The Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation (RLAF) has partnered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (URWA) to organise a charity drive for Palestinian refugees. Running from 22 May to 30 May, it aims to “provide aid in the form of health, relief and social services for communities affected by the recent developments in Gaza”. Funds raised will be channeled through UNRWA.
The second I learned about this, I spotted red flags.
In 2019, the then-Commissioner-General of UNRWA Pierre Krahenbuhl and senior officials were accused of ethics violations. These include “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination, and other abuses of authority”. This prompted the United States to suspend funding for UNRWA.
Krahenbuhl has since resigned following the allegations. But the systemic issues plaguing UNRWA remain. Let’s start with the fact that UNRWA is the world’s most ineffective refugee assistance program.
The Myth of Palestine
There was never a Palestinian nation.
The word ‘Palestine’ is a perversion of ‘Philistine’, the Hebrew name for an Aegean people that became extinct 3000 years ago. In 66 to 63 BC, the Roman general Pompey conquered most of the Middle East, bringing the region under Roman rule. From 66 to 132 AD, the Jews waged an uprising against the Romans. After crushing the revolt, the Romans exiled the majority of Jews from Israel and, as a final humiliation, renamed the land ‘Syria Palestina’ after the Latin term for the Philistines.
In the centuries since, Europeans kept the name ‘Palestine’ alive, while Middle Eastern powers used their own names for the region. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the European powers divided its territory and resurrected the name ‘Palestine’ to label the area called Mandatory Palestine. In 1937, local Arab Muslim leader Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi addressed the Peel Commission, saying:
There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.
In 1946, Arab-American historian Philip Hitti testified before the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, saying:
There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.
In 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded with the purpose of ‘liberating Palestine’ through armed struggle. Middle Eastern rulers were not impressed.
Syrian President Hafez Assad told Yasser Arafat:
There is no such thing as a Palestinian people, there is no Palestinian entity, there is only Syria. You are an integral part of the Syrian people, Palestine is an integral part of Syria. Therefore it is we, the Syrian authorities, who are the true representatives of the Palestinian people.
Addressing the Jordanian National Assembly on 2 February 1970, Prince Hassan of Jordan said:
Palestine is Jordan and Jordan is Palestine; there is only one land, with one history and one and the same fate.
PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein acknowledged that ‘Palestine’ was simply a propaganda term. In a 1977 interview with Dutch newspaper Trouw, he said:
The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
The very creators of the political entity of Palestine know that ‘Palestine’ is nothing more than a propaganda device. Nonetheless, the Left today embraces the myth of Palestine, continuing the centuries-long tradition of discrimination against the Jews.
UNRWA fuels the flames of conflict.
UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict”. Furthermore, as reported by Jay Sekulow, UNRWA extends that definition to include “all descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, regardless of whether they had been granted citizenship elsewhere.”
A person born in Jordan to parents of Jordanian extraction can therefore be legally classified as a ‘Palestinian’ simply because his grandfather was displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Not only that, there is an even stranger situation in Gaza. As of January 2018, of the 1.9 million inhabitants, 1.4 million are registered refugees.
Why are there Palestinian refugees in the homeland of the Palestinian people?
The answer is simple: UNRWA is promoting the message that the true homeland of the Palestinian people is not Palestine, but Israel.
Instead of encouraging resettlement in states surrounding Israel—states that used to consider themselves as the true homes of the Palestinian people—UNRWA instead promotes the ‘right of return’: the principle that refugees and their descendants have the right to return to their old territories, and to the property of their forebears left behind.
This creates a volatile situation. The Arab states, except Jordan, refuse to absorb Palestinian refugees. The refugees pin their hopes on one day returning to Israel. Israel will not accept them, and has no reason to. The refugee situation festers, creating a toxic environment that pits Palestinians against Israelis.
This is on UNRWA.
The UNRWA-Hamas Connection
UNRWA isn’t merely an incompetent UN agency. It is an active player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas, opens its charter with the following statement:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.
The purpose of Hamas is the destruction of Israel. Following the 2006 legislative election and the 2007 battle of Gaza, Hamas is now the governing authority of Palestine. Since then, UNRWA has worked hand-in-hand with Hamas to threaten Israel.
A 2007 report reveals the links between UNRWA and Hamas, including allowing UNRWA members to join Hamas, providing services in place of Hamas so Hamas can divert monies for its campaign of terror, and allowing terrorists to use UNRWA facilities and vehicles to support terrorist activities.
In 2013, a documentary showed Palestinian children being indoctrinated to hate Israel and embrace martyrdom at an UNRWA summer school.
During the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas used UNRWA schools to store and launch rockets at Israel.
According to a 2014 report, every UNRWA school hosts a Hamas representative, who enlists students into the Islamic Bloc. The Islamic Bloc is the student wing of Hamas, which indoctrinates students and feeds them into Hamas and its militant wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades.
In April 2017, UNRWA school principal and Chairman of the UNRWA Employee’s Union in Gaza Suhail al-Hindi resigned following allegations that he was part of the Hamas political leadership. Other UNRWA members were also accused of being part of Hamas.
In June and October 2017, Hamas terror tunnels were found underneath UNRWA schools.
In 2021, UNRWA was once again caught promoting anti-Israeli rhetoric in its school teaching materials, despite promising in 2020 that it would remove these materials. UNRWA is responsible for 526 thousand students in 711 schools, and uses schoolbooks produced by the Palestinian Authority.
The links between Hamas and UNRWA are indisputable. Despite repeated calls for reforms, UNRWA has refused to change. It remains an active player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, using its position and resources to support Hamas and its terrorist activities.
Hamas raises tens of millions of dollars through charitable organizations. According to the US Department of Treasury:
HAMAS uses a web of charities to facilitate funding and to funnel money. Charitable donations to non-governmental organizations are commingled, moved between charities in ways that hide the money trail, and are then often diverted or siphoned to support terrorism.
UNRWA is an NGO. UNRWA is linked to Hamas. And RLAF has partnered with UNRWA to launch a charity drive.
Questions for RLAF
In light of UNRWA’s long-standing and extensive links to Hamas, this raises many questions.
Is RLAF aware of UNRWA’s links to Hamas?
Why did RLAF choose to partner with UNRWA? Were there no other charity organizations that are free from terror links?
What steps will RLAF take to ensure that the monies will go towards their intended recipients, and not to Hamas or other terrorist groups?
RLAF claims that the transfer of funds will be subject to clearance by the Commissioner of Charities to ensure good governance and accountability. Is the CoC aware of the links between UNRWA and Hamas? How will the CoC ensure that UNRWA will direct the funds to humanitarian aid, and that the funds will not be diverted to Hamas through its time-honoured strategy of using charities to hide the money trail? If the CoC cannot do this, will law enforcement agencies follow through?
Nothing in this article imputes that RLAF is raising funds for Hamas. However, Hamas has subverted UNRWA, if not outright controls it. Both Hamas and UNRWA are active players in the conflict, the former seeking to destroy Israel and the latter seeking to support the former. Monies earmarked for food, medicine and shelter could be diverted into rockets, bombs, and terror tunnels.
RLAF must take care that funds raised do not flow into terrorist coffers. If it cannot ensure that UNRWA will not give monies to Hamas, then the only conscionable thing to do is to either find a new, neutral, partner, or to cancel the drive altogether.