Not much has been done to eliminate UNRWA since its inception in 1949; the idea has been considered cruel and not “PC.” However, as we’ve proven in previous chapters, keeping UNRWA alive is even crueler. The organization has made the refugees dependant on UNRWA, unable to lead independent lives, thus increasing their frustration. UNRWA also employs members of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Therefore, this agency plays a direct role in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Recently, the United States and Canada have awakened, and members of these governments have called to reduce support of UNRWA.
In September 2009, Congressmen Mark Kirk (R-IL) Steven Rothman (D-NJ) proposed the UNRWA Accountability Bill, which was appended to the State, Foreign Operation and Related Programs Appropriations Bill – 2010. The Bill reads as follows:
“The Committee is cognizant of concerns over whether UNRWA is taking all reasonable steps to prevent United States assistance from supporting terrorists, terrorist organizations or other extremists, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza is operating in an open and transparent manner… Therefore, the Committee recommendation includes a provision (Sec. 7085) requiring the Secretary of State to submit an accountability report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 45 days after enactment of this act.”
The report submitted by the Secretary of State must include whether UNRWA is
- Continuing to use Operations Support Officers to inspect UNRWA installations and report inappropriate use
- Dealing with any violations of its own policies (such as neutrality and impartiality of employees)
- Continuing regular reporting to the State Department
- Taking steps to improve the transparency of all educational materials in use in UNRWA-administered school
- Continuing to use curriculum materials that promote tolerance, non-violent conflict resolution and human rights
- Not engaging in operations with institutions in violation of relevant United States law and working to diversify its banking operations in the region
This language was introduced in H.R. 3081 amongst other requirements. The bill also put a special emphasis on textbooks used by UNRWA schools, that “include inflammatory and inaccurate information about the United States and the State of Israel, anti-Semitic teaching, as well as the glorification of terrorists.” The bill calls upon the State Department to review the educational materials in UNRWA schools, and report on them to the Committees on Appropriations.
(For the full text of the bill, click here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.3081:)
The language including UNRWA accountability has been removed in the Senate version of this bill, S. 1434, authored by Senator Leahy (D-VT), and his bill has not yet passed in the Senate. This allows 400 million in US taxpayers’ dollars to go to UNRWA without accountabiltiy as to whether it will be used for anti-American or even terrorist activity. This Senate Bill will supersede the progress made with H.R. 3081.
(For the full text of the bill, click here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.1434:)
In Canada, however, more concrete progress has been made. This week, the Jerusalem Post reported that Canada, which until now provided UNRWA with 11% of its budget, has allocated some of its usual donation to UNRWA to the Palestinian Authority justice system.
Victor Toews, president of Canada’s Treasury Board, said that aid has been redirected from UNRWA “to specific projects in the Palestinian Authority that will ensure accountability and foster democracy in the PA.” In the past, Canadian donations to UNRWA went into a general operating fund, making it difficult for Canada to monitor how funds were being used. Canada also refused to contribute directly to the Palestinian Authority’s treasury, for reasons of accountability.
“It is obviously more difficult to monitor the use of money sent into general funds than specific projects,” Toews explained. “Canada has made a $300 million commitment over five years to the Palestinian Authority, but we want to put that money only into programs that are consistent with Canadian values…We need to ensure that less wide discretion and the funds are being directed into specific projects.”
Toews also told PA Minister of Planning and Administrative Development Ali a-Jarbawi that Canada’s “paramount concern is the security of Israel.”
The redirected money has been pledged towards training lawyers, judges and police and building courthouses in Ramallah, Hebron and Tulkarm. Canada is helping the Palestinian Authority build a criminal justice system, a step Toews sees as “integral to the process and to securing long-term peace and stability in the Middle East.”
(For more information, see: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1263147877187&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull)
While the Israeli Initiative does not agree with supporting the Palestinian Authority, it commends Canada on reducing its donations to UNRWA, the first step towards a lasting peace.
Yoav Sorek is manager of The Israeli Initiative. Find out more: www.israelinitiative.com