How the UN and the international community (including the US) keep Hamas going
Claudia Rossett has a devastating expose on how the United Nations and international community keep Hamas going
Officially, Unrwa is a strictly humanitarian agency, providing Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank, as well as Gaza, with "assistance and protection" in the form of schools, hospitals, construction, loans, jobs and other help. By the agency's own account, in its 2014-15 budget "the core services UNRWA provides are comparable in nature and scope to those provided by a local or national government."
But Gaza under Hamas is a place with only two basic industries: aid and terrorism. These are much entwined, and not solely because Hamas controls Unrwa's staff unions in Gaza, where in 2012 a Hamas-affiliated slate swept 25 of 27 seats. In effect the U.N. group subsidizes Hamas. Among U.N. agencies in the Middle East, Unrwa is the largest employer, with a regular budget for 2014 of $731 million, and a total budget that, with emergency appeals, tops $1 billion.
The agency has roughly 30,000 staff on its payroll, almost all Palestinian. Some 12,500 work in Gaza, home to 1.2 million Unrwa-registered refugees, who account for about two-thirds of Gaza's population. The U.N. agency's welfare programs relieve Hamas of many of the costs of servicing the enclave it controls as its launchpad for terror.
With the agency handling household chores, Hamas—especially since its bloody takeover of Gaza in 2007, ousting the Palestinian Authority's Fatah—has found the time and resources to amass rocket arsenals (Unrwa last month reported finding rockets stashed in three of its vacant schools), to bombard Israel (sometimes in close proximity to Unrwa premises), and to build miles of concrete-reinforced tunnels extending into Israel for terrorist attacks. Israel, in its counteroffensive, has been accused by the U.N. of deadly strikes on Unrwa schools serving as shelters.
How did it come to this? Created by the U.N. General Assembly in 1949, Unrwa began operations in 1950 as an emergency jobs and aid program for Palestinian refugees. It was supposed to be temporary but has been repeatedly renewed. The agency has now carried on for 64 years, vastly expanding its budget, programs and refugee rolls.
Unrwa is unusual among U.N. agencies in ways that render it especially unaccountable, even by U.N. standards. All other refugees world-wide fall under the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Only the Palestinians have their own dedicated U.N. refugee agency, offering special access to the perquisites of the U.N. logo, stage and fundraising.
Almost all other U.N. agencies report to an executive board, allowing at least some chance of functional oversight. Unrwa reports directly to the entire 193-member General Assembly, where responsibility is broadly dispersed and easily avoided. According to a paper in 2010 by the agency's own chief of legal affairs, Lance Bartholomeusz, Unrwa enjoys the added flexibility of having no clearly defined mission: "its mandate is not conveniently stated in one place and must be derived from all other relevant resolutions and requests."
Thus unencumbered, Unrwa has ensured its own survival by transforming itself into the patron of Palestinian grievance, conferring refugee status down the generations, an unusual practice. The agency's website reports that since 1950 its roster of registered refugees has grown from an original 750,000 to 5.3 million—a sevenfold increase, all eligible for the Unrwa dole. For the Palestinians, this has been ruinous, fostering within an otherwise enterprising culture a crippling sense of entitlement and dependency.
The United States is UNRWA's largest donor. And rather than reevaluate, some Americans have a vested interest in keeping it that way.
In 2011 the agency opened an office in Washington run by two former U.S. government insiders: Matthew Reynolds, previously the State Department's assistant secretary for legislative affairs, and Chris McGrath, previously a media-events director for Sen. Harry Reid. The job descriptions include representing the U.N. agency's interests to the State Department and monitoring Congress on a daily basis to yield an "advocacy strategy dedicated to optimizing Unrwa's relations with Congress."
Thus U.S. tax dollars fund Unrwa officials now lobbying in Washington to obtain yet more money for an agency entwined with the rocket-launching, tunnel-digging rulers of Gaza. Mr. Reynolds, reached by phone this week, said he doesn't answer questions from the media. Christopher Gunness, the agency spokesman, did not respond to repeated queries.
What could go wrong?
Labels: Gaza, Hamas, Hamas rockets, Palestinian refugees, terror tunnels, United Nations, UNRWA