Wednesday, July 9, 2008


by Barry Rubin, Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Spyer


4th part of 6


Bibliography and footnotes in part 6

Teaching and Preaching Hamas Ideology

Over time, it has become apparent that UNRWA does not only embrace Hamas, it actually teaches the violent Hamas platform. Since UNRWA teachers are typically alumni of the UNRWA school system, they perpetuate the vitriolic curriculum they were taught which vilifies Israel and the West.

For example, Suheil al-Hindi an UNRWA teachers' representative in 2003, applauded suicide bombings in a school in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza. Instead of condemnation, al-Hindi received a promotion and was subsequently elected an official in the UNRWA union.

The increasing numbers of UNRWA teachers who openly identify with radical groups have created a teachers' bloc that ensures the election of members of Hamas and individuals committed to Islamist ideologies. Using their classrooms as a place to spread their radical messages, these teachers have also gravitated to local Palestinian elections. Thus, UNRWA's education system has become a springboard for Hamas-affiliated Palestinians with political aspirations. For example, Minister of Interior and Civil Affairs Minister Saeed Siyam of Hamas, was a teacher in UNRWA Schools in Gaza from 1980 to 2003. He then became a member of UNRWA's Arab Employees Union, and has headed the Teachers Sector Committee. Other notable Hamas graduates include Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who received his education at UNRWA schools, and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, the former Hamas chief, who attended the UNRWA secondary school in Khan Younis and graduated top of his class.

Not surprisingly, UNRWA institutions have produced terrorist ideologues. They have also produced terrorist masterminds. As Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, writes, UNWRA has produced graduates like Ibrahim Maqadama, who "helped create the military structure of Hamas." Gold notes that, "at least 46 terrorist operatives were students in the UNRWA schools."

There have also been widespread reports of terrorism launched directly from UNRWA-supervised facilities. This includes sniper attacks from UNRWA-run schools, bomb and arms factories in UNRWA camps, the transport of terrorists to their target zones in UNRWA ambulances, and even UNRWA employees directly tied to terrorist attacks against civilians.

For example, Nidal Abd al-Fattah Abdallah Nazzal, an ambulance driver for UNRWA from Kalqiliya in the West Bank, was arrested by Israeli security services in August 2002. Nidal admitted that he was a Hamas activist, and that he had transported weapons and explosives to terrorists. He transported these weapons in his ambulance, taking advantage of the freedom of movement afforded to UNRWA vehicles by the Israelis.

Nahd Rashid Ahmad Atallah, a senior official of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, was also arrested by Israeli security in August 2002. In his capacity as an UNRWA official he provided support to families of wanted terrorists, on behalf of Fatah and the PFLP. [14] Additionally, he used his UNRWA car in 2002 to transport armed members of the Popular Resistance Committees, the most extreme Palestinian faction which has been linked to al-Qaida, to carry out attacks against Israeli troops at the Karni passage. The same group was responsible for the killing of three U.S. government employees, security guards protecting a State Department delegation travelling to the Gaza Strip to help students there obtain scholarships.

UNRWA's entanglement with terrorism is actually growing. The New York Times revealed in 2000 that UNRWA was allowing 25,000 Palestinian youngsters to use their schools disguised as "summer camps" for terrorist groups to provide military training. Children, ages 8 to 16, were taught how to prepare Molotov cocktails and roadside bombs.

This is all a far cry from being an internationally funded humanitarian agency that adheres to the UN's intended program of supporting peace. UNRWA has, in fact, become an organization which in practice supports war and ignores the humanitarian needs of the refugees.


In observing UNRWA and its financial assets, one of the most significant issues to bear in mind is the contrast between UNHCR and UNRWA. UNHCR has actually managed to resettle and solve many refugee problems whereas UNRWA has still not achieved that goal.

As Edward Buehrig rightfully notes,

"UNRWA's manner of dealing with refugee problems has been quite different from UNHCR's inasmuch as the Agency has directly financed and administered programs of public works, economic, rehabilitation, relief, health and education. Yet despite the depth and intimacy of UNRWA's involvement, the result has not been to dissipate the Arab refugee problem, whereas UNHCR has reached solutions in many situations."[15]

In the early 1950s UNRWA's annual budget was approximately $54 million. It was charged with providing employment for the Palestinians within the host Arab states in which they resided. The UN believed that within a short time (less than five years) the refugees would be self-supporting in their host countries and relief disbursements could end.[16] However, the UNRWA officials ran into much resistance from Arab governments who refused to cooperate with any plan designed to promote economic, social, and political integration or a sense of prosperity.[17]

By 1959, UNRWA reported that its rehabilitation fund –– established in 1950 to provide homes and jobs for Palestinian refugees outside the camps –– had been rejected by the host countries. The fund had set a goal of $250 million of which about $7 million had already been spent. Thereafter, a small part of the allocation was used for agricultural development and the remainder augmented UNRWA's general reserves.

