Virtually every media ​outlet ​took the UNRWA condemnation of the Hamas tunnels found under an UNRWA school at its word. Yet no media outlet reminded the world that ​the ​UNRWA school 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 ​​hold​s 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, aged 9-15, in the ​use of live weaponry.

However, i​t is unfortunately not within Israel’s power to ​”dismantle” UNRWA.

​UNRWA operates under the mandate of UNGA, United Nations General Assembly, and only they can “dismantle” UNRWA.

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

  1. ​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 ​West​ern cuts to UNRWA​.
  2. Saudi Arabia, which recently  increased its funding of UNRWA to become the number three donor, would ​likely ​increase its contribution to UNRWA.

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:

  1. 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.
  1. Introduce UNHCR standards to UNRWA, to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees after 6​8 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.
  1. Cancel the UNRWA curriculum, based on Jihad, martyrdom and the “right of return” by force of arms.
  1. Cease paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools.  ​​Should UNRWA, as a UN agency, not demonstrate a renewed commitment to UN principles to “peace education?”
  1. Insist that UNRWA dismiss employees affiliated with Hamas, in accordance with laws on the books in western nations which forbid aid to any agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.
  1. 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 within reality to curb UNRWA policy: to reform UNRWA, which is within the scope of possibility, and not to dismantle UNRWA, which is not possible.​​


In November, 2005, I published an essay in the New York Jewish Week about why UNRWA should be dismantled and replaced by UNHCR, the umbrella agency which handles all refugees in the world, and an agency that works to resettle them, not to perpetuate their indignity as refugees.

A few days later, I made that presentation to a packed UN Press Club in New York and shared the concept with UN officials. There was not one diplomat or journalist at the UN who did not like the idea.

And then reality hit. Veterans at the UN pointed out that any change in the UNRWA mandate would require approval of the UNGA, the United Nations General Assembly, and that even if 30 or 40 nations would vote to change the UN mandate, the Arab League and the automatic majority of “non-aligned nations” would vote down any decision perceived as pro-Israel.

Therefore, UNRWA cannot be “dismantled.”  However, the 68 donor nations to UNRWA can and should condition their aid to UNRWA based on UNRWA reform.


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David Bedein
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: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.