In recent years, billions of dollars have poured into Gaza from hundreds of countries and international organizations. How much of that money has actually reached Palestinian civilians, effectively improving their quality of life and economy, has yet to be completely determined thanks to vague audits and on-line information.
Only recently, with a relatively silent international press, have there been questions from top political leaders, primarily from US, about the way in which the donor money will be transferred into Gaza.
At an Egyptian donor’s conference organized by Norway and Egypt in early March, more than 75 international donors and organizations met to announce their financial support of the reconstruction in Gaza. Over $5.2 billion were pledged at the conference, surprising the Palestinian Authority who originally called for $2.8 billion needed to build-up Gaza.
In light of the US pledge of $900 million, the second largest following Saudi Arabia‘s $1 billion at the conference, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stated that no US funds earmarked for Gaza would end up in the “wrong hands.”
By wrong hands, Clinton meant Hamas, the militant Islamist Palestinian party in complete control of the Gaza Strip. Over $300 million dollars of the US pledge money will be going to Gaza reconstruction, while the rest of the $600 million has been earmarked to Palestinian Authority‘s Mahmoud Abbas.
However, there is another set of “wrong hands” in this scenario through which the transfer of funds may very well pass through, hands that are not considered a neutral player in the Arab-Israeli conflict. US State department spokesman, Gordon Duguid stated that Gaza support would be provided through USAID, in coordination with UN agencies that will most likely include UNRWA.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Works Agency, established in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, has shown dangerous partiality to Hamas terrorists.
In 2004, former UNRWA commissioner-General Peter Hansen revealed to the Canadian Broadcasting Company that UNRWA may very well employ Hamas members. “I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don’t see that as crime,” Hansen infamously stated. He further added, that “We do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.”
UNRWA has employed several high profile terrorists which include top Islamic Jihad rocket maker, Awad Al-Qiq who was killed in an Israeli air strike last May 2008. Al-Qiq was the headmaster and science instructor at an UNRWA school in Rafah, Gaza. Another terrorist, Hamas’s interior minister and head of the Executive Force, Said Siyam, was a teacher for over two decades in UNRWA schools.
Fox News recently reported that UNRWA does not ask its employees whether they are members of, or affiliated with, a terrorist organization such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad. UNRWA also offers no formal screening to ensure that its employees are not affiliated with terrorist organizations.
During Operation Cast Lead, UNRWA officials accused Israel of firing into an UNRWA school, killing dozens of Palestinian civilians seeking refuge. Israel maintained that Palestinian rocket launchers locate next to the school had fired mortars on IDF soldiers, which prompted the army’s response. Later, UN official Maxwell Gaylord, reversed the UN’s stance stating that the shelling and fatalities had actually taken place outside of the school. But the media damage to Israel had already been done.
Jonathan Halevi, a former IDF intelligence officer who specializes in Palestinian terrorist organizations, recently told Fox News that he estimates that 60 percent of homicide bombers are educated in UNRWA schools. Past UNRWA textbooks blatantly deny the Jewish connection to Israel and are filled with anti-Semitic remarks.
In any case, the United States remains UNRWA’s largest sponsor, providing the organization with over 75% of its initial budget according to UNRWA‘s former senior legal advisor, James Lindsay. Lindsay, who served as an attorney for the US Justice Department for two decades asserts in his publication for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy which came out on January 29 that UNRWA is providing services to those who are actually not in need of them.
Almost the 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan have Jordanian citizenship and are fully eligible for government services, but are continuing to receive UNRWA assistance as the agency regards them as refugees, according to Lindsay‘s report.
Michael Danby, a longstanding legislator in the Australian Parliament has also accused UNRWA of being “notoriously corrupt. “ Since 2007, Australia has provided $30 million in funding for the Palestinians through the UNRWA agency, which Danby accused of diverting funds to “arms purchase, terrorist operations, and anti-Israel incitement as well as into the pockets of the PA leadership.“
“It is a betrayal of that generosity [by Australians] for this money to be wasted, stolen, or misspent on rockets, guns, and terrorism,” Danby said one month ago to the Australian Federal Parliament on February 26.
Other countries actively fundraising for Gaza include France, who hosted a Paris donors conference for Palestinian Authority‘s President Mahmoud Abbas in December 2007. The conference raised over 7.4 billion dollars in Palestinian aid (for a three year period: 2008-2010) from over 90 countries and international organizations that attended. During 2008, over 3 billion dollars pledged at the conference were distributed through the PA.
But that’s not all. By mid-January 2009, TV stations across the Arab world collected over half a billion dollars in a telethon for Gaza, according to Johan Eriksson, a spokesperson for the U.N.
As the Gaza Strip soon teems with money, world donors and leaders must ask the following question: Who will monitor the transfer of these funds and account that they are indeed effectively used for Gaza reconstruction and not for restoring the Hamas terrorist infrastructure?