How the U.S. Missed an Opportunity to Reform the Corrupt UN Organization That Keeps the Israel-Palestinian Conflict Alive

In 2018, the U.S. abruptly cut its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the organization created in 1950 to tend to the needs of Arab refugees from the Israeli War of Independence. The reasons to deny financial support to UNRWA are numerous: unlike the UN itself and other international bodies, it counts descendants of refugees as refugees themselves, along with those who have citizenship in other countries; its schools teach students anti-Semitic and jihadist propaganda; and in Gaza its employees cooperate with terrorists and its schools sometimes serve as weapons depots. Worst of all, it functions to prolong, rather than solve, the Palestinian refugee problem.

Since coming to office, the Biden administration has restored funding, but has only received some vague assurances from UNRWA that it will rectify some of its most egregious behavior. James G. Lindsay writes:

In return for renewing its generous funding, the United States could have, inter alia, demanded that UNRWA

  • Check its staff, beneficiaries, and contractors against the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control list—which at least would have reduced the likelihood of the agency using U.S. funds to support persons under sanctions;
  • Take immediate action with regard to the decades-long saga of improper content in UNRWA textbooks—e.g., by paying for separate print runs of local textbooks, modified to be suitable for use by UNRWA students;
  • Begin the process of identifying those persons on UNRWA’s rolls who actually meet the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) definition of a refugee;
  • Move from a status- to a needs-based provision of services to refugees.

The 2021 framework agreement [with the U.S.] may carry minor benefits by highlighting a few embarrassing problems raised publicly by UNRWA critics (e.g., staff misconduct, textbook concerns), but the agreement mostly focuses on process-related items, such as reporting modalities, and on aspirational statements. More effective would have been to use UNRWA’s tenuous financial position to compel specific, tangible, and constructive actions such as those just outlined.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Joe Biden, Palestinian refugees, UNRWA

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas