Congress and the White House are punishing the United Nations and its Palestinian aid agency over Israeli claims that some members of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) participated in the October 7 Hamas attack. Tel Aviv has failed to produce any evidence to back its claims. Still, Washington is stripping funding for the organization that is crucial to curbing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
In January, Israel accused a dozen UNRWA employees of taking part in the Hamas attacks. Tel Aviv has not provided evidence for its claims and is refusing to produce an intelligence dossier it says contains evidence for the assertions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accepted the Israeli allegations without proof, and Washington suspended aid to UNRWA.
Now, Congress is seeking to make those funding cuts permanent. The $118 billion supplemental defense spending bill that was defeated in the Senate on Wednesday included a section that prevented funds from going to UNRWA. “None of the funds appropriated [by this] Act, and prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, may be made available for a contribution, grant, or other payment to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, notwithstanding any other provision of law,” Sec. 614 the bill says.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to introduce a new version of the bill that strips out funding for the border and changes to immigration law. There is no indication that Sec. 614 will be removed.
Additionally, a bipartisan group of 12 members of the House signed a letter calling for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to demand the resignation of Secretary-General António Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.
“The most recent and appalling revelations showed that UNRWA employees not only supported but also actively participated as part of Hamas in the October 7 terrorist attacks.” The letter continues, “Therefore, we ask you to demand that Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts.”
CBS News, The Daily Beast, and UK Channel 4 all reviewed the Israeli claims and found Tel Aviv presented no evidence to support the assertions. Rep. Brian Mast was one signatory to the letter. Mast served in the Israeli military, wore the uniform of a foreign military in the Capitol, and dismissed the killing of Palestinian babies.
UNRWA is critical to preventing the spread of famine in Gaza. Even Tel Aviv is concerned that if the agency is shut down, the humanitarian crisis in the Strip will deteriorate to the point that Israel will be forced to end its military operations.