A coalition of 26 state attorneys general are pressing congressional leaders to halt all American funding for the United Nations’ Palestinian aid group amid revelations the agency’s employees helped Hamas carry out an unprecedented attack on Israel.
"It is time for Congress to stop funding this organization that rapes, murders, and kidnaps innocents—and that has shown it has no willingness, desire, or capacity to stick to humanitarian aid and away from supporting antisemitism and terrorism," the attorneys general wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Funding for the U.N.’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the most prominent humanitarian organization working in the Gaza Strip, has been in the spotlight since Israeli intelligence agencies disclosed last week that at least 12 of the group’s employees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 rampage through Israel, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis. Congress is already considering several measures to suspend more than $1 billion in funding for UNRWA, and the letter from the state attorneys general is likely to add urgency to these efforts.
Led by Iowa attorney general Brenna Bird (R.) and South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson (R.), the letter tells Congress, "there is no reason to fund organizations that support terrorist operations. It is abundantly clear, and has been for some time, that UNRWA does just that."
While the Biden administration temporarily paused U.S. funding to UNRWA pending an investigation, it has also praised the aid group’s relief efforts in war-torn Gaza as critical, indicating the funding could resume once public outrage abates. The United States is slated to award at least $371 million in additional funding to the aid organization throughout this year.
UNRWA, the state attorneys general say, "is a multi-decade failed experiment and there is no justification to continue sending good money after bad. The United States must end financial contributions to UNRWA, both in the future and currently scheduled to be paid."
Iowa’s Bird, in an interview with the Free Beacon, said she organized the letter to show that states across the country are outraged over the Biden administration’s efforts to fund UNRWA, which began when the Democrat administration entered office and reversed a Trump-era freeze on U.S. contributions to the aid group.
"It’s the federal government’s job to prosecute terrorists not fund them with taxpayer dollars," Bird said, adding that state leaders are "blowing the whistle and making sure the federal government is not funding [UNRWA] with our tax dollars."
The letter was signed by 26 attorneys general across the country including those in Texas, Florida, and Virginia. Sources familiar with the matter said the attorney general from New Hampshire was not permitted to sign onto the letter due to opposition from Gov. Chris Sununu (R.), who has oversight over the state office.
The letter notes that humanitarian aid to organizations operating in the Gaza Strip must be "conditioned on robust third-party oversight that ensures that staff are in no way affiliated with, and money is in no way passed under the table to, Hamas or other terror organizations."
UNRWA is not currently subject to such oversight by the U.S. government, and is not required to submit its staff, contractors, or beneficiaries for counterterrorism vetting, according to experts who testified before Congress earlier this week.
South Carolina’s Wilson, who helped lead the letter with Bird, said that in addition to pressuring federal lawmakers, state officials can examine other pressure points, like cutting off UNRWA’s U.S.-based arm, UNRWA USA.
A coalition of international lawyers petitioned the IRS earlier this week to examine that possibility, saying that UNRWA USA’s tax exempt status should be revoked in light of the aid group’s ties to Hamas.
"That is a pressure point that absolutely should be considered and looked into," Wilson told the Free Beacon in an interview, noting that there are alternative ways to fund humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip without bolstering Hamas and its affiliates.
"It’s a false dilemma when you say, ‘If we don’t fund UNRWA, we’re not supporting those people who are suffering,’" Wilson said. "There are lots of vehicles, there are lots of ways the U.S., Israel, and other countries in the West can support those who are suffering because of the actions of Hamas."