By Claudia Rosett, January 8, 2009.
Hamas has been running Gaza as a territory reduced to basically two industries:
aid and terrorism. Pivotal to this arrangement is one of the UN’s oldest and
most oddly configured agencies: the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.
Set up in 1949 with a temporary, three-year mandate to provide aid and jobs
for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA has survived for almost 60 years, expanding
its scope, budget and influence by extending refugee status to descendants of
its beneficiaries.. From an original refugee population listed by UNRWA as some
900,000 in 1950, UNRWA now provides for a Palestinian “refugee” clientele of
more than 4.6 million.
They are spread throughout camps-which physically look more like squalid
towns-in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. Into this system
flows an annual UNRWA budget now well above $400 million per year, doled
out variously in the form of cash, goods, medical care, schooling, job-training
programs and so forth.
To handle these operations, UNRWA employs more than 24,000 staffers.
That’s more than any other UN agency, including the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, or UNHCR, which with some 6,300 staffers.is responsible for all
other refugees worldwide, totaling more than 11 million. At UNRWA, more than
99% of the staff are local Palestinians..
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.
hey 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..
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..
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). When this largesse eventually arrives in Gaza,
how exactly will it be spent, distributed and supervised?.
This past September, Democratic Rep. Steve Rothman, with a bipartisan group
of five co-sponsors, submitted a concurrent resolution noting that “UNRWA has
employed staffers affiliated with terrorism.” The resolution cited specific
examples of UNRWA ambulance and schools having been used to abet
terrorism and mentioned a number of figures, including Awad al-Qiq,
headmaster of an UNRWA school in Gaza, “who also led Islamic Jihad’s
engineering unit that built bombs and Qassam rockets.”.
In pushing for an ever-bigger dole and in using the UN stage as a megaphone to
help elicit sympathy, drum up funds, denounce Israel and drape in UN baby blue
the interests and demands of the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hamas, they do a
terrible disservice not only to the cause of world peace, but to the prospects of
the Palestinians themselves for forsaking terror and building better lives.