Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Did UNRWA Deceive the Secretary of State to Receive U.S. Funding?

Filed under: Hamas, Operation Swords of Iron

Did UNRWA Deceive the Secretary of State to Receive U.S. Funding?
The IDF discovered UNRWA boxes covering a Hamas arsenal in Gaza on December 12, 2023, in northern Gaza. (IDF Spokesperson)

During the last decade, the annual U.S. Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023,1 conditioned U.S. aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) upon written certification from the Secretary of State that the organization satisfies a series of requirements.

One of those criteria requires the Secretary of State to report whether UNRWA complies with section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. That section provides that the United States may not contribute to UNRWA unless the agency is taking “all possible measures to assure that no part of the U.S. contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army or any other guerrilla type organization or who has engaged in any act of terrorism.”

While the “Palestine Liberation Army” – which was the military arm of the PLO – has practically ceased to exist, “other guerrilla type organization[s],” including Hamas, Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and others continue to exist and are actively engaged in acts of terror. All of these organizations, and others, are U.S.-designated terror organizations.

In the aftermath of the October 7, 2023, massacre, in which Gazan terrorists murdered more than 1,200 people and committed widescale crimes of rape, torture, abduction, and beheading, information has come to light indicating that at least 13 UNRWA employees actively participated in the massacre and another 1,200 UNRWA employees are active members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In a press briefing on January 30, 2024, explicitly devoted to UNRWA and its connections to the massacre and terror, Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said:

UNRWA has been aiding and abetting Hamas….13 UN employees participated in the October 7 Massacre….UNRWA is riddled with Hamas members. Our intelligence indicates that out of approximately 12,000 UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip, about 10% are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives.2

Meanwhile, according to the State Department Spokesman, $121 million of UNRWA’s quarterly aid payment was already provided. Only $300,000 is outstanding on the first tranche.3

The Biden administration announced on January 26 that it was pausing all future U.S. funding for UNRWA. But, according to Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), the funding pause may have only been implemented after millions in taxpayer funds were pushed out the door.4

The U.S. aid to UNRWA is guided not only by American law but also by U.S.-UNRWA “Framework” agreements. The 2023-2024 Framework Agreement,5 signed May 20, 2023, similar to its predecessors, included several fundamental provisions regarding UNRWA compliance with the provisions of section 301(c).

Gazans looting UNRWA food shipments
Gazans looting UNRWA food shipments held in Hamas/UNRWA warehouses in Khan Yunis, October 28, 2023. (Screengrab, Hindustan Times)

Despite the language of the law, which requires the Secretary of State himself to certify UNRWA compliance, the provisions of the Framework Agreement suggest that UNRWA serves as its own watchdog and is authorized to take all of its own possible measures to ensure that the organization is meeting its requirements. Thus, the proverbial cat seems to be guarding the cream.

Why Was Secretary Blinken Unaware of Hamas Members in UNRWA?

It is unreasonable to suggest that these 1,200 UNRWA employees were suddenly recruited last year since Secretary of State Blinken gave the previous certification. On the other hand, it is reasonable to assess that he was likely to have been intentionally and maliciously misled by UNRWA and its leadership on the affiliations of UNRWA staff and the recipients of UNRWA aid.

Accordingly, since UNRWA cannot meet the requirements and conditions of the Appropriations Act, particularly the requirements of section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act, it would seem that the United States is positively prohibited from transferring any additional aid to UNRWA.

Furthermore, since the last certifications of Secretary of State Blinken were based on an intentional deception by UNRWA – in breach of its commitments in the Framework Agreement – the United States should also demand that UNRWA or the UN immediately refund all the American donations to UNRWA, at least for the last three years. Refraining from acting on this issue would place the United States in an untenable situation where it cannot rely on agreements with the UN and its organizations, and a breach of the agreements has no consequences. Silence on the subject also raises suspicion that the State Department was negligent, at best, in fulfilling its duties regarding the UNRWA fraud.

* * *