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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

John Bolton and The New Republic agree: Stop funding UNRWA

I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton thinks that it's time to stop funding UNRWA.
As the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, my eyes have long been open to the dangerous biases and political agendas in play at the U.N.
It is at the core of my mission to share these facts with the American people, and why I am writing today.
The United Nations has lost its way, and now we MUST take action.
In the midst of the current Hamas-Israel hostilities, and well before, U.N. institutions and agencies have behaved so outrageously that they've inflicted severe damage to the United Nation's reputation and credibility.
The bottom line is that the United States can no longer excuse or ignore the egregious anti-Israel bias we've seen out of U.N. institutions, period. ...
Then there is the U.N. Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA). Three times in late July, UNRWA was forced to admit publicly that it "discovered" stockpiles of Hamas rockets stored in UNRWA's Gaza schools.
Why didn't UNRWA stop Hamas from stockpiling missiles in its schools, or at least immediately report this ploy to the U.N. Security Council?
Unfortunately, we know Obama will not act to disassociate the United States from this unacceptable international conduct regarding Gaza and Israel. That's why we're urging Congress to investigate IMMEDIATELY and take action.
Writing in the New Republic, Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe agree.
UNRWA, the U.N.’s 65-year-old, internationally funded welfare organization for Palestinians, should be commended for providing much needed shelter and aid to displaced Gazans during the crisis. But given several revelations during the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, UNRWA should have no role in any negotiated arrangement regarding Gaza’s reconstruction. 
On three occasions rockets were found in UNRWA schools, closed for the summer, and at least once they were returned to Hamas. On another occasion, the UNRWA accused Israel of targeting civilians sheltering in a school when in fact those deaths were caused by a Hamas rocket that fell short. And on another occasion it accused Israel of targeting a shelter and civilians when in reality terrorists outside the facility were hit and civilian bodies possibly planted at the scene.
UNRWA has condemned the rockets found in its schools, but it has not condemned Hamas’ firing rockets from in and around its facilities, or any other locations such as residential areas, hospital parking lots, and hotels. All these have now been documented, often reluctantly, by journalists who have left Gaza, who have also made it clear that they were subject to Hamas surveillance, harassment and intimidation. Instead, UNRWA and its spokesman Chris Gunness have tweeted accusations, voiced hollow defenses, and cried on television. 
UNRWA’s many responsibilities should be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, as a means of strengthening the PA practically, politically, and in the eyes of Gaza’s residents. UNRWA employees should be made PA employees and international funds redirected to support its programs. This would be one of the timeliest means of rebuilding the PA in a region where it has been weakest, Gaza, and a way to begin the long overdue process of dismantling UNRWA. 
This recommendation has its flaws. The PA is monumentally corrupt while UNRWA is not (although recent revelations regarding diversions of building supplies provided by the U.N. and overseen by UNRWA to Hamas have begun to change that image). There must be the expectation that Western funds and supplies will go missing, only to end up in the bank accounts and businesses of PA leaders and their families. But if at long last international donors become serious about cracking down on PA corruption, and Gazans demanded accountability from their government, there is at least the chance for good governance to emerge.
As it is, UNRWA is effectively a branch of Hamas. The overwhelming majority of its employees in Gaza belong to the Hamas-linked trade union. An unknown number of employees are actual Hamas fighters (or at least know UNRWA employees with keys to the schools so that rockets can be stored in classrooms over the summer). The curriculum taught in UNRWA schools is shaped by Hamas, which earlier this year rejected textbooks that failed to tout “armed resistance” as too “peaceful.” Gaza cannot be rebuilt at western expense only to return to this perverse status quo. 
Dismantling UNRWA requires the approval of the United Nations General Assembly, making it unlikely. But if donor countries were to reprogram their funds, first by demanding that the PA take over UNRWA’s employees and responsibilities, the effect would be the same. In 2010, Canada shifted its contributions away from UNRWA, sending a strong message about the organization. And in Gaza allegiances are based in the first place on who pays the bills. Better this be the PA with Western help than Hamas with Qatari help. Adding UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in Gaza to the PA’s roster would be a boost.
 Read it all.

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At 1:18 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

John Bolton? I wish that he was President! He is indeed, IMHO, one of the best.

At 1:27 AM, Blogger Sunlight said...

And UNIFIL in Lebanon, who served as (at least) human shields for Hezbollah's reconstruction and rearming after summer 2006? Shouldn't they go, too?

At 4:27 AM, Blogger jlevyellow said...

Given that UNRWA returned rockets found on its premises to Hamas, why can't an aggrieved Israeli family sue the UN or UNRWA in an American court? Not a rhetorical question!


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