What does it mean when the head of a United Nations agency tells the press
that he believes that members of a terrorist group are on his payroll and that
he's okay with that?
In the case of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, the answer is that it's simply business as
The United Nations has long been a bastion of anti-Israel sentiment, but for
those unfamiliar with UNRWA, it's the living example of this bias. It is one
of two refugee agencies run by the world body. UNRWA deals only with the
Palestinians. The other deals with the rest of the world and the countless conflicts
and refugee populations created by every other war that has been fought
elsewhere since Israel's creation.
This division of authority has been the backbone of the Palestinians' strange
status as the only refugee population that relief workers do not attempt to
resettle. In combination with the restrictive anti-Palestinian refugee policies
of the Arab world, UNRWA has helped to keep these people in a state of
impoverished limbo that is useful to anti-Israel propagandists who dream of
destroying the Jewish state.
But how can even the most anti-Zionist of U.N. bureaucrats justify the use
of the agency as a cover, both literally and figuratively, for Palestinian
Since the beginning of the current terrorist war against Israel four years
ago, the use of Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances by terrorist groups has been
well documented. Now it appears that UNRWA vehicles may be used in this
manner as well.
An Israeli surveillance drone took photos of what were at first believed to
be a Kassam missile being loaded onto an UNRWA ambulance last week in the Gaza
Strip. UNRWA denied the claim and a closer look at the evidence may prove
their innocence in this case. But the controversy only underlines what is already
taken for granted by Israelis: that UNRWA personnel and facilities are at the
disposal of the terrorist groups. Indeed, Israel has already arrested 13 UNRWA
employees for taking part in terrorist activities.
This notion was reinforced by UNRWA head Peter Hansen who told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that "I am sure that there are Hamas members on
the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime."
It's true that not everyone in Hamas carries a gun or a bomb, but allowing
even unarmed Hamas members the free run of UNRWA resources, at best, makes the agency a facilitator for terror and, at worst, a co-conspirator.
Given this see-no-evil attitude on the part of UNRWA, it's not surprising
that many of its thousands of employees see no barrier to using its facilities,
vehicles and its financial resources to assist the ongoing violence directed
against Israeli civilians.
While no one seriously believes that the Palestinian Authority and its
leadership is interested in stopping the missiles being launched from inside Gaza
into Israel, it is quite another thing for an agency operating in the name of
the world peacekeeping body and the recipient of hundreds of millions of U.S.
taxpayer dollars to play the same sort of shell game.
No one expects the United Nations itself to reprimand Hansen, but the
response from the United States to this should not be tepid. Washington should halt
the transfer of funds to UNRWA until Hansen is fired and the agency's payroll
has been purged of terrorists. Anything short of that would not only be a
violation of U.S. law, which prohibits aid money from being used to support terror,
but also a fundamental violation of trust.