GOP senators to Blinken: UNRWA has outlived its mandate
May 7, 2021
(JNS) — Saying that the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees has outlived its mandate, a group of Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing concern over the United States providing funding to the organization.
The authors wrote that the original intent of UNRWA was to address the needs of Palestinian refugees in the aftermath of the 1948 Israeli-Arab conflict, but in the past 60 years, it has changed its definition of refugee away from the word’s standard definition to now providing assistance to those who have citizenship in the countries where they live.
It also had concerns about the organization’s impartiality.
“Over the years, the agency has employed individuals affiliated with Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist organization. UNRWA schools have been used to store Hamas weapons,” the letter stated. “Additionally, there have been numerous cases of UNRWA textbooks including material that is antisemitic, such as encouraging the destruction of the State of Israel and supporting martyrdom and/or violent jihad.”
The letter comes as a result of the Biden administration restarting international aid to the Palestinians of around $235 million, of which $150 million goes to UNRWA — aid that was cut by the Trump administration.
“The United States has been one of the most generous donors to the Palestinian people. Our assistance is designed to be humanitarian in nature,” said the letter. “However, UNRWA has grown into a bloated organization which does not embody the shared values between the United States and United Nations.”
The senators laid out the parameters that the administration should have used when restarting the aid.
These included requiring the independent verification of UNRWA employees, employees of partner organizations and contractors to ensure they are not affiliated with Hamas, Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations; requiring verification that textbooks used by UNRWA do not include extremist or antisemitic content; have a policy that suspends all U.S. assistance to UNRWA if its facilities are used to house terrorist armaments and equipment; required UNRWA to allow a U.S. government audit and publicly release how many refugees the organization helps who have citizenship in their country of residents.
The letter was led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and signed by 20 senators.