JPOST: MK in Holland urges MPs: Hold UNRWA accountable, permanently cut funding

Knesset Christian Allies Caucus head MK Sharren Haskel is urging Dutch lawmakers to permanently cut funding to UNRWA, citing allegations that some of its members are affiliated with Hamas and were involved in the October 7 Hamas massacre.

Haskel met with dozens of lawmakers in Holland last week in preparation for a foreign policy meeting this week, where the fate of UNRWA's funding by the Dutch government may be determined.

"With the recent horrific reports verifying UNRWA employees' complicity in the October 7 massacre, countries around the world are finally beginning to understand how this UN organization has long served as a right arm to terror,” Haskel said. “And while many, including the Netherlands, have halted funding of UNRWA, UNRWA needs to be completely dismantled, and those who allowed these atrocities to occur to be held fully accountable.”

In addition to a roundtable discussion that lasted more than an hour on February 7 at the Dutch House of Representatives in The Hague to an audience of Dutch members of Parliament and Christian leaders, Haskel met personally with several MPs, including the leadership of all the major parties.

She showed them letters from Hamas thanking UNRWA managers and educators for giving their staff and students time off to train before the massacre. She also presented other evidence linking the group to terrorism.“I wanted to show them, this is not a few rotten apples, this is a body that is rotten to the core,” Haskel told The Jerusalem Post.

UNRWA was established in 1949 to aid Arabs displaced from Israel during the War of Independence. However, it has extended refugee status to their descendants, keeping these families as refugees indefinitely.

While initially serving around 750,000 refugees, the organization now supports nearly six million. According to Haskel, policies like these “perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ensure there will never be a peaceful future for either of us."

Former US President Donald Trump cut American funding to the organization in 2018, a policy that was reversed by President Joe Biden in 2021. Today, the US is UNRWA’s largest donor, providing upwards of $600 million in annual support.“

UNRWA has long been used as a weapon against Israel,” said Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus. “Now the world is beginning to wake up.”

“We have been worried about the role that UNRWA plays in the conflict for a long time,” said Dutch MP Don Ceder.

“We have often warned about the hatred that’s taught in UNRWA school books. Now that it turns out employees have actually been involved in horrible acts of terrorism, we can no longer avoid the discussion about the legitimacy of UNRWA itself.”

Haskel, who opened her UNRWA Reform caucus in the Knesset in 2015, said that if Holland or another European country permanently stopped funding UNRWA, it could start a chain reaction. She also stated that Israel has a historic window to make this happen right now.

Israeli Intelligence recently revealed that about 10% of UNRWA employees in Gaza belong to Hamas. Furthermore, at least 12 UNRWA employees directly participated in the October 7 massacre, resulting in the murder of more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and around 250 people being taken captive in Gaza.

Additionally, Ronen Bar, the head of Shin Bet (the Israel Security Agency), has stated that Hamas diverts up to 60% of international aid meant for the people of Gaza.

Following these allegations, more than a dozen countries, including the United States, have temporarily suspended funding to UNRWA while investigations are underway.

The United Nations is conducting two separate probes into UNRWA activities. One, led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, will be an independent external review. The other, focusing specifically on the 12 employees involved, is being carried out by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. Additionally, UNRWA itself is conducting its own investigation.

“The establishment of an independent review group to assess UNRWA’s neutrality following the publication of information indicating the participation of agency employees in terror activities is a positive step, although it is long overdue,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement on Friday. He warned that the review group should include research institutes with relevant professional experience, including counter-terrorism, security and vetting procedures.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi to find new ways to give aid in Gaza instead of using UNRWA.

The Foreign Ministry has suggested two options: the UN’s World Food Program, which already helps distribute food worldwide, or USAID, a US agency that provides civilian foreign aid and development assistance and has done some smaller projects in Gaza.

However, a report by The Wall Street Journal last week said that the administration is “quietly pushing” to allow UNRWA to continue operating in the short term in meetings with top US and UN officials.

Haskel said that many members of Israel’s parliament only want to discuss replacing UNRWA when the war ends, “because this is a discussion for the day after, but we do not have time.”

She said, “We are being given the opportunity to change our future. If we lose this opportunity, God knows if we will get it again.”

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