ESTRICH: The UN and Hamas

What were United Nations employees doing on Oct. 7?

According to reports assembled by Israeli intelligence and shared with Western media last week, at least a dozen employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, actually participated in the terror attacks that murdered more than 1,200 Israelis, most of them civilians, and took hundreds more hostage.

Shocking? It is what Israel has been saying for years about the U.N. agency responsible for providing “humanitarian” aid to Palestinians in Gaza. The proof was persuasive enough that the United States moved swiftly to pause support for UNRWA, as did at least nine other nations including Britain, Germany and Australia. In 2022, the United States, which was the largest donor, contributed $344 million.

UNRWA employs upward of 13,000 people in Gaza in what Israel has long claimed is a state of “mutual dependence” with Hamas. What was not known until last week was that this state of “mutual dependence” involved active participation in the terrorist assault on Israeli civilians.

Thirteen UNRWA employees were cited in the dossier prepared by the Israelis as having directly participated in the attacks. One former hostage reportedly testified that she was kidnapped by an UNRWA teacher. Three other UNRWA employees also took part in the kidnapping of some of the 253 people who were taken hostage. Six UNRWA employees were among those who infiltrated into Israel and attacked two kibbutzim in border towns; others gathered the night before to be equipped with weapons at an assembly center, at least one supplied “logistical support,” another set up an operations center; and 10 were identified as officially affiliated with Hamas

“UNRWA is perforated with Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the British press.

There is some confusion, at least in media accounts, as to how many UNRWA workers were involved in the attacks. Initially, U.N. officials claimed that 12 employees were fired, but on Sunday, Jan. 28, the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said nine had been fired, and UNRWA officials said two were dead and that the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services was still investigating. Reuters is reporting that in addition to the dozen names in the dossier, Israel is claiming that a total of 190 UNRWA employees in Gaza double as members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad. An Israeli official told Reuters that the 190 mentioned in the dossier were “hardened fighters, killers,” while some 10% of UNRWA staff were believed to have more general affiliation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Israeli dossier also reportedly states that half of the UNRWA employees in Gaza have at least one close relative with ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

The U.N. Agency has long been criticized in Israel for letting Hamas use its facilities and for teaching antisemitism and denying Israel’s right to exist in its schools and textbooks. That criticism has only intensified during the current war. Jonathan Conricus, the former spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, describes the UNRWA as “an obstacle to peace and a corrupt organization that facilitates the continued rule of Hamas over Gaza and its terrorist activities against Israel.” The agency, he says, has “no future, and should be responsibly phased out, for the benefit of Palestinians and Israelis.” UNRWA counts as refugees anyone who is a descendant of those who were displaced by the Israeli War of Independence, fostering a culture of victimhood and dependence according to its critics.