Groups express concern AS UNRWA boosts funding to Palestinians

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid from a UN distribution centre in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on Sep 14, 2011. ABED RAHIM KHATIB, Flash 90

Jewish organizations are urging the Canadian government to hold UNRWA’s feet to the fire to ensure that a $25-million allocation to help Palestinian refugees will not end up in the hands of Hamas, a terrorist organization that controls Gaza.

Several organizations contacted by The CJN said funds to help impoverished refugees would be money well spent, but they question whether that money will be diverted to Hamas and they called on the Government of Canada to put in place mechanisms to ensure it isn’t.

“Canadian aid should go to those in need, especially those impacted by the ongoing brutality in Syria, but it is crucial that this support actually reaches the most vulnerable. We remain troubled by links between UNRWA and Hamas, a terrorist group notorious for diverting humanitarian funds and materials for its own destructive agenda. We also have serious concerns about violations of UNWRA neutrality,” said Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Fogel noted that since re-engaging with UNRWA, “Canada has put significant oversight measures in place. Initial reports indicate that this is having a positive impact, with UNRWA addressing serious problems raised by Canada, including terminating two employees linked to Hamas.”


Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said, “Helping impoverished Palestinians in various Arab countries is certainly a positive, as many individuals do require assistance. However, according to a new report, UNWRA continues to facilitate anti-Semitism and the demonization of Israel. UNWRA’s highly-politicized environment actually obstructs the best possible service to the Palestinians.”

JSpaceCanada, a progressive pro-Israel organization, said Canada could help improve the prospects of peace by “improving the lives of people caught in the conflict.

“It is of great concern to us that UNRWA schools have allegedly been used in the past to teach hatred and to hide missiles and weapons for Hamas and other terrorist groups; but Israel has been reassured that Canada has promised to keep an eye on how its money is used. We urge Canada to keep that promise,” said Karen Mock, president of JSpaceCanada.

In the latest allocation to UNRWA, which follows a $25-million disbursement in November 2016, $20 million would go to “basic education, health and social services to Palestinian refugees and supporting improved neutrality… in its operations and among its staff, the majority of whom are also Palestinian refugees,” stated Global Affairs Canada.

Responding to CJN queries, Louis Belanger, director of communications for the Minister of International Development, said, “The Government of Canada does not tolerate any misuse or diversion of assistance to support terrorism. Accountability and safeguards are central to the management of Canada’s development and humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.

“This includes ongoing oversight, regular site visits, a systematic screening process, and strong anti-terrorism provisions in funding agreements. Canadian officials on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza play a key role in ensuring ongoing oversight on programming.

“Canada is aware that UNRWA has faced criticism and allegations on controversial issues – some are based on fact, while others are unfounded. UNRWA schools use the textbooks of the jurisdiction in which they educate because students in UNRWA schools sit for local exams…UNRWA closely monitors and reviews the curriculum in its schools to ensure consistency with the values of the United Nations and with UNRWA’s expectations. When problematic issues are identified by UNRWA in the local curriculum, they provide enrichment materials and alternatives to give further context and represent UN values.”

However, Hillel Neuer, executive-director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog group, said “UN Watch is gravely concerned that Canada is yet again handing UNRWA millions of taxpayer dollars to fund teachers who endorse Hitler and advocate the murder of Jews.

“Despite a detailed report that I presented at Parliament in April, identifying 60 more UNRWA employees who preach anti-Semitism and jihadi terrorism, neither the Trudeau government nor UNRWA has informed us of a single UNRWA teacher who has been fired as a result. This calls into question Canada’s claim, when it announced its original $25-million funding in November, that UNRWA has a policy of ‘zero tolerance.’

“The government’s new announcement that UNRWA will be hiring a ‘neutrality co-ordinator’ is of little use so long as UNRWA sends the message that preachers of anti-Semitic hate and terror are welcome to teach before classrooms of vulnerable children.”

David Bedein, director of the Israel Resource News Agency and Center for Near East Policy Research, said the problems with UNRWA remain.

“The people who handle the money in UNRWA are Hamas. Hamas controls 100  per cent of the economy in Gaza,” he said.

Furthermore, the Center has examined school texts as recently as this August and it found books used in Canadian-supported UNRWA schools support a “war education curriculum” and a “wipe out Israel curriculum,” he said.

Bedein said “Canada could do something wonderful if they demanded accountability from UNRWA.”