The Rosett Report

Lies, Damned Lies and UNRWA Pledging Conferences

Will the United Nations ever face up to the awkward reality that it is subsidizing terrorists in Gaza? Or is that too touchy a topic because it might interfere with UN demands for more of your tax dollars?

The deputy commissioner of UNRWA — the UN’s enormous agency dedicated entirely to Palestinian refugees — was in New York this week to speak at an UNRWA pledging conference at UN headquarters. This deputy commissioner, Margot Ellis, happens to be an American citizen, educated at Cornell and Columbia, and a former longtime official of the U.S. Agency for International Development. So one might hope she would be at least dimly aware of the responsibilities of a civil servant — as opposed to, say, a hired lobbyist — to present an honest picture when shaking the can for more public money.

But when Ellis spoke to the General Assembly on Thursday, to ask for more funds for UNRWA, her account of Gaza was so neatly trimmed of highly relevant information on the real source of the trouble that it could have been written by the propaganda mills of Pyongyang. Ellis talked about this past summer’s war between Hamas and Israel in terms of “Palestinian vulnerability” and “the extreme material and human devastation of Israeli military campaigns.” She lamented that “we were certain as was the Palestine refugee community in Gaza, that United Nations schools were a safe refuge for families and children,” and she stressed — as she did at a previous UNRWA pledging conference last December — a need for more construction material, and “the lifting of the blockade.”

Here are some things she did not say. She did not make a single mention of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules Gaza, and pours resources into weapons for launching attacks on Israel, while UNRWA — to which the U.S. is the largest donor — picks up a big chunk of the tab for social services.  To hear Ellis talk about Gaza, it is as if Hamas does not exist. Neither do the guns, mortars, rockets and hate-mills.

Ellis made not a single mention of the vast tunnel network, discovered by the Israelis this past summer, that Hamas had dug into Israel to facilitate its terrorist attacks. This Hamas venture included more than 30 terrorist tunnels, which by Israeli estimates cost at least $90 million to build, and required an average of 350 truckloads of construction supplies per tunnel. (If UNRWA disagrees with these estimates, perhaps it is time UNRWA — with its extensive networks, facilities and 12,000 Palestinian staffers in Gaza — provided some information on these projects.) Reportedly Hamas used Palestinian children to help dig these tunnels, an abuse of minors that Ellis also failed to allude to.

For that matter, she also made no mention of such horrors as the Hamas mass public execution in August of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. They were paraded, hooded and bound, before a jeering crowd, and then shot to death.

Ellis also omitted any reference to UNRWA’s discovery during the summer war of rockets stockpiled in at least three UNRWA schools — it seems that has been magically erased from the picture. Neither did she mention the rockets fired from near schools and hospitals. One might suppose that an official so concerned with the welfare of client Palestinians would include, in a briefing to the General Assembly, that Hamas uses Palestinian children as human shields. Though of course that is difficult to explain if the entire situation is being presented in terms that condemn the Israelis but make zero mention of the Palestinian terrorists who were tunneling into Israel, firing rockets at Israel, and are dedicated in their charter to the obliteration of Israel.

Neither did Ellis explain how Israel might lift its blockade yet remain safe from terrorist attacks out of Gaza, with its weapons, suicide bombers and overlords who delight in slaughtering Israelis — when they can get to them. Perhaps she considers that beyond her brief. But in that case, why does she roll right along from soliciting funds for Gaza construction projects to making specific demands that would profoundly affect the security of a UN member state?

Why would Ellis present this oddly doctored picture? It would be insulting to suggest that she is anti-Semitic, or harbors some extreme prejudice against Israel; that would be unthinkable for an enlightened citizen of the U.S., placed in an influential position within a major UN agency. So let’s default to the likelihood that she thinks her job is to raise money for UNRWA, no matter how much she must censor out of her reports in order to do so. In 2013, the most recent year for which UNRWA shows consolidated contributions (regular budget, emergency appeals, etc.) the U.S. contributed $294 million to UNRWA, of which some $85 million went to Gaza (while Hamas was pouring resources into terrorist tunnels, and UNRWA’s Ellis was demanding more construction materials for the enclave). The U.S. tax dollars keep rolling in. Is it too much to ask, that the U.S. — as a UN member state — request of Ellis a candid accounting of the real obstacles to peace and prosperity in Gaza — and an explanation of why, in asking for U.S. tax dollars for the enclave, she makes no mention that it is run by the terrorists of Hamas?