GOP Bill Would Block Biden Administration from Funding Hamas
New evidence emerged Monday that employees at the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) publicly cheered Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack against Israel. The organization, which operates schools and humanitarian facilities in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere, receives a large portion of its funding from the U.S. government. For its anti-Israel sentiments, Senators Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have introduced legislation to cut off funding to Hamas through UNRWA and other channels.
The U.K.-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) published a 123-page report Monday, documenting how UNRWA employees and education activists cheered and encouraged the October 7 terror attack, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis, wounded more than 5,000 Israelis, and kidnapped more than 200 hostages.
According to the report, 13 UNWRA employees, many of them teachers, publicly glorified the October 7 terrorist attack on social media. One teacher shared a video claiming that the Hamas massacre was “the first real victory” on the way to “liberating” Palestine — which would require the annihilation of Israel.
Even an UNRWA school, the Nablus Elementary School for Boys, endorsed terrorism and war against Israel. Its official Facebook account posted a video of a student praying that Allah would “give victory to their Jihad warriors,” invoking battles throughout Islamic history. The video is captioned, “the school is a safe and stimulating environment.”
The report also demonstrated how textbooks in UNRWA schools encourage martyrdom, vilify Jews, and erase the nation of Israel from maps; even in calculus, students count suicide bombers. It documented 118 Hamas militants who participated in the terror attack, who had graduated from UNRWA schools.
“The U.S. doesn’t fund Taliban curriculum. It doesn’t fund Islamic State curriculum. But through its voluntary donations to UNRWA, it is funding Hamas curriculum,” explained Monique Beadle, director of Advancement for the Jerusalem Institute of Justice. “Gaza’s children aren’t learning about peace and co-existence in their U.N. schools. It’s time to deal with the reality that American taxpayers are underwriting the radicalization of thousands of children.”
Both Republicans and Democrats are aware of the indoctrination taking place in Palestinian schools. “Generations are raised to hate, to kill, to behead, to murder, and it is a product of the schools that we have seen for decades on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” said U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
“UNRWA is a corrupt organization,” Senator Ricketts insisted on “Washington Watch.” “The Trump administration said it was corrupt beyond repair. And that’s why they said, ‘no more money for UNRWA.’” He explained, “The reason that that funding was cut originally was because UNRWA was housing Hamas people in their buildings … or weapons, rather, they were storing for Hamas. They hired Hamas agents. They had textbooks that glorified terrorism.”
In 2018, the State Department announced it was cutting off funding for UNRWA but not ending all humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees. When President Joe Biden took office in 2021, his administration quickly reversed course on UNRWA funding.
The U.S. government supplied UNRWA with $338 million in 2021 and $344 million in 2022. As of September 21, U.S ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced the Biden administration had supplied UNRWA with $296 million in 2023, and she pledged the U.S. for another $73 million. That announcement brought total U.S. contributions and pledges to UNRWA to $1.05 billion since President Biden took office.
The Biden administration knew at the time that it was possible for Hamas to commandeer funds intended for the UNRWA, according to internal documents the watchdog group Protect the People’s Trust obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
“Due to its overall strength and level of control over Gaza, we assess there is a high risk Hamas could potentially derive indirect, unintentional benefit from U.S. assistance to Gaza,” the director of the State Department’s Office of Threat Finance Countermeasures admitted in a draft memo dated March 1, 2021.
“Notwithstanding this risk, State believes it is in our national security interest to provide assistance in the West Bank and Gaza to support the foreign policy objectives outlined above,” the memo added. Those foreign policy objectives included “advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Palestinians and Israelis … as a means to advance and preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution, in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state.”
To de-emphasize the risk of Hamas benefiting from U.S. assistance to Gaza, the memo added, “According to USAID’s West Bank and Gaza mission, there have been no known cases of U.S. government or other donor supplies or equipment being stolen or destroyed.”
On October 16, UNRWA said that Hamas had looted UNRWA fuel and medical supplies meant for refugees, loading them onto trucks and driving away without UNRWA authorization. Soon after, UNRWA deleted the posts and now asserts that nothing was taken, but U.N. and Israeli sources have confirmed that the looting did occur.
“Hamas has stolen and abused international aid to Gaza to further its mission to annihilate Israel for years,” said Senator Ricketts.
The Biden administration negotiated a “framework for cooperation” with UNRWA, which laid out guardrails and accountability for how the funds would be used. Yet the 2021-2022 Framework for Cooperation made no mention of Hamas regarding the funding of terrorism or of education. The 2023-2024 Framework for Cooperation still made no mention of Hamas. On education, it only required UNRWA to self-report on its curriculum review and required UNRWA to develop “tolerance” education. Many U.S. “tolerance” curricula deploy the framework of critical theory, which is often used to define Jews as “oppressors” and has provoked a spike in anti-Semitic incidents at American universities.
“When we resumed funding for UNRWA in 2021, it was with the understanding that these schools would change, and we reached the 2021 framework for cooperation. So far, not so good. … Education for terrorism has continued,” said Sherman.
“The Senate Democrats want to continue to give money to Hamas — and humanitarian aid. And they’re still funding the United Nations and UNRWA,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, host of “Washington Watch.” On the other hand, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Monday blocked a motion to consider an aid package for Israel, which passed the House last week.
“They’re playing political games,” Ricketts explained. “This is a war. People are dying. Hamas committed unspeakable acts of terror, atrocities, barbarism. And yet the Senate Democrats are blocking, giving aid to Israel. It’s just — what’s wrong in Washington, D.C.?”
Perkins asked whether Ricketts’s bill to stop funding Hamas had bipartisan support, but Ricketts only responded, “We haven’t gotten any of my Democrat colleagues to get on [the bill as a cosponsor] yet.”
“It’s not just [funding to] Hamas,” said Ricketts. “Iran is funding Hamas. And the Biden administration has also released the sanctions on the oil money going to Iran that’s giving them billions of dollars. Under the Trump administration, Hamas was almost bankrupt. And now we’ve just given Iran … a bunch of money so they can fund these terrorist organizations.”
In addition to funding UNRWA and freeing up frozen Iranian funds, the U.S. State Department last year announced more than $200 million for Palestine, apart from UNRWA, in support through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), COVID and Gaza recovery assistance, economic assistance, and “programs to support the security sector including important improvements to the rule of law.”
“We’re funding the very thing we’re supposed to be fighting against,” lamented Perkins. “Hamas is not just, you know, some kind of rogue group out there. That’s the government of Gaza. They are in power.”
Ricketts’s bill would “cut the funding to UNRWA because they cannot be trusted.” In addition, it would “freeze the economic support funds going to Gaza and the West Bank until Israel has verifiably dismantled the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas,” he said. “It would also strengthen certification requirements for the Palestinian Authority,” “make sure any U.S. assistance to non-governmental organizations in the West Bank or Gaza are not hiring Hamas or other terrorist agents,” and “strengthen the Taylor Force Act, which goes after the pay-to-slay program that Hamas has for people who … if you get captured or killed, they pay your family.”
“The Biden administration is just turning a blind eye to giving terrorists like Hamas our taxpayer dollars, and they don’t want to take the steps necessary to be able to block it,” said Ricketts. “They are utterly responsible for how Hamas gets funded through these different organizations.”
“No matter how much money you give Hamas, Hamas will always want to destroy the state of Israel,” Ricketts continued. “They’re a terrorist organization. This is what they do. We must treat them that way. And this administration will not do that.”
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.