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December 24, 2014 5:29 pm

The UNRWA Shill Game and State Department Compliance

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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UNRWA bags of building material used in Gaza tunnels. Photo: IDF.

UNRWA bags of building material used in Gaza tunnels Photo: IDF

The international scandal of our time, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has persisted for sixty-five years. “By any measurement,” Middle East Forum fellows Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe recently blogged (December 19), UN and American policy toward UNRWA meets the standard for insanity: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Although UNRWA defines itself as “a relief and human development agency,” it has long been anything but. It effectively consigns some 30,000-50,000 genuine Palestinian refugees still living, and 5.4 million of their descendants, to squalid refugee camps with little hope for citizenship rights in the lands of their imprisonment: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and its former West Bank, and Gaza. Their plight only enhances UNRWA’s bloated claims for international funding, invariably met, to sustain more than 30,000 UNRWA employees amid the comforts to which they have become accustomed.

Bassam Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist who grew up in Shu’afat, a refugee camp near Jerusalem, recently  castigated UNRWA for the “war crime” of “causing five million Palestinian refugees to suffer more and more under the umbrella of the ‘right of return'” to their 1948 homes, which no longer exist. “In the eyes of the Palestinians,” he asserts, “UNRWA acts [as] a state with its own foreign policy. And that foreign policy does not serve the best interests of the Palestinian refugees.”

Proof for Mr. Eid’s indictment was recently provided in a document released by the State Department entitled “Framework for Cooperation” between UNRWA and the United States for 2015. The report boasts: “Assisting vulnerable populations through effective provision of humanitarian assistance is a key element of U.S. foreign policy.” That sounds fine in theory; in practice, however, the bloated funding for UNRWA provided by the United States – $294,023,401 in 2013 alone – sustains a travesty.

“The goal of U.S. support to UNRWA,” according to the State Department Report, “is to ensure that Palestinian refugees live in dignity with an enhanced human development potential until a comprehensive and just solution is secured.” In reality, however, UNRWA has assured that the children, grandchildren and all future descendants of Palestinian refugees will remain degraded and humiliated victims of its policy, which has no equivalent for any other refugees in the world – including more than three million Syrians from President Assad’s current reign of terror.

The stated goal of State Department largesse toward UNRWA is to “promote the human development of Palestinian refugees by improving living conditions, economic potential, livelihoods, access, and human rights.” It pledges to do so “until a just solution is achieved and UNRWA’s mandate ends.” American taxpayers should not hold their breath. A sixty-five year-old policy of unmonitored generosity to a certified rip-off organization that invents and inflates refugee numbers to justify its shnorring is unlikely to abate in the foreseeable future.

Indeed, as Romirowsky and Joffe indicate, UNRWA in Gaza has become little more than a surrogate for Hamas. During its summer rocket assault against Israel UNRWA schools were storehouses for Hamas rockets while UNRWA employees cheered the murder of Israelis. Belatedly mindful of this travesty, the new State Department Framework states, rather preposterously in light of recent events, that “the United States and UNRWA share concerns about the threat of terrorism.” Tunnels beneath and rockets above Israel’s borders are not mentioned.

On paper at least, according to impressionable State Department drafters, UNRWA is “committed to taking all possible measures to ensure that funding provided by the United States to support UNRWA is not used to provide assistance to, or otherwise support, terrorists or terrorist organizations.” The State Department notes “with appreciation efforts taken by UNRWA during the course of 2014 to strengthen the Agency’s neutrality compliance.” Gaza is ignored. Romirowsky and Joffe wonder, as anyone might, how the Facebook celebration by UNRWA teachers following the recent murder of four Jerusalem rabbis at prayer in their synagogue meets the standard of “neutrality compliance.”

