House Republicans Move To End All US Funding to UNRWA

Bill would permanently stop millions in taxpayer funding for Hamas-tied group

WASHINGTON, DC - Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
February 1, 2024

House Republicans on Thursday introduced legislation that would cut off millions of dollars in funding to the United Nations’ Palestinian aid organization and prevent the Biden administration from allocating funds following revelations the international agency’s employees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror spree in Israel, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, is spearheading the bill, which mandates that "no federal funds may be used to provide funding directly or indirectly" to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the chief humanitarian organization in the Gaza Strip that recently sparked international headlines when it was discovered that at least 12 of its employees helped Hamas slaughter Jews, according to a copy of the bill exclusively obtained by the Free Beacon. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), chair of the House Republican Conference.

The bill—dubbed the Uncovering UNRWA’s Terrorist Crimes Act—is one of several measures circulating through Congress that will force a permanent ban on American funding for UNRWA, which has topped more than $1 billion since 2021. The Jackson-Stefanik bill is likely to garner widespread backing in the Republican-controlled House, particularly given Stefanik’s leadership role with the House GOP caucus. Another Republican-led measure in the House backed by Rep. Brian Mast (R., Fla.) would completely disband UNRWA and require the federal government to advocate for this policy at the U.N.

The flurry of legislation comes amid widespread outrage over reports last week that UNRWA employees worked with Hamas as it slaughtered more than 1,200 Israelis last year. UNRWA has long faced criticism for using anti-Israel educational materials in its schools and allowing Hamas to co-opt its facilities, where missiles and other arms have repeatedly been discovered. Israel estimates that more than 1,000 members of the aid organization, or around 10 percent, have ties to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups.

The latest legislation would also force the administration to disclose how much taxpayer money has reached UNRWA since Joe Biden took office and reversed a Trump administration decision to freeze funding for the group. This information, which would include an accounting of how every penny was spent by UNRWA, will help lawmakers ensure that no American money reaches the group throughout the rest of the year.

The United States and nine other countries temporarily suspended aid to UNRWA last week following revelations about the group’s participation in Hamas’s war crimes. But it remains unclear how long this pause will remain in effect as the Biden administration argues that UNRWA is vital to the delivery of humanitarian aid in war-torn Gaza.

"American taxpayer dollars have no place in promoting and enabling terrorism, yet that’s exactly what’s been happening with UNRWA, and I won’t stand for it any longer," Jackson told the Free Beacon. "There is a reason President Trump halted all funding to UNRWA during his administration. It is an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish organization that promotes terrorism and anti-Semitism."

Stefanik called the legislation "critical" and said it was time to "hold UNRWA accountable for the direct role their employees had in the barbaric October 7th terrorist attacks against Israel."

Though American aid to UNRWA is frozen, at least one GOP lawmaker suspects the Biden administration waited to enact the ban until an additional allotment of millions was pushed out the door earlier this month.

"It does appear as though they may have waited to make this announcement until after they allowed for a disbursement of tens of millions of dollars to go out to UNRWA on or before Jan. 24, and if that’s the case it should be considered outrageous," Mast, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Tuesday afternoon during a hearing on the U.N. organization’s close relationship with Hamas.

The State Department, when it announced the temporary funding pause on Jan. 26, praised UNRWA for playing "a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support."

UNRWA’s work, the State Department maintained, "has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures."

The organization’s ties to Hamas and other militant groups have been an open secret for years, with GOP lawmakers unsuccessfully pushing measures to cut American aid over the years. UNRWA schools have also been found to advocate for Israel’s destruction and teach lesson plans that promote Jew hatred.

Measures to cut American funding to UNRWA are also being considered by Senate Republicans, and stand a chance of garnering Democrat support as bipartisan outrage at UNRWA continues to build.