News & Politics

U.S. Defunds Palestinian Refugee Relief Agency

“Irredeemably flawed.” That’s the reason given by the State Department for defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — the organization that is supposed to assist Palestinian refugees.

The U.S. contributes more than $350 million a year to UNRWA, making the United States by far the largest donor nation to the agency. But massive corruption in the agency has called into question just how much of that money actually goes to help civilians and how much is used to line the pockets of the Palestinian leadership. There are also questions about UNRWA facilities being used to store weapons.

In addition to the graft, the agency is incompetently run, according to a UN audit conducted last year. UNRWA ran an $80 million deficit last year, leading to severe cuts in services to its neediest clients. One Palestinian protester against UNRWA set himself on fire in front of the agency’s Lebanese headquarters.

The question isn’t whether UNRWA should be defunded. The question should be, what took so long?

For Israel’s part, the government approved the defunding and hinted that the Trump administration wouldn’t stop until the agency was closed down.

Times of Israel:

A day after the US announced it will not give any further funding to UNWRA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, Israeli officials said the Trump Administration has made clear to them that it intends to see UNRWA closed down altogether and all its functions taken over by other agencies.

The US will not prevent the Gulf states, Arab nations, and others from providing emergency funding to keep UNRWA (the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) functioning this year, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported on Saturday, quoting senior Israeli diplomatic sources. But it will condition its consent to further funding by US allies in the Arab world on a reevaluation of UNRWA’s role and a redefinition of who the agency defines as a Palestinian refugee. Ultimately the TV report said, the US goal is to “close down UNRWA altogether.”

These basic reforms have been resisted by the Palestinians for years and the international community — especially the Arab world that pretends to care about the Palestinians — has been content with allowing the U.S. taxpayer to shoulder the aid burden.

That will now change as the Gulf states will have to increase their own contributions to UNRWA or see their Palestinian brothers and sisters suffer.

EU nations could also increase their support of Palestinian refugees, considering how vocal they are in criticizing U.S. policy in the region. Now is the time for Europeans to put their money where their Palestinian crocodile tears are.

There is some concern that the cut in aid will “radicalize” the Palestinians even more. That’s a curious argument to make considering the hysteria against Israel and the U.S. that is regularly on display in the West Bank and Gaza. Whoever the Palestinian “moderates” are, they certainly hide themselves very well. They have to. Any Palestinian who voices anything but undying hatred for Israel and the U.S. is likely to be branded a turncoat and end up dead.

The international community must remove its blinders when it comes to Palestinian refugees and realize that the PA and Hamas leadership find it convenient to inflict suffering on their own people for the sympathy it generates and the political power it brings them.

Defunding the UNRWA is a good first step.