EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The desire of Prime Minister Netanyahu to dismantle UNRWA, while understandable in light of the agency’s egregious history of collusion with Hamas, is not a practical proposition. Israel can, however, demand that funding to UNRWA be conditioned on the agency’s reform in multiple areas.

Virtually every media outlet ​took UNRWA’s condemnation of the Hamas tunnels found under an UNRWA school at its word. Yet none of them reminded the world that both 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 the agency​. Nor does UNRWA appear to object to the use of its facilities by Hamas to teach violence and war. This summer, for example, 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.

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 the Hamas terror tunnels under its school. Adi Schwartz, in his piece “Dismantle UNRWA” (BESA Perspectives Paper #528), concurs with the PM that UNRWA should cease to exist.

Unfortunately, however, it is not within Israel’s power to ​”dismantle” UNRWA. The agency operates under the mandate of the UN General Assembly, and only that organ can shut it down. Even if 30 or 40 nations 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.

If Israel​ ​and the ​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 the West Bank​, would ​likely step in to replace any lost income​.
  2. Saudi Arabia, which recently increased its funding of UNRWA to become its number three donor, would ​likely ​increase its contribution.

If these two Gulf states ​were to become the largest donors to ​UNRWA, no leverage could be brought against the agency to cease connections with Hamas or other terror groups.

What, then, ​can the ​Israeli government do about UNRWA?

Jerusalem can ​demand that the 68 donor nations to UNRWA condition the release of funds on reforms of the agency in six areas:

  1. Ask for an audit of donor funds given to UNRWA. This would address widespread documented reports of wasted resources, duplication of services, and undesired flow of cash to the Gaza-based terror groups that have controlled UNRWA operations there for the past 18 years.
  2. Introduce UNHCR standards to UNRWA to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees. Palestinian refugees have spent 6​8 years​ relegated to refugee status. Current UNRWA policy is that any refugee resettlement would interfere with the “right of return” to pre-1948 Arab localities. By adopting a political stance in favor of Palestinian maximalists, UNRWA flouts its own commitment to the welfare and future of Palestinian refugees.
  3. Cancel the UNRWA curriculum, which is based on jihad, martyrdom, and the “right of return” by force of arms.
  4. Cease paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools.  ​​It is an absurdity that UNRWA, a UN agency with a purported commitment to “peace education,” allows such training on its premises.
  5. 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.
  6. UNRWA recently hired a “youth ambassador”, Muhammad Assaf, to travel the world and encourage insurrection and violence. This would be an 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, it should act within the bounds of reality to curb the agency’s misconduct. It is possible to reform UNRWA, not dismantle it.

Don’t Dismantle UNRWA; Reform Its Policies


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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: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.