TCS Daily

Humanitarians for Hamas

By J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss - February 17, 2006 12:00 AM

The new Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council is expected to be sworn in this Saturday. Both President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have made clear that the United States will move to cut off aid to any Palestinian Authority (PA) government led by Hamas -- a group whose record of violence has earned it designation as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union as well as Israel.

Recent backsliding by the mercurial Russian president Vladimir Putin notwithstanding, the communiqué issued on January 30 by the so-called Quartet (the U.S., the E.U., Russia, and the United Nations) officially requires that "all members of the future Palestinian government must be committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the roadmap."

We applaud the administration's resolve as well as Secretary Rice's diplomacy in wringing this formal commitment out of our partners. But direct international aid represents only a small portion of the resources available to the PA's new rulers. A far greater share of the money needed to produce mayhem comes, at least indirectly, from "humanitarian" programs that are apparently not covered by the threatened funding cuts. Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya was quick to head off any move to limit humanitarian aid by telling the Quartet that "We assure you that all the money will be spent under your supervision." The problem is that, to date, the "supervision" has often consisted of allowing foxes to guard the henhouse.

One of the largest humanitarian programs is the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). One-third of UNRWA's $350 million annual budget is furnished by American taxpayers, and a little more than half comes from their European counterparts. UNRWA is unlike any other international agency. It was established in 1949 by the General Assembly to carry out relief programs benefiting Arabs displaced (some quite voluntarily) during the fighting that erupted after the new state of Israel was simultaneously invaded by its five Arab neighbors. (Remarkably, the UN offered no such succor to the numerous Jewish communities, some dating from biblical times, which were forcibly evicted from Arab countries.) Not only is UNRWA unique in its exclusive concern for original Palestinian "refugees" and their descendants (now numbering over 4 million according to the agency's rather loose criteria), it is the only refugee services organization whose raison d'ĂȘtre is not to resettle its charges, but rather to keep them and their dependents in squalid temporary dwellings while they await their "right of return."

The needless festering of grievance in the undeniably miserable 59 camps (27 of which are located in the West Bank and Gaza) is not UNRWA's only flaw, however. Indeed, far from being an impartial dispenser of humanitarian relief, UNRWA has become an enabler of terrorists, complicit through sins of commission and omission, in the cycle of violence wracking the Middle East.

Until the Bush administration blocked his reappointment last year, long-term UNRWA commissioner-general Peter Hansen made a career out of "see no evil, hear no evil" with respect to Hamas while imputing all manner of malfeasance on Israel. The final straw for Washington may have been Hansen's candid admission during a television interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in late 2004: "I am sure there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don't see that as a crime." Hansen's placid acquiescence to paying Hamas is usefully contrasted with his hysterical comments -- since proven false by the UN's own investigation -- that Hansen had seen "with my own eyes" Israeli "helicopters strafing civilian residential areas," "wholesale obliteration," and "mass graves" during Israel's Defensive Shield operation following the massacre of Passover celebrants by Palestinian terrorists in 2002. These "big lies" are on a par with Hamas's citing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its founding Covenant.

UNRWA's anti-Semitism is not merely doled out to the press, however. The agency runs one of the region's largest networks of schools, in which similar "ideas" are inculcated into a new generation of potential militants. Over the years, the "educational" materials currently in use in UNRWA schools include the following:

  • Its tenth grade textbook History of the Contemporary and Modern World defines Zionism as "a racist ideology and political movement that appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century" and informs its readers that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were "a group of confidential resolutions adopted by the [Basel Zionist] Congress...the goal of which is world domination." [And we dare criticize Hamas's Covenant?]

  • Readers of its fifth grade textbook Physical Geography, its tenth grade Geography of the World's Continents, and other volumes with maps will search in vain for any mention of Israel.

  • The high school textbook Health and Environmental Sciences contains a unit entitled "The Racist Annexation and Separation Wall and Its Impact on Environment."

  • The fourth grade reader Our Beautiful Language gives students this assignment: "Let us research and write [an essay] about one of the Palestinian martyr leaders [suicide bombers]."

If UNRWA's abetting of terrorism were limited to verbal incitement of refugees, it might arguably be tolerable within a broader framework that was encouraging peace. But the record shows that the agency's complicity extends to "sticks and stones" as well to words. Consider three facts, selected from literally hundreds over the years:

  • After his arrest in August 2002, Nidal 'Abd al-Fataah 'Abdallah Nizal, a UNRWA ambulance driver and Hamas activist from Qalqiliya in the West Bank, admitted that he used his official vehicle to transport munitions to Hamas terrorists and to carry official orders to them.

  • Nahd Rashid, a senior UNRWA official in Gaza before his arrest in August 2002, confessed that he used his UNRWA vehicle to transport armed members of the Popular Resistance Committees (an affiliate of the supposedly moderate Fatah faction) to kill Israeli soldiers at the Karni entrance to Israel. He also used the car on another occasion to move a 25-pound bomb.

  • In May 2004, armed Palestinians were filmed using UNRWA ambulances to transport terrorists (and possibly also the remains of fallen Israeli soldiers).

These are not isolated cases. They are symptomatic of a culture within UNRWA, whose employees' union has been dominated by Hamas since 1990. For example, currently all but 8 of the 54 union officials in the Gaza local are directly tied to Hamas. This virtually ensures that the majority of new hires will either share terrorist views by conviction or be quickly co-opted into it as a condition for continuing employment. Given UNRWA's responsibilities for education, the generational impact of this influence is considerable.

Thus, while it is difficult to sort out the full extent to which UNRWA "as an institution" (whatever that means) is involved in specific acts of violence, given the agency's relationship with groups like Hamas there is little doubt that some of the "humanitarian" assistance paid to the organization ends up supporting terrorism, both morally and materially.

The signal that Secretary Rice and her colleagues sent to the Palestinian leadership concerning a cut-off of funding is mixed at best, so long as the relatively small direct amounts going to the PA are the only ones affected while far more substantial funds continue to flow to "humanitarian" "neutral" groups such as UNRWA. Perhaps some UN member states are comfortable continuing to duplicitously finance this type of foreign aid. We have confidence, however, that if they were better informed, the American people would be appalled that their government continues to have anything to do with it, regardless of how "fairly" Hamas won the PA elections.

Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are academic fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.


If the subject of this story is not the elephant in the zoo...

From evil means come evil ends.
Put this on the pile of other awful disasters that the forced donations to foreigners made by the US government.

This is just another example in many that ALL foreign aid should stop. Charity is a private affair and it is blatant stealing to take from one citizen and give it to a foreigner he or she doesn't even like. (Actually it is immoral to take away anything from one persong against their wishes and give it to someone else.)

This stupid fund that provides the small amount of money Hamas needs to conduct its war for misery is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the 15Bil to Aids in Africa? Economic bailouts of Mexico? etc.

And the worst is the poor country of Israel that exists exclusively on the more than 1 BILLION received from the US every year.

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