The State Department report might also have noted, but overlooked, the actual number of Palestinian refugees from the Arab war to destroy Israel in 1948. It was not 5.4 million, as UNRWA now claims, nor even 900,000 as The New York Times repeatedly asserted over the years. Rather, according to the diligent research of historian Efraim Karsh, it was between 583,000-609,000. A tragedy, to be sure, foisted upon them by their own leaders and abetted by the determination of neighboring Arab nations to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state. It is long past time for the State Department to reconsider the shill game it supports in which Americans continue to be ripped off by UNRWA.

Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner

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  • Ken Brunton

    Oh for goodness sake! Stop whining! I see that this is a pretty general response from the ‘Poor little old me!’ school of jewish thought.
    Just get off the land that was stolen by terrorist jewish gangs in 1948, stop treating Palestinians worse than animals and all will be well.

  • bea green JP BA

    The Palestinians are being used as political pawns, stuck in their camps, for the benefit of their Arab political masters.
    Sad, depressing and unjust.

  • Pierre Elie Mamou

    there is one explanation, simple, if we undertand that these acts (or this strategy) respond to a profound wish of the nations: a world withouh jews. The rest are only tactical explanations

  • UNWRA is the institution, which enabled Palestinian Arabs to create the eternal and inheritable status of a refugee and in fact make also a profession out of it. They will never give up this status, because it gives 5 or six million Arabs a good living.

    But, if you think that’s all, its not. The new Generalcommissioner of UNWRA is the notorious hater of Jews, Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, previously CEA of the International Comity of the Red Cross. I hope, dear reader, you did not forget, that it was this very same institution which was well informed about the holocaust during 2nd WW in Germany and they did NOTHING. But after the 2nd WW the ICRC helped Nazis to escape to South America and to Arab countries.

  • Mireille Mechoullam

    As long as the US will continue damping money in support of UNRWA nothing will change. It’s time to stop funding an organization who is doing nothing to help the refugees. Beside how long can somebody be a refugee? Jewish people who were expelled (I am one of them) from all Arab states from the Middle East settle somewhere else, end of story. These people are used as guinea pigs by the Arabs themselves who instead making them citizens of their states treat them like animals. Shame on them.

  • steven L

    The political purpose of UNRWA is to be a weapon to be used against Israel and the Jews. Noting more and nothing less. And the West in its infinite hypocrisy play the game perfectly while wasting citizen’s money from the EU and US.
    The victims are the Palestinians and the Jews.
    What was suppose to be a tool to help is actually used by the West and the Muslims as a tool to torture and pit two peoples against each other. Simply Machiavellic.

  • Luigi Rosolin

    Simply the UN agencies should be close as is only self interest and breaking the neutrality that a UN agencies should had. The Palestinians should been in all this year’s with the resource spend a democratic entity even living in Israel conquest territory that had happened after been attack and consequently as history teach had the right to keep. Palestinians should be forced to recognise Israel as a nation and is right. Palestinians should elected they representative with an international force verify the validity and they should be subjected to Israel control but with great autonomy like they had now. That can be achieve only if they give up the Islamic ideology of supremacy and hate for other.

  • NCS

    We Americans need to demand better of out elected officials. We need to make some noise about where our taxes are going. This is worse than the “bridge to nowhere.” American voters, wake up and send a message to your congressmen: No more American money to UNRWA!

  • Isaac brajtman

    About time the American public woke up to the scam. Use the hundreds of millions for their own poor,disband the fake organisation and let the oil rich Arab countries assimilate the imprisoned “refugees”

  • Dovid

    I noticed that while the US and others are trying to enforce an embargo on Iran to restrain Iran’s nuclear program and terror network, the UN regularly issues bids, contracts and funds international companies to develop Iran’s oil industry to develop oil exports to fund Iran’s activities, steel industry, and other highly strategic industries which fund Iran’s terror network. These Iranian companies are private companies so why isn’t anyone demanding an explanation as to why US taxpayers and the United Nations are footing the bills for Iran’s industries and US companies are not permitted to deal with Iran? the US should stop funding the 22% of the budget that is feeding Iran’s Oil industry. Why aren’t any reporters covering this story – here are a few links: