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unrwa scandal

Panel report whitewashes UNRWA scandal, claims Israel fails to prove staff terror ties

Activists protest against United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) outside their offices in Jerusalem, March 20, 2024. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An independent panel released its final report on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on Monday. This followed after Israel presented evidence earlier in the year that several UNRWA employees were directly or indirectly involved in the Hamas atrocities against Israeli civilians on October 7.

Critics of UNRWA warned ahead of the report that it would merely suggest cosmetic changes rather than a genuine reform of the controversial UN agency. 

Concerns were raised in March when the panel presented a preliminary report claiming, without elaboration that "UNRWA has in place a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the Humanitarian Principle of neutrality, and the group has also identified critical areas that still need to be addressed.” 

The final report appeared to validate concerns that UNRWA would not undergo any serious reform despite its ties to terrorism and antisemitism.

Former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who heads the panel, claimed on Monday that the UNRWA organization has the “most elaborate” rules within the United Nations in what appeared to be a complete whitewashing of the scandal.

“The set of rules and the mechanisms and procedures in place [at UNRWA] are the most elaborate within the UN system, precisely because it is such a difficult issue to work in such a complex and sensitive environment,” Colonna told media representatives at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“What needs to be improved will be improved. I’m confident that implementing these measures will help UNRWA deliver on its mandate,” the panel head added without elaborating on the specifics. 

Addressing the issue of UNRWA employees involved in terrorism, the report stated that Israel had not provided “supporting evidence” of these ties. 

“Israel made public claims that a significant number of UNRWA employees are members of terrorist organisations. However, Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence of this,” the report argued.

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs blasted the report, saying UNRWA is part of the problem and cannot be reformed.

"Hamas has infiltrated UNRWA so deeply that it is no longer possible to determine where UNRWA ends and where Hamas begins. More than 2,135 UNRWA workers are members of either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), while one-fifth of UNRWA school administrators are Hamas members," the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

"The problem with UNRWA-Gaza isn't that of a few bad apples; it is a rotten and poisonous tree whose roots are Hamas," the statement read. "The Colonna report ignores the severity of the problem, and offers cosmetic solutions that do not deal with the enormous scope of Hamas' infiltration of UNRWA."

In January, Israeli authorities provided incriminating evidence of UNRWA-Hamas ties that prompted the U.S. and several other governments to suspend their aid to the UN agency.

At the time, the British government expressed concerns shared by several Western governments and Japan. 

“The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK Government has repeatedly condemned.”

In December, testimonies from former Israeli hostages revealed that several UNRWA employees and a doctor held some of the hostages captive in Gaza.

In February, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant presented the names of 12 UNRWA employees who were involved in the Hamas Oct. 7 unprecedented terror attack against Israel. 

The panel report also claimed that UNRWA “has consistently worked on ensuring neutrality in education,” effectively whitewashing the systematic antisemitic hatred and support of terrorism within the UNRWA's educational system. 

In February 2021, a report released by the IMPACT-se research institute (Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education) concluded that UNRWA schools continue to teach hatred against the Jewish state and the Jewish people despite officially pledging to combat antisemitism. Furthermore, the IMPACT report found that Israel had been erased from UNRWA maps of the Middle East, effectively reinforcing the indoctrination that the Jewish state has no right to exist within any boundaries. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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