Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 30 January 2024



Time to shut down this antisemitic UN body


People are said to be shocked by the revelation that 12 members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which looks after the welfare of Gaza’s Palestinians, were involved in the October 7 Hamas atrocities in Israel.

After UNRWA sacked a number of these workers, of whom seven were teachers at its schools, the UN’s secretary-general said he was horrified. At least 12 governments plus the European Commission have now suspended their funding of the agency.

One of these employees is alleged to have taken part in the massacre at a kibbutz where 97 people were murdered. A school counsellor is said to have worked with his son to abduct an Israeli woman into Gaza. Another was ordered to bring to the attack rocket-propelled grenades stored at his home.

This is not just a few rotten apples. The Wall Street Journal cites intelligence reports estimating that 1,200 UNRWA staff have links to Islamic terrorists.

The monitoring group UN Watch will present to the US Congress this week evidence from the messaging app Telegram that more than 3,000 UNRWA teachers and other staff celebrated the Hamas pogrom with calls to execute the Israeli hostages, cheering video footage of the atrocities with messages such as “just wait, sons of Jews”.


None of this is remotely surprising to those who have been sounding the alarm for years about UNRWA’s deeply compromised activities. The most pernicious of these involve what it teaches in its schools. Last March a report by UN Watch and IMPACT-se, a body that measures peace and tolerance in school curriculums, revealed that UNRWA teachers regularly called for the murder of Jews on social media and created teaching materials that encouraged terrorism, demonised Israelis and incited antisemitism. These materials taught students to admire terrorist murderers, to hate Israeli soldiers as callous killers and to believe the antisemitic libel that Israel caused cancer among Palestinians. In addition, UNRWA summer camps give Gaza’s children paramilitary training for future wars with the Jews.

For years, UNRWA has turned a blind eye to the terrorist infrastructure that Hamas sited in and around its schools, hospitals and other facilities. A Hamas rocket-launching site was positioned in an UNRWA warehouse. The floor above one of its kindergartens was booby-trapped with explosives. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) say that every UNRWA school they have entered during the war has contained weapons and been a place used by Hamas in which to hide and fight.

In 2021 UNRWA’s former Gaza director Matthias Schmale, who was forced out by Hamas, described how the IDF had destroyed a tunnel underneath an UNRWA school and said: “Many people told me, through my four years, there’s tunnels everywhere and it’s a safe assumption”.

All this has been funded by British and other western taxpayers. In 2022 UNRWA received $344 million from the US, $114 million from the European Commission and $21 million from the UK.

The reason the West has never acknowledged UNRWA’s corruption lies in its driving belief in the goodness of transnational institutions, which are assumed to embody the ideal of the brotherhood of man.

The UN was founded after the Second World War to promote global peace and justice. It has not quite worked out that way, precisely because it consists of most countries in the world. A significant number of these are human rights abusers, many of which want Israel, the state that arose from the ashes of the Holocaust, gone.

This animus infuses every UN body. Its Human Rights Council singles out Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, for a standing agenda against it in every session. The UN general assembly regularly adopts more resolutions against Israel than against all other countries combined.

Francesca Albanese, the UN’s special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, has written: “America is subjugated by the Jewish lobby,” and reportedly told a Hamas conference last year: “You have a right to resist.”


Although in its ruling last week the International Court of Justice did not require Israel to stop anything it is doing in Gaza, the court required it to show that it was not committing genocide and so lent muscle to the grotesque blood libel that this was even a possibility.

In its behaviour towards Israel, the UN has actually helped to promote violence and injustice. In UNRWA, the UN created an instrument of war against Israel right from the agency’s inception in 1950.

While other refugees are helped to become citizens of other countries, UNRWA bestows refugee status without limit of time on all descendants of the Palestinian Arabs who were displaced during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. As a result, the number of “refugees” from the 1948 war has ludicrously increased by more than 800 per cent. This unique refugee status was intended to trap the Palestinians in permanent statelessness so that their plight would turn Israel into a pariah.

In other words, UNRWA has always played a central role in the Arab war of extermination against Israel.

UNRWA needs to be closed down. Other agencies need to deliver aid to Gaza that will relieve want rather than fuel genocidal hatred. More fundamentally, Britain and other western nations need to face the fact that, far from being an honest broker for peace and justice, the UN has knocked the civilised world off its moral compass.

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