James G. Lindsay, the former General Counsel of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), has issued a detailed 84-page report harshly critical of UNRWA’s policies with regard to Palestinian refugees. The report is titled “Fixing UNRWA Repairing the UN’s Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees,” and is available for free download.
Lindsay, who was UNRWA’s General Counsel from 2000-2007, harshly criticises UNRWA’s practices in a variety of areas, including the use of inflammatory school textbooks and a culture of perpetuating the refugee status of Palestinians.
In a most timely finding, however, Lindsay notes that UNRWA does almost nothing to avoid hiring members of Hamas and other terrorist groups, despite U.S. laws which provide that UNRWA may not use U.S. funding to make payments to members of terrorist groups:
In sum, UNRWA has taken very few steps to detect and eliminate terrorists from the ranks of its staff or its beneficiaries, and no steps at all to prevent members of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, from joining its staff. These failings have occurred not because UNRWA consciously supports terrorism, but rather because it is not particularly concerned about the issue, its main focus being the provision of services and protection of Palestinian refugees. Even if terrorism constituted a greater concern, the agency is not equipped to undertake the extensive security investigations that a thoroughgoing antiterrorism effort would require. (p. 32)
Lindsay’s observations take on greater meaning in the wake of Israel’s recent Gaza invasion, in which UNRWA facilities were attacked. In one highly publicized incident, an UNRWA school was hit. The Israelis claimed that Hamas and other groups used UNRWA schools and aid facilities to fire rockets and attack Israeli troops. Linday’s report, while not asserting that UNWRA actively aided terrorist activities, revealed a widespread culture of indifference to infiltration of UNWRA by Hamas and other groups operating against Israel, indirectly supporting Israel’s claims.