In recent years, billions of dollars have poured into Gaza from hundreds of countries and international organizations. The money, sent with the intention of encouraging Gaza economic development and quality of life, has remained largely unaccounted for by the international community. How much money has actually reached Palestinian civilians remains unknown, as no external audits have been made available from any major aid agency.
Only recently have there been questions from top political leaders, primarily from the United States, about the way in which donation funds 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 that 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, 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. Over $300 million dollars of the US pledge money will be going to Gaza reconstruction, while the rest has been earmarked to Palestinian Authority leader 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 aid 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 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, includeing top Islamic Jihad rocket maker, Awad al-Qiq, killed in an Israeli air strike last May. Al-Qiq was the headmaster and science instructor at an UNRWA school in Rafah. Another terrorist, Hamas’ interior minister and head of the Executive Force Said Siyam was a teacher for over two decades in UNRWA schools.
During Operation Cast Lead, UNRWA officials accused Israel of firing into an UNRWA school, killing dozens of Palestinian civilians seeking refuge there. Later, UN official Maxwell Gaylord reversed the UN’s stance on one of the most publicized incidents of the war, stating that the shelling and fatalities had actually taken place outside of the school.
Jonathan Halevi, a former IDF intelligence officer who specializes in Palestinian terrorist organizations, recently told Fox News that he estimates that 60% of homicide bombers are educated in UNRWA schools. UNRWA textbooks, which are provided by local governments and not neutral UN bodies, blatantly deny the Jewish connection to Israel.
In any case, the US remains UNRWA’s largest sponsor, providing the organization with over 75% of its initial budge according to UNRWA‘s former senior legal advisor James Lindsay. Lindsay, who served as an attorney for the US Justice Department for two decades asserted in his January publication for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that UNRWA is providing services to those who are actually not in need of them.
The almost 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan have Jordanian citizenship and are fully eligible for government services, but are continuing to receive assistance from UNRWA, which 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 told the Australian Federal Parliament on February 26.
Other countries actively fundraising for Gaza include France, which hosted a Paris donors conference for Palestinian Authority‘s President Mahmoud Abbas in December 2007. The conference raised over $7.4 billion in Palestinian aid (for a three year period: 2008-2010) from over 90 countries and international organizations. During 2008, over $3 billion 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 UN.
As the Gaza Strip will soon teem 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 Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure?
Anav Silverman is the International Correspondent for Sderot Media Center: www.sderotmedia.com .