Ami Horowitz

While Yiddish, the German-Slavic language used by the Jews of old Europe, has all but died out, there is an orphan word that has been adopted by almost every culture in the world: chutzpah. This word, an allusion to one’s own shameless and impertinent audacity, is the one word the word that best describes, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

UNRWA is an organization that is devoted to addressing the status of Palestinian refugees. While currently being investigated by Congress for its ties to, and support of, terrorism, this organization recently asked the world for an additional $100 million in funding, of which the United States would provide at least $22 million. This is in addition to the $150 million that we, as taxpayers of the United States, already contribute each year.

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The reason they have the cojones to ask for additional funding from us, despite the fact that UNRWA has consistently acted as a sanctuary for terrorist activity and employment, is because we continue to fund them. In the parlance of addiction, we are acting as their enablers. Over its existence, the United States has funded UNRWA to the tune of nearly $3.5 billion.

UNRWA was founded in 1948 as a temporary United Nations agency to assist the Arab refugees that fled – and to be fair, some were also forced out – during the Arab countries’ assault on Israel during the War of Independence. The refugee camps built under the UNRWA mandate were meant as a temporary measure until a concrete resolution for the refugees could be found. Yet after more than 60 years in existence they have been unable to find that solution.

Only a year earlier, the 1947 conflict between India and Pakistan created a nearly incomprehensible amount of human displacement: nearly 14 million people were uprooted from their homes and driven into the dark limbo of war. Yet they and their descendants have long been integrated into their respective societies. The United Nations, however, has taken few steps to resolve Palestinian refugee settlement which would finally bring some measure of closure and civility to these people’s lives. The Palestinian refugees continue to live in vile conditions within filthy camps, among the most densely populated in the world, where joblessness and poverty is rampant.

Two years after creating UNRWA, the UN went on to create the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a position, with a full staff and budget, created initially to help settle the Europeans displaced by WWII, but later would encompass all refugee groups around the world, save one. Common sense would dictate that, at the appropriate time, all responsibility should have shifted from UNRWA to this new global U.N. refugee agency. Unfortunately common sense is a resource of great rarity within the United Nations system. Instead, as with all United Nations bodies that pitch a furious fight for their place in the bureaucracy and then slowly drift into obsolescence, UNRWA endures to this day, sucking hundreds of millions of dollars out of donor countries’ pockets each year.

To handle these operations, UNRWA employs more than 30,000 people to look after nearly 4 million refugees. Contrast that with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who, along with only about 6,300 staffers, is responsible for all other refugees worldwide, totaling more than 11 million.

If only UNRWA’s problems were confined to wastefulness and inefficiency. Over the years it has become clear that UNRWA has become a United Nations-supported haven for terrorists, who conduct their business of death untouched, uninvestigated even, by their United Nations overseers. In fact, these camps have become an indispensable part of the terrorist infrastructure. Every conceivable component of a terrorist network can be found within the UNRWA camps. The United Nations is fully aware that their camps, and even their facilities are being used as terrorist headquarters, training, and manufacturing facilities, yet they do nothing to stop them. Little surprise when you consider the fact many UNRWA employees are terrorists themselves.

Hamas, on the United States list of terrorist organizations, has made healthy showings at the polls within the camps. In a move that would make the Teamsters blush, Hamas dominated the elections for the UNRWA Employees Association in 2006. Hamas took 11 out of 11 seats representing all 7,000 teachers in UNRWA and 9 out of 9 seats representing the service sector in UNRWA (physicians, engineers, pharmacists and nurses). All of this doesn’t seem to trouble the former head of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, who told the CBC, “I’m sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don’t see that’s a crime.”

At times, UNRWA will feebly try to defend itself. During a Congressional briefing looking into why UNRWA does not verify employee names against terrorist watch lists, UNRWA commissioner General Karen Koning Abuzayd responded lamely: “Arab names sound so familiar.” Funny, I don’t recall any sort of outrage at her vaguely racist comment.

UNRWA also runs the largest education system in the Middle East - a system which is commonly used by extremists as a platform to cultivate the next generation of terrorists. By infusing their educational system with a virulent hate for Jews and Israel, often graphically encouraging martyrdom and Jihad, terrorists reach a new generation. The hatred that is taught drips into every aspect of the curriculum: it can be found in their history books, maps and grammar. They would probably teach hatred towards Israel through math lessons if they could find a way to do it. As Hillary Clinton said in 2007, “the problem appears to have gotten worse. These textbooks don’t give Palestinian children an education, they give them an indoctrination.”

UNRWA regularly, hollowly and often times dishonestly protests this depiction of their “educational” system. However, it is really tough to spin examples like Awad al-Qiq, the headmaster of an UNRWA school, and summer camp coordinator. His after-school activities included leading Islamic Jihad’s engineering unit, building bombs, Qassam rockets and training generations of other bomb makers, no doubt recruited from UNRWA schools themselves. His role in the terror world was exposed by Israel in 2007, yet he continued to serve as an educator in the UNRWA system until Israeli war birds put him into permanent retirement (without a pension).

I have to admit, it is pretty hard to criticize the fact that their graduation rate is very high. In fact their graduation stats are similar to the high school in Los Angeles that I attended. Although, the only difference is that as a Jewish school, we graduated a disproportionate number of accountants, lawyers and doctors. Go figure. UNRWA schools likewise have their own pockets of excellence. They tend to graduate arch terrorists

UNRWA adroitly uses the terrible plight of the Palestinian’s under its care to play on the sympathies of its donor countries. The abysmal conditions that their Palestinian charges live in are a travesty of UNRWA’s own making funded by, in large part, American tax dollars. It is absolute insanity that billions of United States tax dollars have gone to funding an organization that, at best, is obtusely being run while being oblivious to the terror network entrenched within its midst and at worst URWA is complicit. Iran has been able to project its power by gaining a significant foothold in the Palestinian territories, through its proxy Hamas; all the while UNRWA management denies that they even have a problem. In the words of Mark Kirk, Congressman from Illinois, UNRWA’s motto is “don’t tell, don’t ask.”

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Ami Horowitz

Ami Horowitz is a filmmaker and co-director of the forthcoming film U.N. Me.