". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Congressman Introduces Bill to Defund UNRWA

February 6, 2024

The House Foreign Affairs Committee conducted a markup Tuesday on a bill introduced last week to defund the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for its complicity in Hamas’s terrorism against Israel. “My bill would totally defund UNRWA. [It] says they cannot get so much as a dime of U.S. taxpayer funding,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said on “Washington Watch.”

The bill “to prohibit aid that will benefit Hamas” is titled, “Stop Support for UNRWA Act of 2024” (H.R. 7122). It would require that:

“The United States may not make any voluntary or involuntary contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (referred to in this Act as ‘UNRWA’), to any successor or related entity, or to the regular budget of the United Nations for the support of UNRWA or a successor entity.”

During the previous administration, President Trump completely cut off funding to UNRWA. President Biden resumed funding UNRWA and has supplied them with approximately $1.2 billion since 2021.

Israeli officials recently shared intelligence that more than a dozen UNRWA employees participated in Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack, while hundreds more are members of, or are linked to, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. These intelligence reports revealed only the “ugly tip of the anti-Semitic iceberg that is UNRWA,” said Smith.

In response to the revelations of UNRWA’s complicity in terrorist activity, the U.S. State Department has suspended further transfers of funds to UNRWA. However, they had already delivered more than 99% of the $121 million authorized by Congress, so the suspension only affects about $300,000.

Additionally, the State Department is reportedly exploring options to send humanitarian aid to Gaza via other organizations. “We’re looking at what options exist for supporting civilians in Gaza through partners like the World Food Program, UNICEF and other NGOs,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Monday.

Committee Democrats strongly opposed Smith’s proposed measure. “UNRWA is flawed,” admitted Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), “but prohibiting U.S. funding of Gaza while the people of Gaza are suffering an acute humanitarian disaster undermines the United States’ and Israel’s interests.”

“Why can’t we do it? Why do we have to give money to a corrupt organization?” asked Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, host of “Washington Watch.” UNRWA is just “another corrupt United Nations organization,” he said.

Smith’s simple bill would codify the policy decision to not deliver U.S. aid through agents complicit in terrorism, thus preventing a future administration from restoring UNRWA funding once the scandal had aged into distant memory. “Nothing in the bill precludes providing humanitarian assistance, food, clothing and shelter” for residents of Gaza, Smith clarified. “We care about humanitarian assistance, sure. But who you give it to matters.” UNRWA, he added, is “corrupt. They steal. They use the money for bad things like tunnels” that expand Hamas’s underground terror network.

Even UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip — “which we pay for,” Smith said — cause more harm than good, since they “train children to poison the minds of little children, little Palestinian kids to hate Jews,” said Smith. “They teach children each and every day to hate Jewish men and women and children, that the only good Jew is a dead Jew. And it’s right there in their teaching materials. They hate America, too, but they hate Israel even more, and [desire] that there be no more Israel.”

UNRWA schools “have pep rallies where they laud suicide bombers,” lamented Smith. “And you wonder why a kid, by the time he’s 13, has an AK-47 in his hand to kill Jewish people.”

“This doesn’t make sense if you ask me,” said Perkins, “that we would be funding UNRWA, that is tied to Hamas, that is funding terrorism — and then we’re funding Israel. I mean, it’s like we’re funding both sides.” Smith agreed. “It’s outrageous use of U.S. taxpayer funding.”

Perkins contrasted UNRWA’s effective promotion of terrorism with its ineffective pursuit of its primary function, which, as a refugee organization, is to resettle refugees. UNRWA has existed “since 1949,” said Perkins, “and they have not yet resettled one refugee.” The reason, Smith interjected, is “because they want to resettle them in Israel, with Israel gone.”

Smith contended that Americans knew 20 years ago “how bad this organization was.” Yet in 2003 the Senate killed an amendment he offered to defund UNRWA. “Everybody goes, ‘Oh, they’re improving, they’re reforming.’ Nonsense,” he said. “They’re not improving. They’re getting worse. And they want Israel annihilated. And that’s why there are still refugees.”

Perkins recounted taking members of Congress to the West Bank in 2013, where Palestinian Watch briefed them about the radical curriculum in UNRWA schools. “I would not be surprised if some of those terrorists — [who] had crossed over into Israel and slaughtered innocent civilians — if they had not been recipients of that indoctrination,” he said.

During the Tuesday hearing, Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) distilled the issue down to a question of wartime loyalties. “Israel is America’s ally,” he insisted. “Palestinians are not our ally. … Our ally Israel is at war with our non-ally. … We’re paying the salaries, if we support UNRWA, of our non-ally, who is at war with our ally. Does that make sense to anyone? … I find it amazing that there is disagreement about it in this committee.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee reconvened Tuesday evening after votes on the House floor and approved H.R. 7122.

Smith expressed optimism that the bill would receive a floor vote, noting that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) “is very much aligned” in his thinking on the issue. “He agrees 1,000% that we’ve got to find some other venue other than UNRWA, a totally corrupt and anti-Semitic organization,” said Smith. However, due to the GOP’s narrow majority in the House, Smith wasn’t taking anything for granted. “When it comes to the floor, we’re going to need good votes there,” he said.

Perkins urged listeners to “contact your members of Congress, both your congressmen and your two senators, and just tell them to defund this corrupt United Nations organization that is funding Hamas.” Smith added, “We’ve had opportunity after opportunity [to defund UNRWA]. Hopefully tomorrow’s bill will be the one that works.”

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.