The Biden administration has stirred both support and criticism by allocating $33.7 million from the American Rescue Plan to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a Palestinian relief organization. This funding is part of a larger $500 million allocation to the State Department’s Migration and Refugee Assistance program. The move has raised concerns due to UNRWA’s alleged connections to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, according to Fox News.
Critics have long accused UNRWA of failing to prevent aid from reaching Hamas terrorists. Reports indicate that UNRWA facilities have been used for Hamas activities and propaganda dissemination within schools. In 2014, The New Republic referred to UNRWA as “effectively a branch of Hamas.” U.N. Watch, an independent organization, has also voiced concerns about UNRWA schools allegedly promoting antisemitic sentiments and glorifying terrorism. Despite UNRWA acknowledging these issues in 2021 and promising corrective measures, skepticism remains.
Furthermore, UNRWA faced international outrage in 2014 when Hamas missiles were discovered at one of its schools in Gaza, leading to accusations that UNRWA facilities were being used for military purposes and by terrorists.
Professor Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, highlighted the problematic relationships between UNRWA officials and Hamas, pointing out that the U.N. often conducts superficial investigations and carries on despite revelations of such activities.
The Trump administration ceased funding to UNRWA in 2018, a decision criticized by some who argued that it negatively impacted impoverished Gaza residents. The Biden administration reinstated the funding, despite concerns about potential indirect support for terror groups. A leaked March 2021 State Department document revealed officials’ reservations about resuming funding to the Palestinian Authority, citing a “high risk” of Hamas benefiting from U.S. assistance. However, they argued that such support was essential for national security and foreign policy objectives.
In July 2022, the Biden administration reaffirmed its commitment to UNRWA by allocating $201 million, making it the agency’s largest donor with a total contribution exceeding $618 million. Recently, the Biden administration allocated a cumulative sum of $730 million to UNRWA, as reported by The New York Post.
Victoria Coates, a former deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, highlighted that UNRWA heavily relies on contributions from entities funded by U.S. taxpayers. UNRWA, established after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, is primarily funded by voluntary contributions from U.N. member states. Despite the criticism and controversy, it continues to provide humanitarian services, including education, health care, and relief.