The US Must Stop Supporting and Funding UNRWA
JNS.org – US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made headlines on January 2 by saying that President Donald Trump has decided to stop funding UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — until the Palestinians agree to come to the negotiating table.
On January 16, Trump — on the advice of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — agreed to transfer $60 million to UNRWA for now, as opposed to slashing all of the funding overnight. But the other $65 million of the US’s usual installment at this time of year has been held in reserve. The total amount of money paid to UNRWA by American taxpayers is approximately $370 million per year.
UNRWA was established in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 to handle the Palestinian refugee problem; in short, it was set up to deal with the immediate crisis resulting from the Israeli War of Independence. But it now has camps in Judea and Samaria, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.
Refugees from World War II were aided by the UN High Commission for Refugees, whose mandate called for immediate resettlement of refugees in their host nations. The Arab League, however, rejected that for the Palestinian refugees — because it wanted them to be a constant thorn in the side of the newly established Jewish state.
UNRWA is the only refugee agency in the world whose mission is not to resettle refugees — or integrate and re-enter them into the workforce of their host countries — but to instill in their minds that they will one day return to their grandfathers’ (or rather, great-grandfathers’) orchards and vineyards in Haifa and elsewhere.
In the absence of a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, UNRWA continues to redefine the word “refugee” to mean anyone who is a descendant of refugees from the 1948 war. Thus, from the original 700,000 refugees, UNRWA now claims to service approximately five million Palestinian refugees.
The agency’s conduct, although dressed in the benevolent clothing of a welfare agency, borders on the immoral — because it promotes an unrealistic expectation that only serves to keeps the conflict alive. And not only does it perpetuate a psychology of victimhood, but it entraps those being served into an endless state of poverty. Rather than getting on with their lives, they are trapped into perpetually reliving a conflict that happened 70 years ago.
A new study of UNRWA textbooks, recently published by the Center for Near East Policy Research, found that, for decades now, UNRWA has used textbooks that delegitimize and demonize the state of Israel and the presence of Jews there. These education materials also advocate for violent struggle — as opposed to peaceful co-existence — with the Jewish state.
In fact, inside UNRWA schools, there are pictures of Israel depicted as “Palestine,” posters praising the “brave shahids” (martyrs) who have killed Israeli civilians, and an educational curricula consisting of constant brainwashing for violent jihad to murder Jews and liberate all of “Palestine.”
For example, pageants are held that involve children as young as four dressed in military garb with rifles in hand. Palestinian children are being systematically programmed to die for “Al Quds” (Arabic for Jerusalem), or any other part of “Palestine.”
This is the worst sort of child abuse and exploitation imaginable. And these efforts are in total conflict with UN General Assembly Resolution 54/263’s own “Convention on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol on the Prohibition of Children in Armed Conflict,” barring the use of children under the age of 15 in combat.
But when it comes to this egregious Palestinian practice, the United Nations chooses to look the other way. That directly conflicts with an institution whose very charter speaks about practicing tolerance and living together with one another as good neighbors; reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of every human being, and of all nations great and small; establishing conditions for justice and respect for international treaties; and employing international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
How these UNRWA camps and their hate-infested educational system can be an agency of the United Nations — with its lofty founding principles — continues to baffle me.
Given the deeply entrenched institutional biases of the United Nations against Israel, we can expect that UNRWA will soon find other donors. But that doesn’t mean that the United States, by far the largest donor nation, has to continuously foot the bill.
The American taxpayer has other — and better — priorities than continuing to fund this corrupt and hypocritical agency.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-American and pro-Israel think tank and policy shop in Washington, D.C.