'Dismantle UNRWA'

Letter to Wentworth MP Allegra Spender

You have co-signed a letter with people who have vilified Israel – thereby legitimising their views.

Russel Pillemer
Russel Pillemer

Dear Allegra,

In your recent communications you appeared to not comprehend why it is that so many in our community are dismayed and hurt by your co-signing of the letter to Senator Penny Wong. I am writing this letter to explain why and hopefully persuade you take immediate, remedial action.

It goes without saying that we don’t take issue with your humanitarianism and concern for the suffering of innocent people. All Jews I know (in Australia and Israel) feel the same way.

However, the undertone of the letter is the vilification of Israel – surreptitiously constructed with that aim in mind and us Jews know very well how this plays out. If Israel is the villain and we are its supporters, then that makes us a legitimate target.

No doubt you never intended for this to happen, but unfortunately your signature has added credibility to this vilification, putting your very own constituents in harm’s way.

You have co-signed a letter with people who have vilified Israel – thereby legitimising their views. It is highly concerning to us that you have allied yourself with such people.

The letter refers to “an allegation from Israel” regarding UNRWAs actions. The use of the word “allegation” clearly implies that it might not be true and therefore that Israel might be lying. This is exactly the same tactic as those who refer to the “allegations” of rape and beheadings on October 7.

The letter states that “it is critical that Australian aid does not directly fund or indirectly support terrorism”. This position of moral clarity should have been followed with “Israel has proven that UNRWA has been involved in supporting Hamas and therefore funding should be withheld.” The alternative to this statement (implied by the letter) can only be that Israel’s allegations cannot be trusted.

The letter states, “We acknowledge the aid [via UNRWA] that the Australian government has provided … since it came to office,” thereby seemingly commending payments to an organisation that was involved in educating young Gazans to hate Jews and provided direct support to Hamas by supplying electricity to their terror tunnels and hiding places for their rockets.

The letter lauds Thomas White, director of UNRWA affairs – Gaza, thereby giving credibility to his claims and insinuations. White is not an independent person whose views should be blindly accepted. He is a mouthpiece employed by UNRWA, an organisation intertwined with Hamas. His views should be treated with great scepticism.

The letter mentions a review is underway of whether UNRWA “is doing everything in its power to ensure its own neutrality”. This is an absurd statement, as UNRWA’s mandate is clearly not neutral and it has never acted in a neutral way.

Unlike the UNHCR whose mandate is to resettle refugees, UNRWA’s very raison d’être is to prolong the Palestinian refugee issue by bestowing refugee status on the descendants of Palestinian refugees from 1948 in perpetuity, making a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible. UNRWA has also played an insidious role in teaching hate and violent jihad against Jews.

The letter ignores the proof of UNRWA’s involvement in a wide range of abhorrent activities and pretends that the problem is limited to 12 rogue employees. This makes Israel’s actions against UNRWA appear unwarranted and excessive.

Bizarrely, this letter makes no mention of Hamas, as if they are blameless in this suffering. It also ignores Hamas stealing much of the aid that does get into Gaza.

Finally, it is extremely disappointing that the co-signatories did not seek input from Israel before writing this letter, giving an opportunity to present counter-views and a right to respond to the vilification. I suspect this is because such input would not have suited the narrative that was sought to be conveyed.

My view is that we should give you the benefit of doubt – that you were not involved in the drafting of the letter and that you co-signed it without fully appreciating the issues outlined above.

Now that you are fully informed, hopefully you will withdraw your signature and in the future think twice before aligning yourself with those who vilify Israel.

In order to counteract the angst that the letter has caused, you could issue an alternative statement that recognises Hamas’s responsibility for the suffering (which would be immediately addressed if Hamas was to release the hostages and agree to the ceasefire terms on offer) as well as calling for the dismantling of UNRWA, whose mandate only perpetuates the conflict.

This statement could also encourage the government to work closely with Israel, the United States and other like-minded countries to providing immediate alternate humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza – something that we would all welcome.

The ball is in your court.

Russel Pillemer is a Sydney businessman.

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