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

Sept. 10 2021

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.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Joe Biden, Palestinian refugees, UNRWA

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy