As The Daily Wire’s Hank Berrien reported last year, the Trump administration has cut large amounts of funding to the Hamas-tied, scathingly anti-Israel United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA has long been systemically biased against Israel (and against Jews) and in favor of the Palestinian-Arab narrative. For example, Harry Khachatrian noted in 2016 for The Daily Wire that some examples of UNRWA-initiated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda measures “include Nazi-like cartoons shared on social media by its staff and promoti[on of] terrorist-supporting flotillas and violence against Israel. UNRWA has also allowed Hamas — officially designated as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and Canada — to use its facilities and has employed its members as staff.” Berrien also observed in 2017:
As PJ Media noted, the United Nations UNRWA’s funds help to train terrorists for ISIS: “Kids as young as seven are calling for the killing of Jews and are pledging their allegiance to ISIS in schools run by the UN. The documentary ‘The UNRWA Road to Terror: Palestinian Classroom Incitement,’ shows a clip of a Palestinian child who is a 13-year-old student at one of the schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency chanting ‘With Allah’s help I will fight for ISIS, the Islamic State.'”
After President Trump announced the funding cut to UNRWA, Jonathan Greenberg argued in a Daily Wire op-ed that such a funding cut represented a necessary first step on the path to Middle East peace:
UNRWA has not “relieved” the refugees’ situation. It has encouraged and exacerbated it. No other program to assist refugees has overseen and, in fact, helped create a 650% increase in the population it serves. Unfortunately, UNRWA has made Palestinian refugee status hereditary. Rather than moving on with their lives, UNRWA has locked generations of Palestinians in permanent victimhood. UNRWA’s definition of a Palestinian refugee as including descendants is partly a strategy to ensure organizational continuity, but it also serves the Palestinian victimization narrative both within their society and beyond. What it does not do is create any incentive for Palestinians to resettle, move on, or build the kind of institutions necessary for statehood.
One major issue is how UNRWA determines who is a “refugee.” UNRWA’s very own former general counsel, James Lindsay, confirmed in a 2012 Middle East Quarterly essay that UNRWA calculates its “refugees” in a very different manner than does the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which exists to support “refugees” resulting from every other conflict in the world besides the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
The UNRWA definition makes no mention of citizenship, and UNRWA makes no effort to de-register persons who were formerly refugees but are now citizens of a state. As such, UNRWA is the only refugee organization in the world that considers citizens of a state to be refugees, and there are many of these oxymoronic “citizen-refugees” on UNRWA rolls.
Therefore, as I explained in February: “[A]ll the millions of descendants of the Palestinian-Arabs displaced by Israel’s 1948 War of Independence — a genocidal war launched by the Jewish state’s Arab neighbors only after those neighbors flatly rejected the incipient United Nation’s previously proffered two-state partition proposal — who have since acquired citizenship in a distinct sovereign nation, such as the 1.8 million Jordanians Neuer references, would not be considered ‘refugees’ under UNHCR’s definition but are considered ‘refugees’ under UNRWA’s definition.”
Most recently, the Trump administration has signaled its intention, via U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt speaking at the United Nations this week, to work to effectively dismantle UNRWA once and for all. Ynetnews reports that Greenblatt said yesterday: “We need to engage with host governments to start a conversation about planning the transition of UNRWA services to host governments, or to other international or local non-governmental organizations, as appropriate.” The key phrase would be, “transition of UNRWA services to host governments,” which would amount to an end of UNRWA’s mandate and its effective institutional death.
Alas, as The Jerusalem Post reports, UNRWA is now fighting back. UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl offered the following:
“I reject the accompanying narrative and the suggestions that the UNRWA model is irredeemably flawed. … Making a humanitarian organization responsible for the [Israeli-Palestinian] crisis is misguided and unhelpful. It is clear that the responsibility for the protracted nature of refugee [status] … lies squarely with the parties themselves and the international community, and the lack of will and/or utter inability of the political actors to bring about a solution to this long-standing crisis.”
As usual, U.N. bureaucrats operate with blinders firmly on. But conservatives ought to applaud the Trump administration for its sustained anti-UNRWA efforts.