JERUSALEM — The shocking revelation that some employees of the U.N. agency UNRWA were part of the Oct. 7 massacre and transported Hamas terrorists in U.N. vehicles is just the most recent example of the heavily U.S.-subsidized agency’s relationship with Hamas.
‘UNRWA is a horror show that is decades in the making co-produced by the United States taxpayer,’ Richard Goldberg a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies(FDD,) said during testimony to a subcommittee of the House Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
Fox News Digital has been digging over the years into the scandal-plagued history of UNRWA, an acronym for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
According to a dossier that Israel’s government submitted to the Biden administration in late January, 12 UNRWA employees allegedly aided Hamas in different capacities Oct. 7.
Seven U.N. staffers crossed into Israel Oct. 7 while others were accused of ‘participating in a terror activity’ or coordinating vehicle movements. The Biden administration has given UNRWA $1 billion of taxpayer money since 2021.
Just weeks before Israel claimed UNRWA employees took part in the Oct. 7 massacre in southern Israel, Fox News Digital reported a Telegram channel used by more than 3,000 teachers for UNRWA in Gaza was found replete with posts celebrating Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, praising the terrorists who raped and murdered civilians as ‘heroes.’
The Telegram channel is intended for UNRWA teachers and contains files with staff names, ID numbers, schedules and curriculum materials. In one post highlighted in the U.N. Watch report, UNRWA teacher Waseem Ula shared a video glorifying the Hamas attacks and posted a photo of a suicide bomb vest wired with explosives. The caption said, ‘Wait, sons of Judaism.’
Fox News Digital reported on an August video titled ‘Askar—UNRWA: Cradle of Killers’ purportedly showing Palestinian children inciting hatred against Jews and Israel at the Askar refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.
In 2019, Fox News Digital reported that UNRWA schoolbooks were tainted with ‘systematic hatred’ of Israel. UNRWA has faced years of criticism for allowing school text books to be filled with antisemitic chapters in its schools while also glorifying terrorists.
Two years earlier, in 2017, a Hamas terrorism tunnel was found beneath two UNRWA schools in Gaza.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, told Fox News Digital by email, ‘As for donors, 15 donors announced funding suspension to UNRWA since 26 January (as of 29 Jan), namely: Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Iceland, Romania Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, U.K. and the USA.’
When asked if the secretary-general will urge UNRWA’s Commissioner Philippe Lazzarini to resign, Dujarric said, ‘Regarding Mr. Lazzarini, he continues to work with the full confidence of the secretary-general as he deals simultaneously with the allegations against UNRWA staff, on which he took swift and proactive action and continue[s] to lead the humanitarian response to what is unfolding in Gaza.’
When pressed if UNRWA is no longer tenable as an organization and beyond reform, Dujarric referred Fox News Digital to his Monday press briefing.
‘The contracts of the staff members directly involved have been terminated,’ he said. ‘An investigation by the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was immediately activated.
‘The secretary-general is personally horrified by the accusations against employees of UNRWA, but his message to donors, especially those who have suspended their contributions, is to at least guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations, as we have tens of thousands of dedicated staff working throughout the region.’
During a briefing Tuesday, Dujarric claimed ‘UNRWA does not work with Hamas. We have operational contacts with de facto authorities like we do in every other place in the world where they are de facto authorities.’
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described evidence that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7 massacre ‘highly credible.’
Despite calls for a wholesale revision of UNRWA, Blinken noted that UNRWA plays an ‘indispensable’ role in furnishing aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip and that ‘no one else can play the role that UNRWA has been playing, certainly not in the near term.’
‘This is the time to put stringent controls over UNRWA in the areas of education and [the] inspection of weapons,’ UNRWA critic David Bedein, director of the Center for Near East Policy Research and an expert on UNRWA’s curriculum.
Bedein told Fox News Digital that the Palestinian Fatah party and the terrorist organizations Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas ‘are controlling the workers’ unions’ for UNRWA teachers.
‘You can stop that,’ Bedein said.
Fox News Digital reported in 2012 that Palestinians voted UNRWA elected candidates linked to Hamas to 25 out of 27 seats on a union board that represents 10,000 UNRWA workers.
Bedein said there must be a plan to overhaul UNRWA. First, ‘Cancellation of the new UNRWA curriculum, based on Jihad, martyrdom and ‘right of return by force of arms,’ which have no place in U.N. education, whose theme is ‘Peace Begins Here.’
He insisted ‘UNRWA dismiss employees affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Fatah in accordance with laws of donor nations that forbid aid to any agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.’
Bedein notes that the ‘current UNRWA policy is that any Arab refugee resettlement would interfere with the ‘right of return’ to pre-1948 Arab localities.’
The refugee classification by UNRWA impedes the Israel-Palestinian peace process because it provides endless refugee status to generations of Palestinians who were not born in Israel.
According to Israel, the Palestinian demand to return all refugees is an impossible proposal because it would create a non-Jewish state.
Bedein argued that it was time to implement standards ‘to advance resettlement of fourth- and fifth-generation refugees from the 1948 war who have spent seven decades relegated to refugee status,’ while calling for an audit of all donor funds from the 68 nations who support the agency.
The FDD’s Richard Goldberg concluded his congressional testimony by telling the committee that, ‘October 7th is the logical conclusion of UNRWA. It is of course what they have been training generations to do with the resources we’ve provided going to these terrorist organizations to carry out that mission.’
UNRWA did not respond to multiple Fox News Digital questions.
Fox News’ Lawrence Richard and Bradford Betz contributed to this report.