Members of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee heard hours of excruciating testimony Tuesday about the United Nations Relief and World Agency (UNRWA) and its ties to the terror group Hamas. But those disturbing details weren’t enough to get Democrats on the committee to say it’s time to end taxpayer funding of the agency.
The hearing addressed reports that at least 12 UNRWA members participated in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, which killed 1,200 people, injured thousands more, and resulted in more than 230 people taken hostage. More than 100 days later, Hamas still holds 132 hostages, thought to be in underground tunnels built by the terrorist organization.
In addition, 1,200 to 1,500 UNRWA employees are also members or direct supporters of Hamas, data show.
“UNRWA is a horror show that is decades in the making, co-produced by the U.S. taxpayer,” testified Richard Goldman with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “We’ve seen UNRWA schools used as rocket-launching platforms — and rockets even stored inside UNRWA schools.”
He added that one released hostage was held in the house of a UNRWA teacher. “We’ve seen the hotbed of terrorism that grows inside UNRWA’s communities — not just in Gaza but in the West Bank and Lebanon.”
“This is not a problem of bad apples,” said Hillel Neuer with UN Watch. His organization just released details from a Telegram group of 3,000 UNRWA teachers in Gaza celebrating the Oct. 7 massacre as it happened. Among the messages from UNRWA employees as terrorists raped and murdered civilians:
—“O God, tear them apart.”
—“kill them one by one,”
—“leave none of them behind,”
—“execute the first settler on live broadcast.”
“Prominent people have said that … ‘It’s a few bad apples.’ We’re talking about 1,200 (UNRWA employees) who belong to the organization, 3,000 in this group, 6,000 whose family members belong to it. This is not a problem of bad apples,” Neuer told the subcommittee. “It’s rotten to the core.”
But the testimony wasn’t enough to get Democrats like Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania to abandon support for the U.N. organization. While Democrats on the committee agreed with the Biden administration’s decision to pause U.S. funding, they argue America’s long-term commitment should remain.
“It is the only entity on the ground with the systems, and the personnel, and the capacity to deliver whatever little relief there is for the people of Gaza,” Wild said.
And she appeared to suggest Hamas violence was the consequence of poverty, not antisemitic rhetoric or ideals.
“We have to recognize that desperate childhoods often give rise to violence in adulthood, whether it’s here in the United States or elsewhere,” said Wild, who is Jewish. “I think we can all agree that we don’t want to create future generations of terrorists. Full stop on that.”
In response to testimony showing UNRWA teachers using Palestinian Authority-created textbooks that praised violent jihad and attacks on Jews, Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania asked if there was a way to stop it.
“This is about UNRWA, and UNRWA chose to teach the Palestinian Authority’s curriculum,” said Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education. “It didn’t have to. There are organizations around the world that do not (use these materials) because it is appalling.
“Not only that,” Sheff added, “they (UNRWA) created their own material to go with those textbooks, which is equally bad.”
At least one congressional Democrat thinks it may be time to end U.S. support for the troubled agency.
“We should not be asked to accept that a Hamas-UNRWA link is simply the cost of ensuring that humanitarian relief gets to Palestinians,” said Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois. “We can’t let obstacles block us from replacing UNRWA.”
A visibly outraged Goldman, of the Defense of Democracies, told the committee UNRWA continually avoids taking responsibility for the actions of its members.
“When you ask why UNRWA schools use textbooks that teach Palestinians to grow up to massacre Jews like they did on October 7 — talk to the host government,” he scoffed. “How convenient. Every problem UNRWA creates is someone else’s responsibility — and yet the requests for more money continue without any independent oversight.”
For Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry, enough was enough.
“(UNRWA) is a terrorist-supporting organization,” Perry said. “American taxpayers pay for the absolute worst of it. They send over the money, they send over the material, and it gets used against America’s interests. It gets used against America’s national security interest … everyone in this room knows it.”
Perry introduced an amendment last fall to defund UNRWA. That amendment failed by five votes, but Perry suggested he might re-introduce it. “This absolutely must end and must end now.”