Another Note on UNRWA

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Here is a brief postscript to yesterday’s post about UNRWA. As I noted, Israel shared a dossier of intelligence which purported to show that roughly a dozen UNRWA employees were not only affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad but directly participated in the death squad massacres in southern Israel on October 7th. The intelligence appears to have been detailed, precise and basically incontrovertible, as judged both by journalists who have reviewed portions of the dossier and the response of various government funders. A growing list of governments, beginning with the U.S. but now including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and others, have suspended funding in response. As far as I can tell no one connected to UNRWA has disputed the claims about the specific staffers and they’ve all been fired.

But there’s something that doesn’t quite seem to fit about the response. It seems at least a bit more than you’d expect.

I don’t mean this in some supposedly objective sense or what the “right” response is on the merits. But as I noted yesterday, UNRWA employs thousands of people just in Gaza. Knowledgeable people know that UNRWA staff includes Hamas sympathizers and even operatives. A few years ago it was revealed that the head of the union representing UNRWA workers in Gaza was an elected member of the Hamas politburo! What’s more, many of the governments now suspending UNRWA funding are ones with a history of being quite sympathetic to the Palestinian national movement.

What I’m getting at here is that the response makes me question whether there’s maybe more to these findings than the public version of this now suggests. As I noted yesterday, it’s not just any time for UNRWA. Whatever you think of the organization, it’s the primary and in some cases the only mechanism or organization for delivering aid into Gaza. Cutting off or suspending funding right now is a big, big deal.

Perhaps this is understating the shock value of these findings. Midlevel diplomats and journalists may not be shocked by these findings. But for heads of state and foreign ministers finding out that UN staffers actually directly participated in the killings on October 7th, it may simply be too shocking not to react in this way. Still, keep this in the back of your head: this a very strong and even draconian response and it’s coming from a wide range of government donors. There may be more going on than we’ve yet heard.

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