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Senate, House GOP introduce UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act

CM 28/07/2021

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WASHINGTON – A group of 27 House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans introduced a new bill on Tuesday to withhold United States contributions to UNRWA.

The UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act would cease US contributions to the organization, “unless the Secretary of State certifies every 180 days to Congress that UNRWA meets strict accountability and transparency criteria.” Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spearheaded the Senate version of the bill, and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) led the House version.
“The United States may not provide contributions to UNRWA (…) unless the Secretary of State submits a written certification to the appropriate congressional committees that no official, employee, consultant or contractor,” of UNRWA is a member of, is affiliated with, or has any ties to a foreign terrorist organization, including Hamas and Hezbollah, the Bill reads, nor has it “advocated, planned, sponsored, or engaged in any terrorist activity;” or “has propagated or disseminated anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric, incitement, or propaganda.”
If signed into law, the Secretary would also need to certify that “no UNRWA school, hospital, clinic, facility, or other infrastructure or resource is being used by a foreign terrorist organization or any member thereof.”
“When UNRWA was created, its specific purpose was to provide relief for refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli Conflict,” said Risch. “More than 70 years later, the organization has employed individuals affiliated with Hamas, a US designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), and its schools have been used to promote antisemitism and store Hamas weapons.”

“It is unacceptable that US taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this agency, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to cease US contributions to UNRWA unless the administration can certify without a doubt that the agency has no affiliation with US designation FTOs and does not support antisemitic rhetoric,” he added. “The American people deserve better, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on holding both the administration and UNRWA accountable until meaningful reforms are made.”
The Biden administration gave $135 million to UNRWA on July 17, after a framework agreement was signed between them, which for the first time condemned anti-Israel hatred.
“The signing of the US-UNRWA Framework and additional support demonstrates we once again have an ongoing partner in the United States that understands the need to provide critical assistance to some of the region’s most vulnerable refugees,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said then.
US financial aid to the agency has traditionally been accompanied by a framework for cooperation agreement, the latest version of which was signed on July 14.
The 2018-2019 framework condemned antisemitism for the first time, stating that: “The United States and UNRWA condemn without reserve all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, including antisemitism.”
The $135m. donation brings the total US contribution to the agency to $313.8m. for this year, which is close to the annual $360m. it had received before the Trump administration cut American funding.
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, released a statement on Tuesday, “demanding accountability for antisemitic curricula and resources used in schools run by UNRWA.”
“For far too long, the international community has turned a blind eye to the untethered consistency of antisemitic teachings and materials utilized by educators in UNRWA sponsored schools across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem,” said National President Rhoda Smolow. “The curricula of hatred and bigotry would not reach hundreds of thousands of innocent children if not for the silent acquiesce of UNRWA.
“Ironically, UNRWA claims that its intention is to provide students with accurate history and lessons that embody the core value of human rights and peace, but children in its schools are taught to wage jihad against the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” she added.
“Hadassah’s new policy statement demanding accountability and oversight for UNRWA and Palestinian education doubles-down on our dedication to combat antisemitism, safeguard Israel and build a more peaceful and tolerant world. We will keep pushing for permanent reform of UNRWA both at the UN and on Capitol Hill, too, where Hadassah advocates for the bipartisan Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act,” Smolow said.
In April, Risch has led a letter by 20 senators to Secretary of State Antony Blinken “expressing concern” over the Biden administration’s decision to renew funding to the UN’s Palestinian aid agency, UNRWA.
The senators called the administration to halt funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency “until significant reforms to UNRWA are secured.”
“We are concerned that this administration’s decision to resume US assistance to UNRWA was made in haste, without any actionable attempt to secure much-needed and meaningful reforms of the agency,” the letter reads.
The letter added that “over the years, the agency has employed individuals affiliated with Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization. UNRWA schools have been used to store Hamas weapons.”
It also mentioned the UNRWA textbooks: “There have been numerous cases of UNRWA textbooks including material that is antisemitic, such as encouraging the destruction of the state of Israel and supporting martyrdom and/or violent jihad,” the letter said.


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