(July 28, 2021 / JNS) Republicans in Congress are responding to the resumption of U.S. foreign aid to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by the Biden administration earlier this year by introducing a set of bills aimed at preventing taxpayer funds from being sent to the agency unless certain requirements are met.
The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and co-sponsored by 28 Republican members of Congress, and in the Senate by Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on the same day with 12 Republican co-sponsors.
According to a news release on Tuesday, “The UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act” would require that prior to providing the aid to the agency, the U.S. State Department should certify that no UNRWA employee is a member of a terrorist organization such as Hamas or Hezbollah, does not promote terrorist activity or propagate anti-American, anti-Israel or anti-Semitic rhetoric; that no UNRWA infrastructure or resource is being used by a terrorist organization; that it is subjected to a comprehensive financial audit and implements a system to ensure that the funds are not diverted to a terrorist organization; that no UNRWA school or facility uses textbooks or other educational materials that spread anti-American, anti-Israel or anti-Semitic rhetoric; that no recipient of UNRWA funds is a member or affiliate of a terrorist organization; and that UNRWA has no affiliation with financial institutions that the United States deems or believes to be complicit in financing terrorism.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan has spoken about the problems with UNRWA and has urged the Biden administration not to restore its funding, which was eliminated during the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“Israel strongly opposes renewing funding for UNRWA, an anti-Semitic agency that incites against Israel and uses a twisted definition of who is a ‘refugee,’ ” tweeted Erdan. “Rather than solving the conflict, UNRWA perpetuates it. Any return to funding it must be contingent on essential reforms.”
The release cited examples of UNRWA’s entanglement with terrorist organizations, such as the April 2017 resignation of an UNRWA teacher and chairman of the UNRWA Employees Union in Gaza amid allegations that he had been elected to a leadership position in Hamas and the October 2017 report of Hamas tunnels under UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip.
“U.S. taxpayer dollars should never go to a corrupt entity that undermines, Israel, one of our greatest allies and closest friends. UNRWA has a long track record of using educational materials that promote anti-Semitism, violence and terrorism while maintaining ties to the terrorist organization Hamas,” Roy said in the release. “Because of this, UNRWA is an obstacle to peace whose flawed mandate perpetuates the Palestinian ‘refugee crisis’ by using a nonsensical definition of a refugee.”
“When UNRWA was created, its specific purpose was to provide relief for refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. More than 70 years later, the organization has employed individuals affiliated with Hamas, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization and its schools have been used to promote anti-Semitism and store Hamas weapons,” Risch said in the release. “It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this agency, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to cease U.S. contributions to UNRWA unless the administration can certify without a doubt that the agency has no affiliation with U.S. designation FTOs and does not support anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
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