March 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Bans UNRWA Funding for One Year

March 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Bans UNRWA Funding for One Year

Latest Developments

President Joe Biden on March 23 signed into law a one-year ban on U.S. funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The measure, passed overwhelmingly by Congress as part of a $1.2 trillion appropriations package, suspended funding to the UN agency through March 2025. Instead, Congress earmarked $175 million for humanitarian efforts in Gaza and the West Bank via the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The motion received bipartisan support. For example, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) observed on March 22, “UNRWA is systemically antisemitic. And we should be clear-eyed about the incestuous relationship between UNRWA and Hamas. … We have to stop perpetuating the ideologies and institutions that perpetuate hate, that perpetuate the radicalization that ultimately led to October 7th.”

The appropriations package also institutes new restrictions on and oversight mechanisms for U.S. aid to Gaza; cuts funding to the UN Human Rights Council unless it makes key reforms; and bans funding for the UN Commission of Inquiry on Israel.

Expert Analysis

“It’s critical that the United States permanently ban funding for this terror-collaborating agency that radicalizes Palestinian society. But defunding alone isn’t enough. The United States needs to press its allies to defund UNRWA too and work with both Israel and Arab allies to transition Palestinians away from UNRWA for good.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“It’s clear there are currently humanitarian needs that must be addressed. UNRWA has failed the Palestinians, and its systemic — not isolated — collaboration with Hamas makes it unreformable. There are multiple aid organizations that can and should serve Palestinians’ needs. Congress and the administration must quickly map out that network of organizations that are already working in Gaza and are well-positioned to fill the gap.” — Toby Dershowitz, Managing Director at FDD Action

“October 7 was a manifestation of institutional hate and incitement over multiple generations. UNRWA employees committed atrocities on October 7 and praised the massacres. But more damning is the hundreds of schools in the region that have spent decades teaching millions of Palestinian children that Palestine ‘from the river to the sea’ is their ancestral right and must be liberated through violence.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

U.S. Suspended UNRWA Funding Following Terror Allegations

Following Israel’s accusations that 12 UNRWA staff members joined the October 7 massacre, 16 donor countries cut $440 million in funding to UNRWA. On January 26, the State Department temporarily paused UNRWA’s funding — after serving as UNRWA’s largest donor — and alternatively sought to direct funding to the United Nations World Food Programme and UNICEF.

In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu included the shutdown of UNRWA in his plan for the Gaza Strip after Hamas’s defeat. New evidence continues to link UNRWA to terrorism. On March 4, the Israel Defense Forces announced that UNRWA employs more than 450 “military operatives” from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yet some countries, including Sweden and Canada, have recently resumed funding to UNRWA.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz lauded the U.S. decision to cut UNRWA funding. “The historic ban on U.S. funding to @UNRWA that passed today with an overwhelming bipartisan support, demonstrates what we knew all along: UNRWA is part of the problem and can not be part of the solution. UNRWA will not be a part of Gaza’s landscape in the aftermath of Hamas,” he said on X. Katz also called on other countries to follow the U.S. lead and ban UNRWA funding.

More Than 450 UNRWA Staff Are Terrorists, Israel Says,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Bypasses UNRWA in Palestinian Aid Funds,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Sidesteps UNRWA to Deliver Gaza Aid Via WFP,” FDD Flash Brief

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