Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Moves to Defund UN Agency Tied to Foreign Terror Groups

Zachary Leshin | October 29, 2015 | 5:40pm EDT
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At least 20 rockets were discovered in 2014 hidden in a school like this one in Gaza City run by the UN's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). (AP photo)

( – U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), introduced legislation on Tuesday to defund a United Nations agency she says is “tied to foreign terrorist organizations."

Last year, there were multiple incidents in which schools in Gaza run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) were reportedly used to store and launch rockets used by Hamas and/or Palestinian Islamic Jihad to attack Israeli targets.

Both groups are designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the State Department.

In 2014, UNRWA received $408.7 million from the U.S., which is its largest contributor, the congresswoman said.

The UNRWA Anti-Incitement and Anti-Terrorism Act would withhold U.S. contributions unless the Secretary of State certifies that no UNRWA employees or recipients of UNRWA funds “are associated with foreign terrorist organizations or are propagating anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric, propaganda, or incitement.”

“In response to the increased terror and violence in Israel, we must hold those who are responsible for inciting this violence accountable and that includes UNRWA,” Ros-Lehtinen stated in a press release

“After investigating allegations first brought to light by UN Watch, the UN recently announced that several UNRWA employees had been suspended for posting inciting social media posts,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

“The U.S. can’t continue to send $400 million to UNRWA while ignoring the systemic and endemic anti-Israel, anti-Semitic bias and the blatant incitement to violence we see from its employees. UNRWA employees and facilities are consistently tied to foreign terrorist organizations and a full accounting of the agency’s affiliations should be required before another dime is spent on this divisive organization,” she continued.

The Heritage Foundation has supported calls to defund UNRWA as it is currently structured. In March, Heritage issued a report calling for the U.S. to reconsider its support of the UN agency.

“Congress should make any funding contingent on UNRWA instituting a vetting process that prohibits employment of or contracting with individuals or businesses with connections to Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestine Islamic Jihad, or any other designated terrorist group under U.S. law. Congress should also make funding contingent on access by relevant congressional committees to UNRWA’s screening and vetting documents, reports, and other materials to ensure that its procedures are rigorous and regular,” said the report.

But Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh is opposed to defunding UNRWA.

In August, Judeh met with UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl. According to a press release from the Jordanian Embassy, “Judeh voiced absolute rejection of any reduction of UNRWA's services extended to refugees as a 'red line'. He also stressed that Jordan, under directives of His Majesty King Abdullah II, is keen on supporting UNRWA to serve Palestinian refugees in Jordan and other hosting countries.

“The minister also outlined Jordan's efforts to urge donor countries to fulfill their obligations towards the agency, pointing out that Jordan has contacted 49 foreign ministers and the UN Secretary General in this regard.”

Disclosure: As a former legislative assistant for Rep. Steve Stockman, (R-TX), Zachary Leshin wrote legislation in 2014 that also sought to defund UNRWA.

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