Further evidence of terrorism at UNRWA

New material unearthed by the JC comes as former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins calls for the agency to be disbanded and replaced


A Palestinian woman walks past the shuttered headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City during a general strike of employees in UNRWA institutions in the Palestinian strip, on November 29, 2021. (Photo by Mohammed ABED / AFP)

Members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s trade union, the Islamic Union of Professional Syndicates, have worked for UNWRA, the JC can reveal.

The terrorist union’s deputy leader, Sami Abu Ghali, told the Shams Arabic news agency in 2022 that the union was integral to the “jihadist resistance struggle in Palestine”, adding: “What the Islamic Union wants is the doctor, the worker, the accountant, the lawyer, the media personality, and the resistance professional, who aspires to liberate his homeland from the filth of the Jews.”

It comes as former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls on the United Nations to dissolve UNWRA, the agency in charge of supplying aid to Palestinians, amid evidence that some of its staff took part in the October 7 massacre and its schools in the West Bank and Gaza are hotbeds for antisemitic extremism.

Pompeo, who served under Donald Trump as CIA director and Secretary of State, told the JC that UNWRA’s long record of fostering terrorism means it must be abolished.

“The Biden Administration should be ashamed that American tax dollars paid for the salaries of individuals employed by UNRWA who celebrated and contributed to the violence we saw on October 7,” he said. “Biden failed America and Israel by allowing American taxpayer dollars to go to UNRWA, an organisation that supports terrorism and has long been riddled with waste and fraud.

“The Trump Administration knew this, which is why we stopped funding it. The Biden Administration reversed that correct decision, and now the damage has been done as those resources contributed to the horrific attacks on October 7. UNRWA should be dissolved immediately.”

Britain, America, Canada, Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other donor nations have paused their funding for the agency, whose annual budget is more than $1 billion. UN officials have urged them to resume, saying UNWRA’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza will otherwise expire by the end of February.

But senior figures on both sides of the Atlantic told the JC that funding must not be restored unless UNWRA is reformed.
They include the Tory former Brexit secretary David Davis and Lord Mandelson, who served under Tony Blair.

Among the disclosures that have plunged UNWRA into crisis is an Israeli document claiming that at least a tenth of UNWRA’s 12,000 employees in Gaza have “close ties” to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and another 6,000 have close family who are involved.

Another Israeli intelligence document first published by the New York Times accused 12 named UNWRA workers of helping to kidnap hostages and commit murder at kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip and at the Supernova dance festival, where 360 people were killed.

The UN announced that nine UNWRA staff had been fired, pending an investigation. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified” but urged donors to resume their payments.

Critics have cited evidence that UNWRA has been grooming terrorists for years in its schools in the West Bank and Gaza, where textbooks urge children to hate Jews and glorify violence.

David Davis MP told the JC: “It is plain that UNWRA has failed to maintain a proper distance from violent conflict, and that the curriculum taught in its schools does not promote peace or co-existence. There needs to be a complete revamp of the organisation from the ground up, to create something that promotes not violence but peace and prosperity for ordinary Palestinians.”

Lord Mandelson added: “It is quite shocking that Hamas, as I gather, has any influence over who UNWRA employs in Gaza, let alone that any employee should be associated with terror. By ignoring this we are not doing the Palestinian people any favours. They deserve better from a UN organisation.”

Further evidence emerged in testimony at a US Congressional hearing on Tuesday.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, presented a report exposing more than 3,000 UNWRA teachers in Gaza who, he said, were members of a Telegram group that was “replete with messages, photos, and videos cheering and celebrating the massacre of October 7”.

UN Watch had alerted the UN to similar cases many times since 2015, Neuer said, such as an UNWRA teacher who said in 2022 that anyone who could “slaughter a Zionist or Israeli criminal” but failed to do so “did not deserve to live”.

The UN’s response was “to attack us for doing the work they failed to do,” he said. Since October 7, Christopher Guness, UNWRA’s spokesman until 2019, had been defending the agency. One of his posts told journalists that UN Watch’s allegations were “baseless”.

Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the JC: “Given that UNWRA teachers have been using texts that could reasonably be described as inciting terrorism and that many of its staff are also members of Hamas, this is a freestanding scandal. UNWRA’s behaviour has undermined the principle of international cooperation, and it needs root and branch reform.”

Stephen Crabb MP, the parliamentary chair of Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), said: “For years there have been warnings about UNRWA operations in Gaza being compromised by Hamas and other terror groups. There have been far too many incidences of its activities and facilities being used by Hamas for it to be an accident.

“The new reports suggest that UNRWA is part of the problem, not the solution. The UK would be wise not to renew its financial support until it has cast iron proof that UNRWA has undergone the necessary reform.”

Lord Polak, CFI’s honorary president, said the time had come to “to find, create and follow a new and modern programme of aid and development for the benefit of the Palestinian people and all the peoples of the region”.

Baroness Ramsay, chair of Labour Friends of Israel in the Lords, told the JC: “The government has been a leading donor to UNRWA for many years but seems to have avoided looking too hard at any of these questions”.

On Monday, aid minister Andrew Mitchell said he was “unaware” of antisemitism in UNRWA schools. “This simply isn’t good enough,” Baroness Ramsay said. “Taxpayers will rightly demand answers as to why the government’s been asleep at the wheel. We need fundamental and far-reaching reform of UNWRA.”

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