JERUSALEM – Virtually every media outlet took the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ condemnation of the Hamas tunnels found under an UNRWA school at its word. Yet no media outlet reminded the world that the UNRWA teachers union and the UNRWA workers union of Gaza have been under the tight control of Hamas since 1999, without a word of disapproval from UNRWA.

The statement by the Prime Minister of Israel that UNRWA should be “dismantled” indicates that the Israeli government holds UNRWA responsible for the existence of Hamas terror tunnels. The timing of this discovery is important, occurring just before Hamas will conduct its annual summer military training camp to train upwards of 50,000 UNRWA students, ages 9-15, in the use of live weaponry.

However, it is unfortunately not within Israel’s power to “dismantle” UNRWA. UNRWA operates under the mandate of the United Nations General Assembly, and only its 193 member states can “dismantle” UNRWA.

If Israeli and Western democratic nations were to cut funds to UNRWA, two scenarios would likely occur:

  • The radical Islamic state of Qatar, which has established a presence in Gaza and in Judea/Samaria, would likely step in to replace any income lost from Western cuts to UNRWA. Saudi Arabia, which recently increased its funding of UNRWA to become the number three donor, would likely give even more.
    If Qatar and Saudi Arabia became the largest donors to UNRWA, no leverage could be brought against UNRWA to cease connections with Hamas or other terror groups. What, then, can the Israeli government do to ameliorate UNRWA? Jerusalem could demand that UNRWA donors condition funds on reforms of UNRWA in six areas:
  • Ask for an audit of donor funds given to UNRWA. This would address widespread documented reports of wasted resources, duplicity of services, and the undesired flow of cash to Gaza-based terror groups, which have gained control over UNRWA operations there for the past 18 years.
  • Introduce UN Refugee Agency standards to UNRWA to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees after 68 years of their relegation to refugee camp existence.
    Current UNRWA policy is that any refugee resettlement would interfere with the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948.
  • Cancel the UNRWA school curriculum, based on Jihad, martyrdom, and the “right of return” by force of arms.
  • Cease paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools. Should UNRWA, as a UN agency, not demonstrate a renewed commitment to UN principles to “peace education?”
  • Insist that UNRWA dismiss employees affiliated with Hamas, in accordance with laws on the books in western nations that forbid aid to any agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.
  • Since UNRWA has recently hired a “youth ambassador” – Mohammad Assaf – to travel the world and encourage insurrection and violence, would this not be the appropriate time to demand that UNRWA cancel its contract with a promoter of war?

Now that the Israeli government has finally come to the conclusion that UNRWA is an impediment to peace, the government of Israel should act to curb UNRWA policy and reform UNRWA, which is within the scope of possibility, and not to dismantle UNRWA, which is not possible.

David Bedein is the director of Israel Resource News Agency and also administers the Center for Near East Policy Research. He is also the author of “Roadblock to Peace – How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict:

UNRWA Policies Reconsidered” and “The Genesis of the Palestinian Authority.” His website is www.israelbehindthenews.com.

David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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