Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Melane Phillips: A Perspective on UNRWA and Terror

A Perspective on UNRWA and Terror
Melane Phillips


The pressure group Arab Media Watch has put out a statement claiming that my observation in my Daily Mail column yesterday, that

Hamas has intercepted dozens of aid trucks and confiscated food and medical supplies bound for the UN stores in Gaza

is untrue. It bases its claim upon the following:

AMW chairman Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi spoke on the phone with John Ging, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, and its spokesman Chris Gunness. Ging described the claim as 'completely untrue.' Gunness described it as 'utter nonsense,' and said he would make a statement about this to the Mail. 'It took me a few minutes to verify that this very serious claim is false,' wrote Nashashibi in a letter to the newspaper. Phillips could have, and should have, done the same.'

Presumably, AMW will therefore have made the same complaint to Jordan's Petra news agency, which reported on January 20 that

Hamas hijacked Jordanian aid trucks after they crossed into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday. The aid was to go to UNRWA. As the truck drivers started unloading the aid, Hamas gunmen opened fire on them and forced them to go to Hamas-run stores.

and to the government of Jordan, which confirmed

on Tuesday that Hamas gunmen had seized the trucks shortly after they entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing

and to Fatah, one of whose officials said

that on Monday night alone, Hamas gunmen intercepted 12 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid that had been donated by the Jordanian government to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. He said that the trucks were on their way to the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) when the gunmen belonging to the movement's armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, stopped them and confiscated their contents . . . Last week Fatah activists and eyewitnesses in the Gaza Strip claimed that Hamas had confiscated fuel and food that was en route to hospitals and schools housing thousands of Palestinian families.

Perhaps AMW might care to bring all this to the attention of John Ging and Christopher Gunness? Now here is an analysis of both these gentlemen and the body they represent, which reports that

Ging accused Israel of killing the Palestinian driver of an aid truck on January 7, 2009, while Israeli officials – including the medic who brought the Palestinians to a hospital in Ashkelon – said the driver's death [was] the consequence of Palestinian sniper fire . . . Ging acknowledged, however, that he could not be absolutely certain that the attacks came from IDF forces, telling a reporter who asked whether other combatants may have been responsible, 'There is a conflict going on.'

And now let's look at UNRWA which has been supervising the Palestinian 'refugee camps' in Gaza for decades, during which time they have developed into mass production terror factories under its nose. The vast majority of UNWRA's staff in Gaza are Palestinians – and all Gazans are either supporters of Hamas or are very firmly under their thumb. But when asked at a press conference whether UNRWA was indeed a Hamas front, John Ging stalled:

He was 'just not going to answer' allegations that UNRWA had been infiltrated by Hamas. No evidence had ever been provided by any authority, at any level. Absolutely no official allegation had been made.

When you look at the efforts UNRWA has made over the years to ensure that none of its operatives is controlled by Hamas, no wonder he was coy. Fox News reported:

UNRWA official Chris Guinness told the Jerusalem Post this week that the agency screens names of new employees against the relatively small U.N. database of Taliban and Al Qaeda figures. Extremist Palestinians, however, are far more likely to belong to organizations, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, that are not on that watch list.

In 2004, former UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told the Canadian Broadcasting Company, 'I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime.' (My emphasis) He added, 'We do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.'

. . . There have been several high-profile examples of terrorists being employed by UNRWA. Former top Islamic Jihad rocket maker Awad Al-Qiq, who was killed in an Israeli air strike last May, was the headmaster and science instructor at an UNRWA school in Rafah, Gaza. Said Siyam, Hamas' interior minister and head of the Executive Force, was a teacher for over two decades in UNRWA schools.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill say they are also concerned that terrorist propaganda is being taught in UNRWA schools. A notebook captured by Israeli officials at the UNRWA school in the Kalandia refugee camp several years ago glorified homicide bombers and other terrorists. Called 'The Star Team,' it profiled so-called 'martyrs,' Palestinians who had died either in homicide bombings or during armed struggle with Israel. On the book's back cover was printed the UNRWA emblem, as well as a photo of a masked gunman taking aim while on one knee.

There is evidence that students educated in UNRWA schools are much more likely to become homicide bombers, said Jonathan Halevi, a former Israeli Defense Forces intelligence officer who specializes in Palestinian terrorist organizations. Halevi has spent several years building an extensive database for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs of terrorist attacks by Hamas and other Islamic extremist groups.

Though he cautioned that estimates are tricky because the identity of an attacker is not always made public, Halevi estimated that over 60 percent of homicide bombers were educated in UNRWA schools. By comparison, roughly 25-30 percent of Palestinian students in the West Bank, the origin of almost all homicide bombers since the start of the intifada in 2000, attend UNRWA schools, according to the agency's figures.

In October 2004, Arlene Kushner wrote a piece documenting UNRWA's links to terrorism published by the Center for Near East Policy Research. As CAMERA records:

In this piece, Kushner writes of Hamas members controlling the unions representing UNRWA employees, of an UNRWA ambulance being used to transport weapons and explosives and to terrorists and of an UNRWA driver taking 'advantage of the freedom of movement he enjoyed to transmit messages among Hamas activists in various Palestinian towns.'

Kushner also details the actions of Nahd Rashi Ahmad Atallah, a senior UNRWA official who admitted that during the months of June and July 2002, 'he had used his car, an UNRWA car, for the transportation of armed members of the "Popular Resistance Committees" who were on their way to carry out sniper attacks against Israeli troops … and a missile attacks against Jewish settlements in the Northern part of the Gaza Strip.'

Also, in May 2008, the Global Research in International Affairs Center published an article detailing how UNRWA schools have 'become hotbeds of anti-Western, anti-American, and antisemitic indoctrination, recruiting offices for terrorist groups.' Included in this piece is a description of how Awad Al-Qiq, a science teacher at an UNRWA school served as the leading bomb maker for Islamic Jihad. According to the report's authors 'Islamic Jihad did not need to pay him a salary for his military and militant activities since the UN, and American taxpayers, were already doing so.'

Now a devastating report on UNRWA by its former general counsel, James Lindsay, has just been published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. It concludes:

At the same time, UNWRA has gradually adopted a distinctive political viewpoint that favors the Palestinian and Arab narrative of events in the Middle East. In particular, it seems to favor the strain of Palestinian political thought espoused by those who are intent on a "return" to the land that is now Israel. UNRWA's adoption of any political viewpoint is undesirable, but the one it has chosen to emphasize is especially regrettable. In addition to clashing with the objectives of the United States, this view has detracted from UNRWA's humanitarian assistance, encouraged Palestinians who favor refighting long-lost wars, discouraged those who favor moving toward peace, and contributed to the scourge of conflicts that have been visited upon Palestinian refugees for decades.

Readers can make up their own minds whether one telephone call to UNRWA can really establish the truth of anything about Gaza at all.