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UNRWA USA philanthropy director a late scratch from ‘Occupy Blinken’ event

Another speaker, who participated in a press conference, lists current fundraising ties to the United Nations Foundation on X and LinkedIn.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9, 2024. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9, 2024. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

A press release ahead of an “Occupy Blinken” protest Thursday morning outside the McLean, Va. home of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken listed Hani Almadhoun and Hazami Barmada as speakers.

Almadhoun is described as “director of philanthropy, UNRWA USA,” but “speaking in personal capacity as a Palestinian from Gaza with intimate knowledge of the situation in Gaza,” while Barmada, the press contact, was described as a “former U.N. consultant, humanitarian and social impact strategist,” as well as “Palestinian activist and Occupy Blinken lead.”

The release described the event as a “press conference” and claimed that its movement “is fully supported by Blinken’s neighbors.” As Blinken leaves his home daily, the protesters urge “him to halt unconditional U.S. military aid to Israel, that the group argues is fueling a genocide against Palestinian people” and demand “that the [sic] Blinken pursues a permanent cease-fire and facilitates delivery of life-saving aid to the people of Gaza,” per the release.

JNS sought comment from the United Nations about the participation of Almadhoun and Barmada. A source at the international body told JNS that Almadhoun had not received permission from his employer to participate and did not attend the event. Almadhoun asked that his name be removed from the speaking program, according to the U.N. source, and a subsequent version of the release did not list his name.

A U.N. spokesman told JNS that neither Almadhoun nor Barmada is an employee of the United Nations and the two are not bound by the body’s rules and regulations.

Almadhoun is philanthropy director at UNRWA USA, a nonprofit that collects funds to support the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the global body’s Palestinian-only refugee agency, which has come under fire for allegations that 12 of its employees participated directly in Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel. The Wall Street Journal reported that some 10% of UNRWA employees have ties to Palestinian terror groups.

Per his bio on the UNRWA USA website, Almadhoun was born in the Emirates and his “family fled to the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the first Gulf War.” Though it was “tough adjusting to the harsh conditions in Gaza during the First Intifada,” per his bio, Almadhoun’s “family was made whole again when his dad got a job at an UNRWA school teaching English to refugees.” He now lives in Alexandria, Va.

Barmada, the ‘Occupy Blinken’ lead who participated in the event, has more opaque connections to the United Nations. The release lists her as a “former U.N. consultant,” but her X account, which last tweeted on Jan. 26, describes her as a “strategic adviser at the United Nations.” 

In her X account bio, Barmada links to her LinkedIn page, which states that she has held “several high-level positions at the United Nations, including coordinator of the United Nations secretary general Ban ki-Moon’s World Humanitarian Summit” and “adviser to the first-ever United Nations secretary-general’s envoy on youth.”

Her LinkedIn account also describes her as a current adviser to the United Nations Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the United Nations.

She was a public affairs and strategy consultant at the foundation from July 2015 until October 2015, per her account, and since March 2014, she states that she has been a “+SocialGood adviser” at the U.N. Foundation. The only time Barmada is mentioned on the U.N. Foundation’s website was in 2015. She also appears in a 2014 U.N. Foundation video and photo.

Activists have protested around the clock outside Blinken’s home, per the release that listed Barmada as press contact.

“Over the past six days, activists have braved cold temperatures, winds and rain, 24 hours a day, to plead with Blinken,” per the release. “Occupied by over 100 people, the camp serves as a poignant symbol of the urgency and gravity surrounding the need for a reassessment of the U.S. and State Department’s approach to the ongoing crisis in Gaza.”

The Biden administration suspended additional funding for UNRWA in the wake of the allegations that UNRWA staff participated in the Oct. 7 terror attack, pending an internal U.N. investigation. The United States is by far UNRWA’s largest donor.

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