From Welfare to Warfare
by Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky
The American Interest
August 2, 2014
UNWRA supplies have been discovered inside Hamas terror tunnels.As Operation Protective Edge enters its third week, we have now seen four incidents in the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas that have focused attention on UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), the internationally funded welfare organization for Palestinian „refugees.“
The most recent saw three IDF soldiers killed in an explosion at a booby-trapped UNRWA clinic that was located at the opening of a terror tunnel.
Earlier in the week, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in three of its schools in Gaza. Hamas or some other faction had been using the schools while they were closed for the summer; the one available photo shows rockets piled in the back of a classroom, covered with a blanket.
UNRWA properly condemned the act, as did UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who expressed „outrage and regret“ at the discovery. But lacking its own munitions disposal capability, UNRWA the apparently returned the rockets to local authorities, presumably Hamas. It later expressed alarm that the other batch had mysteriously gone missing. After being ridiculed for this, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness has now stated that his organization will rely on UN mine disposal experts for future assistance.
One can almost sympathize with UNRWA. Its schools have long been a primary mechanism for teaching the Palestinian narrative of displacement, resentment, and resistance against Israel. But it is doubtful that its international employees like Gunness took the logic to its predictable end and expected schools to actually be used by the „resistance“, that is, Hamas, for patently illegal and deadly purposes.
But in a third incident UNRWA’s see-no-evil mentality had tragic, indeed deadly, consequences. A school in the Gaza neighborhood of Bet Hanoun where refugees from the fighting had fled was apparently used as a Hamas firing position. The details are unclear except that an explosion killed at least 16 children.
Instantly UNRWA blamed Israel for the deaths. But an Israeli investigation suggests it was a Hamas rocket that fell short, and a just released video shows an Israeli mortar round striking an empty courtyard. Even UNRWA has changed its tune slightly and now claims it does not know who was responsible.
The loss of life is tragic and regrettable, and may or may not have been avoidable. But it is a measure of UNRWA’s reflexive anti-Israel bias and instinct to protect itself that it tweeted first and investigated later. The narrative of Israel’s unnecessary and violent attack was created and repeated by a world press that cannot see Hamas‘ human shields, rockets, or tunnels.