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US lawmakers introduce bills to halt flow of American tax dollars to UNRWA

“UNRWA’s lengthy and detailed history of promoting anti-Semitism, violence and terrorism through ‘educational’ materials, and its continued ties to Hamas, should completely disqualify this corrupt entity from receiving any U.S. taxpayer funding,” says Rep. Chip Roy.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in the southern Gaza Strip on July 26, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in the southern Gaza Strip on July 26, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) formally introduced The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Accountability and Transparency Act on Friday, which aims to stop the flow of American taxpayer dollars to that body.

“UNRWA’s lengthy and detailed history of promoting anti-Semitism, violence and terrorism through ‘educational’ materials, and its continued ties to Hamas, should completely disqualify this corrupt entity from receiving any U.S. taxpayer funding,” said Roy when announcing the bill.

“UNRWA has failed to meet previous commitments to stop its hostility towards Israel, and it is an obstacle to peace. Israel is one of our greatest allies and closest friends; we cannot say we truly stand with them while helping prop up a corrupt organization like this. If our actions do not match our words, then our word means nothing,” he added.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a companion bill into that chamber on Wednesday.

UNRWA, which tends to some five million descendants of Arabs displaced in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, employs those affiliated with Hamas, and its schools have been used by the Palestinian terrorist group to store weapons and promote anti-Semitic propaganda.

The Trump Administration cut off U.S. funding to UNRWA in 2018, a move that the Biden administration reversed.

The bills would require reforms of UNRWA before any U.S. taxpayer dollars are directed to the organization. Specifically, the Biden administration would need to certify that:

• No UNRWA employee is a member of a terrorist organization such as Hamas or Hezbollah, or has advocated terrorist activity, or propagated anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric.

• No UNRWA infrastructure or resource is being used by terrorist organizations.

• UNRWA is subject to a comprehensive financial audit and has implemented a system of vetting and oversight to prevent any diversion of UNRWA resources to terrorist organizations.

• No UNRWA school or facility uses textbooks or other educational materials to disseminate anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric.

• No recipient of UNRWA funds is a member or affiliate of a foreign terrorist organization.

• UNRWA holds no affiliations with financial institutions that the United States deems or believes to be complicit in financing terrorism.

“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. It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this agency,” said Sen. Risch.

“The American people deserve better, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on holding both the administration and UNRWA accountable until meaningful reforms are made,” he added.

In December, UNRWA revealed the presence of a “man-made cavity” found beneath a school in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The structure, according to UNRWA, was “a serious violation of the agency’s neutrality and a breach of international law. Moreover, it exposes children and agency staff to significant security and safety risks.”

In July, the Israel Defense Forces exposed several Hamas tunnels under civilian sites in Gaza, including one next to a franchised Pepsi bottling factory, and another running next to an UNRWA elementary school that acts as a shelter for some 2,500 people.

The tunnels pass under “buildings that are essential for civilian life, in the knowledge that a strike on those targets will be provocative. If the tunnels collapse, hospitals, mosques, universities, or factories will collapse with them,” said the IDF.

A weapons storehouse and the entrance to a tunnel were also found in the homes of two Hamas operatives. One of the homes was located next to an UNRWA medical clinic which serves some 15,000 people in the area, according to the military.

In June, the director of NGO U.N. Watch criticized UNRWA for its failure to dismiss educators the Geneva-based NGO says engaged in anti-Semitic incitement.

U.N. Watch had exposed more than 120 UNRWA teachers and other staff who “praise Hitler, glorify terrorism and spread anti-Semitism,” said Hillel Neuer, yet UNRWA had not named a single one who has been fired.

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