Once it became obvious that neither the host countries nor the refugees themselves would move forward anything but extremely limited cooperation in rehabilitative infrastructure programs, UNRWA focused its aid in the fields of health, education, and permanent or emergency economic relief. Under UNRWA's care, literacy and standards of public health among refugees rose. UNRWA is also one of the largest employers in the host countries, with more than 23,000 staff –– the vast majority of whom are locally recruited Palestinians –– in addition to about 100 international staff members.[18]

Financially, the two years following the 1967 war were the years UNRWA transformed into a flourishing financial institution. UNRWA was called on to deal with the crisis and was given funds to do so.

UNRWA's chief, Michael Michelmore wrote,

"Unless the Agency in one way or another receives additional contributions amounting to ten percent of its prospective income for the current year, a reduction in services to the refugee population would be inescapable, with resulting in human hardship and suffering."[19]

Michelmore forgets to mention that it was the government of Israel that built for the refugees an educational infrastructure, a health system as well as social services. Additionally, this was bolstered by a unanimous call in UN Security Council Resolution 237 of June 14, 1967, which called on Israel to "to ensure the safety, welfare and security of the inhabitants of the areas where military operations have taken place and to facilitate the return of those inhabitants who have fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities."[20] The onus is put on the Israeli government even though it was the one offering to build homes and allocate land for the Palestinians refugees to build on. By not explaining this Michelmore received more international/financial support.

UNRWA's budget has been supported by many countries of which the United States and other Western countries have been the largest contributors. In 1990, UNRWA's annual budget was over $292 million, and by 2000 that had increased to $365 million. Despite this seemingly significant rise, however, actual allocations among the various refugee camps has decreased –– compounded by a very high birth rate and burgeoning camp populations. After all, refugees were discouraged from moving out for political reasons and also had the incentive of being on welfare if they remained.

Per capita spending among refugees in camps thus declined from $200 in services per year per refugee in the 1970's to about $70 currently. This situation has been most evident in Lebanon, where the government provides little if any additional assistance to the Palestinians.

U.S. Government's Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA

Fiscal Year


Regular Budget

Emergency Appeal



$87.4 million

$40 million


$88.0 million

$20 million


$84.15 million

$50.85 million

Professor Fred Gottheil described UNRWA's strategy as one of "moral hazard." This term is defined by the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Economics as "an effect of economic institutions arranged so that individuals have an incentive to maximize consumption at a social cost to others because they do not bear the full cost of their consumption."[21] An example given is that if someone who owns a house is insured no matter what their behavior, they lose the incentive to maintain their home properly. Although providing financial security to the insured, fire insurance may actually invite a higher incidence of fire damage. In a welfare system which discourages alternatives, the recipients are ultimately worse off.

The greatest beneficiaries of UNRWA's wealth are those who work for it. As Martha Gellhorn observed in 1961, the camps provided much employment to others for whom, "The refugees seemed to bring prosperity with them...."[22]

When the U.S. government's General Accounting Office (GAO) asked UNRWA whether it screens beneficiaries for terrorism ties, UNRWA claimed that it couldn't because such a screening would endanger its staff. Moreover, when the houses of six Palestinian families on UNRWA's registry were destroyed during bomb-making activities, UNRWA concluded there was not enough evidence to deny them benefits under the terrorist-exclusion law.

It is important to note that the funds provided through U.S. AID come with legal restrictions. Section 301(c) of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, as amended, states that "all possible measures" must be taken to ensure that no U.S. contributions are used to help refugees who have engaged in acts of terrorism, or have undergone guerrilla-type or Palestinian Liberation Army PLO military training

In 2003, the US General Accounting Office conducted an on-site assessment of UNRWA and issued a report, in which then Commissioner General Peter Hansen stated that: "UNRWA has no evidence that would justify denying beneficiaries relief or humanitarian aid owning to terrorism."

So how could the head of UNRWA get away which such a statement?

The answer lies with the word "evidence." UNRWA has adopted a policy of "don't ask, don't tell." As such UNRWA does not note terrorist activities on refugee registration cards, nor do they receive information on terrorist related convictions of beneficiaries in addition, to not asking beneficiaries if they have engaged in terrorism.

In reality, the fact that UNRWA employees' do have ties to terrorism illustrates UNRWA's practice of simply turning a blind eye. Furthermore, the fear that UNRWA staff would be harmed should they be questioned has bolstered the need for employees and ordinary refugees to please the terrorist groups lest they lose jobs or benefits due to the political activists on the payroll. The same situation is faced by the international staff, which lives in or near the camps and whose families are known to terrorists.

The GAO report refers to a widespread consensus regarding this vulnerability. It also indicates that the United States has refrained from defining "all possible measures" in a way enabling UNRWA to deny any recognition of this problem. Or, to put it bluntly, U.S. government agencies are complicit in preventing the laws of the United States from being implemented.

American taxpayers have reason for concern as the United States through AID is UNRWA's single largest donor. In addition to paying approximately one-third of the UNRWA's regular budget, the United States donates millions to the several emergency campaigns that UNRWA runs each year which amount to more than $100 million annually. Thus, in the interest of self-perpetuation, UNRWA seeks to maintain the violent status quo in the Middle East, even if it means turning a blind eye to terror –– including anti-American terror-while asking the international taxpayer, and especially the United States, to foot the bill.


Barry Rubin, Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Spyer


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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