'Cease Funding'

UNRWA ‘rotten to the core’

"We know that in Gaza, at least 12 UNRWA employees personally participated in the massacre of October 7," says Hillel Neuer.

Hillel Neuer testifies before Congress. Screenshot: UN Watch
Hillel Neuer testifies before Congress. Screenshot: UN Watch

The United States must cease funding Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA “for good”, UN Watch director Hillel Neuer told Congress late last month.

Speaking before the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and International Organisations on January 30, Neuer noted that “for years we’ve been told by UNRWA and its supporters that the agency performs life-saving work and that its teachers offer Palestinian students an education that promotes human rights, tolerance, equality and non-discrimination”.

“We now know this has been a lie,” he said.

“We know that in Gaza, at least 12 UNRWA employees personally participated in the massacre of October 7. The world also learned yesterday that 1200 UNRWA employees in Gaza are part of Hamas or Islamic Jihad.”

Noting that the US is the largest donor to UNRWA at over $US300 million a year, he said, “I’ve come here to ask the Congress of the United States … to not just suspend, but to end the funding for good, and to take the lead in dissolving an organisation that is riddled with incitement to hate, involvement in terrorism and the perpetuation of war.”

Neuer said that for the past nine years, UN Watch, an NGO with a mission to hold the UN to its founding charter, had been uncovering, publishing, and submitting to the UN and to UNRWA evidence of “widespread and systematic incitement to jihadi terrorism, the praise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, calls to slaughter Jews on the part of UNRWA teachers, school principals and other employees”.

“Just in November, we sent a report on 20 teachers who celebrated the October 7 massacre. In March, together with IMPACT-se, we identified 133 UNRWA teachers and staff who promoted hate and violence in social media,” he said.

“In June 2022, we released a report called UNRWA’s Teachers of Hate. It included the following Facebook post by Elham Mansour, an UNRWA teacher: ‘By Allah, anyone who can kill and slaughter any Zionist and Israeli criminal and doesn’t do so, doesn’t deserve to live. Kill them and pursue them everywhere. They are the greatest enemy. All Israel deserves is death.’ We sent it to the UN. They did nothing.”

UN Watch sent reports to the UN in 2021, 2019, 2017 and 2015, he said.

“They never contacted us for information. They refused our repeated written requests to meet to discuss the problem. They cannot say they didn’t know. Mr Guterres knew. The head of the UNRWA knew. The United Nations knew. They simply chose not to act,” he said.

“But it’s much worse than that. From the beginning, their response to our reports was to attack us for doing the work they failed to do. This was their response, to smear the messenger.”

Noting that the US and other donors have asked UNRWA to investigate and to ensure accountability, he said, “I can tell you, for a decade, UNRWA has shown itself to be unwilling, unable and unfit.”

Addressing claims from some that the 12 UNRWA staffers who are accused of participating in October 7 are “a few bad apples”, he said, “This is not a problem of bad apples, it’s rotten to the core.”

The core problem, he said, is that “the very purpose of the agency is to perpetuate the war of 1948, to send the message to Palestinians that the war of 1948 is not over.

“Don’t use cement to build homes, hospitals and schools here in Gaza. Use it to build hundreds of miles of terror tunnels, to tunnel into Israel, to invade Israel, to go back to what your homes are. That is the message of UNRWA.”

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