Christian Allies Caucus presses Germany to keep funding freeze on UNRWA

It offered government officials alternatives to funnel humanitarian support to Palestinian civilians.

By Etgar Lefkovits | | Topics: United Nations, Gaza, Germany
A Palestinian man outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza City protests cuts to aid on June 20, 2023. Credit: Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.
A Palestinian man outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza City protests cuts to aid on June 20, 2023. Credit: Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.

The heads of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus on Wednesday urged German parliamentarians in the Bundestag not to lift the funding freeze on the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in light of its terror ties with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and offered government officials alternatives to funnel humanitarian support to Palestinian civilians.

The diplomatic meetings in the German parliament in Berlin come 10 days before the UN agency is due to issue a report on their malfeasance aiming to have foreign aid fully restored.

“Continuing with funding for UNRWA, an organization marred by collaboration and terrorist entrenchment, hinders any prospect of advancement in the Middle East,” said Knesset member and Christian Allies Caucus co-chair Sharren Haskel. “It is imperative to permanently halt funding for UNRWA and redirect resources towards initiatives that genuinely promote peace and stability.”

A bombshell Israeli intelligence report in January shared with the US administration showed that dozens of UNRWA employees actively participated in the Hamas atrocities in southern Israel on Oct. 7,  and that the agency has 450 “military operatives” belonging to Hamas and other terrorist groups on its payroll.

The revelations initially prompted 18 countries—led by the United States and Germany, UNRWA’s biggest donors—to suspend funding. Some of them have since voiced concern over the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and amid an agency pushback started resuming their donations.

The United States—the largest donor to UNRWA—provides about 30% of the agency’s budget and has frozen its donations until at least next year. However, European countries, including Germany, are likely to resume their funding this month following the investigation, some with caveats attached.

“UNRWA is, as we know, not a part of the solution but a fundamental part of the problem,” said German MP Frank Müller-Rosentritt. “The findings about the heinous involvement in Hamas’s terror must lead to a stop of all payments to UNRWA.”

The cross-party parliamentary body, which has been an outspoken voice for dismantling UNRWA through its network of dozens of sister caucuses around the world based on faith-based diplomacy, has faced an uphill struggle working to convince allies to keep the funding freeze in place amid growing global criticism of the six-month war in Gaza.

“Funding for UNRWA was rightfully suspended when connections to Hamas and the Oct. 7 attacks were brought to light, and must be defunded permanently,” said Leo van Doesburg, Europe director of the Israel Allies Foundation. “Israel and the international community should agree on other humanitarian organizations that will help Palestinians in need.”

The meetings in Berlin were particularly sensitive due to Germany’s history during World War II and the Holocaust, as the country juggles its foreign-policy commitment to Israel’s security and the fight against antisemitism while also pulled towards international organizations such as the United Nations and a shared worldview of a two-state solution for the Palestinians.

The atrocities that occurred in Israel on Oct. 7 have placed renewed international focus on UNRWA’s terrorism ties, leading to calls from across the Israeli political spectrum to break with the organization. Meanwhile, the heads of the agency—backed by the EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borell—are attempting to rescue it and placate international donors with the investigation into its wrongdoing.

After decades of on-again off-again criticism of the agency for perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the wealth of intelligence information uncovered during Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip has called the continued existence of the organization into question as never before, setting off an intense diplomatic showdown over the organization’s future.

Last month, a former legal adviser to the agency told the Knesset that Israel can prevent UNRWA from operating in Gaza and should be using this time while the international spotlight is on its malign activities to plan for its closure. The revealing remarks highlighted that Israel could unilaterally act to stop the agency’s activity in Gaza, irrespective of the continued foreign funding it receives.

“The longer UNRWA exists, the further away we are from coexistence,” Haskel said.

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