WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. government has allocated $33.7 million from the American Rescue Plan pushed by the Biden Administration, aimed at providing relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA). This decision has sparked controversy due to past allegations against the organization, linking it to terrorist activities in Gaza.
The American Rescue Plan passed with bipartisan support in Congress, with the vast majority of Democrats endorsing the bill. Out of the sizable package, $33.7 million was earmarked for UNRWA, under the State Department’s Migration and Refugee Assistance program. The total fund reserved for the State Department in this regard was approximately $500 million.
Over the years, UNRWA has faced criticism for its purported connections with Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization. Accusations include providing refuge for Hamas operations within its facilities and allegedly promoting extremist views in educational institutions under its control. Such claims gained traction when a 2014 article by the New Republic mentioned the organization is akin to an extension of Hamas.
Earlier this year, allegations further intensified when UN Watch claimed that certain UNRWA-run schools were promoting animosity towards Jewish individuals and encouraging extremist ideologies. However, in defense, UNRWA stated that it had inadvertently circulated such content in the past but has since ceased such practices. In a separate 2014 incident, the organization openly criticized and denounced the discovery of Hamas missiles in one of its Gaza-based schools.
According to Professor Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, UNRWA facilities have been recurrently exploited by extremist groups for military agendas. She highlighted that the organization’s ties with Hamas have raised eyebrows on many occasions.