It's been a wild few days for the United Nations, especially the UNRWA. The State Department announced last Friday that there would be a pause in funding for the entity devoted to so-called Palestinian refugees due to a reported link in ties to Hamas terrorists who perpetrated the October 7 attack against Israel. The Wall Street Journal has also released a report further detailing that connection, and there's more information about how UNRWA workers helped hold Israelis hostage. All that being said, we can't be giving too much credit to the Biden administration now, especially since the pause only applies to new and additional funding. Further, the administration is also concerned about how the UNRWA is regarded.
During Monday's White House press briefing, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby warned not to "impugn" any good name that the agency might have. To think that Kirby has usually been pretty strong on defending Israel as he shuts down pro-Hamas narratives from the press.
Biden spokesman John Kirby: “Let’s not impugn the good work of a whole agency [UNRWA] because of the potential bad actions here of a small number.” pic.twitter.com/4EfiGuKZzB— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) January 29, 2024
Kirby had been asked about whether he had "any reason to believe that that might have been more widespread, that there could be information that later indicates that it was beyond those 13 people?"
The WSJ report had noted that "around 10% of all of [UNRWA's] Gaza staff have ties to Islamist militant groups, according to intelligence reports reviewed by The Wall Street Journal." The report further indicated that "[n]early half of all Unrwa employees—an estimated 49%—also had close relatives who also had official ties to the militant groups, especially Hamas, the intelligence reports said." It's also worth reminding that The WSJ had been reporting from the start about Hamas being backed by Iran.
"I haven’t seen any information that affirmatively makes that case," Kirby responded, going on to note "that’s why an investigation is so dang important here, so that we can look at the scope of the problem set," though he didn't just stop there.
He then went on to speak to UNRWA employees, specifically the 13,000 in Gaza, going on to note "as I said last week, let’s not impugn the good work of a whole agency because of the potential bad actions here by a small number."
Kirby then tried to emphasize the importance of the investigation and that it be taken seriously. "I am not dismissing the seriousness of the allegations against those employees. And whether there’s going to be more that will be found, hopefully the investigation will--will give us more insight," he offered. He also looked to be expressing trust in the UNRWA and UN Secretary General António Guterres, despite how the UN has acted as an anti-Israeli body and has also, at best, been slow to condemn Hamas and has operated with a warped sense of priorities. This even includes agencies such as UN Women.
Especially given that we know now that there's quite the catch when it comes to pausing the UNRWA funding, there's certainly more to be done than the Biden administration seems to be willing to engage in.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) took yet another opportunity to remind people about his commitment to defund the UNRWA. That includes a bill he introduced last February--although it's worth reminding he's been committed to this cause for years--to withhold funds from the agency, known as the UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act.
Again - we’ve known this. We’ve had legislation to defund UNRWA for 3 years and been talking about this, but it doesn’t take stand alone legislation - we can do it this March, when funding expires. The @HouseGOP has to mean what they say. #DefundOurEnemies #DefundTheUN https://t.co/oCqut1cJW2— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) January 29, 2024
A thread from the congressman also pointed to how the Senate will not take up the State & Foreign Ops appropriations which had "gutted" the UNRWA, as well as how there were eight Republican House members who voted against an amendment from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to defund the agency.
…(2/2). We (@RepScottPerry) also offered an amendment to totally defund UNRWA, but it failed because 8 @HouseGOP voted against it. We also have independent legislation to gut UNRWA & to defund the UN - but Dems (& a few R’s) will not support. #DefundUNRWA #DefundUN— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) January 29, 2024
Rep. Roy has been fighting to address UNWRA for years. Now's the time.— Rep. Chip Roy Press Office (@RepChipRoy) January 29, 2024
His UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act (HR1102) would stop the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to this corrupt and rabidly anti-Israel organization.
MORE⤵️ https://t.co/L0e6USKj0w pic.twitter.com/J0mYLfBY57
Such efforts that Roy just recently posted about are in addition to the bill he introduced last December, along with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), to defund the entire UN, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introducing the Senate version.
All three lawmakers have posted to their social media accounts in light of the news from last Friday and in recent days to call for passing the DEFUND Act.
"#DefundTheUN" has been among the trends over X on Monday.