature and certainly overpowers human law or logic as they apply to any other displaced population on earth.

At the end of 2021, UNRWA enjoyed a staggering annual budget of $1.18 billion, donated by the United States, Germany, the European Union, and other countries and international organizations. Despite this enormous budget and the massive manpower at its disposal, UNRWA has never scratched the surface of its primary mission: to satisfactorily resolve the plight of refugees and facilitate their absorption as citizens in other countries. Instead, UNRWA has gone to unparalleled lengths to cultivate, deepen and entrench Palestinian refugee status in order to exponentially increase the number of Palestinian refugees and prevent their resettlement. The result is pure absurdity. The number of Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s jurisdiction in 1950 was 750,000 people; today, it is 5.8 million and counting.

At the very core of this unparalleled phenomenon is the ideological insistence that all of the people granted Palestinian refugee status be resettled exclusively within the State of Israel, automatically transforming it into an Arab supremacist state. Thus, UNRWA’s refugee policy is not a humanitarian measure; it is a genocidal weapon. Inevitably, UNRWA has become a full partner with Hamas and the PLO in their sordid quest to erase the Jewish presence in the Middle East.

The bonds between UNRWA and Hamas are as broad as they are deep. UNRWA employs more than 13,000 Gazans, many of whom are active Hamas members and holders of senior positions in the internationally sanctioned terrorist organization. Hamas has absolute control of UNRWA schools, which constitute the majority of educational institutions in Gaza. The curriculum taught in these schools is openly pro-terrorist and pro-genocide, which should come as no surprise given the horrific Oct. 7 massacre committed by Hamas and UNRWA-educated Gazans.

Indeed, UNRWA itself often acts very much like a terrorist organization. It owns and operates extensive property assets in Gaza—such as offices, storage facilities, clinics and other medical centers—that serve as access points to the attack tunnels built by Hamas, storehouses for ammunition and rocket launch pads. These UNRWA installations also enable Hamas to use the civilian population of Gaza as human shields. UNRWA ambulances have been repeatedly caught red-handed transporting terrorists and weapons, and have been actively involved in attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Clearly, UNRWA and Hamas are inextricably intertwined.

Israel has stated repeatedly that it will halt all humanitarian aid shipments delivered through UNRWA if they fall into the hands of Hamas. In fact, international law explicitly requires this. Yet UNRWA has itself admitted that aid shipments have repeatedly fallen into the hands of Hamas. Social media posts have shown Hamas terrorists brutally beating Gazans attempting to collect food from UNRWA aid trucks. Hamas continues to steal fuel and medical supplies from Gaza hospitals. Yet international pressure to maintain or expand the flow of aid continues.

The time has come for the Israeli government and the international community to admit the obvious: UNRWA and Hamas are one and the same. Feeding UNRWA’s insatiable desire for money and supplies, which in turn feeds Hamas, is the terror organization’s lifeline. Providing such aid only prolongs the war and costs lives on both sides of the conflict.

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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