Relief agency spokesman says ‘I don’t see that as a crime’.
October 4, 2004.
OTTAWA – The United Nations agency that provides assistance and food aid to
Palestinian refugees admits it has hired members of the terrorist group Hamas
to help in its efforts.
Peter Hansen, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency for palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told the CBC he believes it likely that
Hamas members receive paycheques from his organization.
“Oh I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don’t
see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every
member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from
one persuasion as against another,” Mr. Hansen said.
“We demand of our staff, whatever their political persuasion is, that they
behave in accordance with UN standards and norms for neutrality.”
Canada contributes roughly $10-million annually to UNRWA.
Canadian officials did not offer any immediate comment on the specifics
of the CBC report, saying the UN agency has a long record of humanitarian
service in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and that the organization should speak
“But I would say that as far as Canada’s concerned, Hamas is a terrorist
organization,” said a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew.
The federal government designated Hamas as a terrorist group in 2002, and
several North American charities linked to the group have since been outlawed.
The uproar concerning the UN’s rumoured ties to groups like Hamas and
Hezbollah — which also provide food, welfare and schooling to Palestinians —
erupted this past week when the Israeli Defence Force released a pair of
videotapes they claimed as proof that UN ambulances have been used to ferry
munitions and gunmen throughout the occupied territories.
The Israeli government is also insisting Mr. Hansen, who is one of the UN’s top
officials in Gaza, be immediately stripped of his duties and fired. Israel has
previously accused Foreign Affairs Mr. Hansen of ”blatant anti-Israel bias” and
turning a blind eye to Palestinian militants’ use of UN ambulances.