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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Follow the money....

I thought I knew a lot about UNRWA. The article I am about to share with you convinced me otherwise. But before I share it with you, if you have not voted in the last 24 hours, please go vote for Israel Matzav as the Best Midsize blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards by clicking here. If I win, do you think a Haaretz interview will be in the offing? I wouldn't bet on it.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that UNRWA is a UN-agency that was originally created to help resolve the fates of 'Palestinian refugees,' and that in sixty years all it has done is perpetuate their 'refugee' status and pass it on from generation to generation. I even knew - as I'm sure many of you did - that UNRWA employed thousands of 'Palestinians,' many of whom are out and out terrorists. But I believed that UNRWA was funded by the UN and did not need to do its own fundraising. The two halves of that last sentence don't necessarily match. UNRWA is funded by the UN but does its own fundraising anyway. Lots of it. And that's why it's in UNRWA's interest to make the current conditions in Gaza look as dire as possible (Hat Tip: mjazzguitar via Little Green Footballs).
At UNRWA, more than 99% of the staff are local Palestinians. They sit at the many local levers of the UNRWA distribution machinery, which under UNRWA policy takes on the coloration of and yields to the policies of host governments--as UNRWA officials explained to U.S. lawmakers who some years ago challenged the use of anti-Israeli textbooks in UNRWA schools.


Since late December, when Israel began its campaign to end the thousands of rocket and mortar attacks launched by Hamas from Gaza, UNRWA officials have given a parade of briefings via UN headquarters in New York.

Teleconferencing in, they have ignored what UNRWA Commissioner General Karen Koning Abuzayd has described as their "nonpolitical" mandate. With Abuzayd in the lead, they have detailed their outrage on behalf of the Palestinians, excoriated Israel and stepped further into the political arena to demand an immediate ceasefire--something these same UNRWA officials did not do when the attacks were one-way out of Gaza into Israel.

Given the structure and location of UNRWA, such bias comes as no big surprise. Headquartered inside a terrorist enclave, sharing with terrorist authorities such basic interests as keeping the local lights on and the water running, UNRWA officials have plenty of incentives to slam Israel as the culprit--not themselves, or their Hamas cohabiters.

And while blaming Israel, UNRWA officials also have plenty of incentive to present the worst possible picture. The greater the perceived distress, the better the prospects not only for immediate relief, but for future fundraising.

UNRWA's interests in Gaza are by now so entwined and, in many ways, so aligned with Hamas' interests that it is often hard to tell them apart.

And, as UNRWA officials have aired their views and demands from the UN stage, handouts for Gaza have been rolling in from all sides--some via UNRWA, some through other channels.

This goes way beyond Israel allowing hundreds of aid trucks into Gaza, even as the Israeli military is battling to shut down the rocket launchers and destroy the arms-smuggling tunnels and weapons caches of Hamas.

Support in cash and kind, in dollars and tons, has been pledged by donors ranging from Iran to Japan to the European Union to the Arab Gulf States to the U.S. (already the top donor to UNRWA, with $148 million in contributions last year, and now promising an immediate $5 million in response to UNRWA's latest flash appeal for Gaza, plus another $80 million for the agency to spread around in places including Gaza).

Plane-loads of relief, both in goods and services, have been announced by donors ranging from Russia to Libya to Sudan.

When this largesse eventually arrives in Gaza, how exactly will it be spent, distributed and supervised? UNRWA and the surrounding constellations of aid operations in Gaza are by and large areas of deep murk.
Read the whole thing.

If the UN ever bothered to investigate UNRWA's finances, it would likely discover a scandal that would dwarf the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, both in terms of the sums involved and in terms of the level of UN staffers involved. But don't hold your breath waiting for the UN to investigate. That should not, however, prevent the US Congress from investigating. The Congress' almost total silence and continued allocation of funds in the face of the total lack of oversight on UNRWA is most puzzling and distressing. Finding the truth behind UNRWA would be a good cause for a new incoming Representative or Senator. If you know one, please suggest it.


At 6:51 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

In Nov 2007, Dave Kopel had a pretty comprehensive history of UNRWA, too.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Palestinians are the only people in history to subsist on the world's charity and they expect the world to give them a state on a platter as a gift. That's not the way to become a free people and which is why we won't see a Palestinian reichlet happen any time soon. A country cannot happen with others building it all for you... especially if you lack the habits of building and running it. The Palestinians are good at terror and mayhem though - that's where they've invested their energies.


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