Analysis

Gaza War Opens Politicized UN Relief Efforts to Global Scrutiny
Palestinian children wait to fill plastic bottles with water at a UN camp in the Gaza Strip. (Getty Images)
August 5, 2014
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
Summary
The current fighting in Gaza has cast an international spotlight on the controversial work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Critics call UNRWA a pawn of terrorists, while defenders claim they are doing their best to reform the agency and cooperate with Israel.


While UNRWA’s humanitarian work has drawn praise, many observers denounce the agency as a heavily politicized advocacy group for Palestinians. They note that terrorists use UNRWA facilities to store weapons and conceal their fighters from Israeli forces. They argue that UNRWA should not be providing educational services for well-off Palestinians who can afford to pay their own way, and they question why the agency should be providing services to many of the estimated two million “refugees” who are citizens of Jordan.

Critics say that the United States and other Western governments – UNRWA’s top contributors – need to press the agency for reforms. Those would include steps such as preventing its facilities from being used by armed militant groups, ending school programs that glorify jihad, and encouraging residents to integrate into the countries they live in instead of deluding themselves into thinking they can “return” to Israel, a land that many of them have never set foot in.

UNRWA defenders have said they are already taking steps to reform the agency, and that they cooperate with Israel and move swiftly against staffers found to engage in radical activities.

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