24 States Urge Congress To Permanently End Funding for ‘Anti-Semitic’ UNRWA

Palestinian children attend a class at the UNRWA elementary school in Shati refugee camp in Gaza City
Palestinian children attend a class at the UNRWA elementary school in Gaza City (AP)
May 7, 2024

A coalition of 24 state attorneys general are calling on Congress to permanently end all American funding to the United Nations’ chief Palestinian aid group, citing its anti-Semitic bias and links to the Hamas terror group.

Led by Iowa attorney general Brenna Bird and South Carolina’s Alan Wilson, the state officials want Congress to enact a permanent ban on American funding to the United Nations' Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), saying that lawmakers must step forward to "stop funding anti-Semitic education efforts run by the United Nations body tied to terror organization Hamas," according to a copy of the letter sent Tuesday to congressional leaders and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"Not one more dollar should go to fund this organization so long as it is committed to spreading anti-Semitism—much less an organization 10% of which had links to foreign terror organization Hamas," the attorneys general write, citing information indicating that UNRWA employees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror rampage through Israel. The letter follows similar calls from outside advocacy groups, as well as efforts by Republican lawmakers to permanently freeze UNRWA’s funding as a result of its ties to Hamas.

The letter signals a growing appetite on the state level to hold UNRWA accountable for its history of promoting anti-Semitic educational materials and allowing Hamas to overrun its facilities in the Gaza Strip. Earlier this week, Israel struck a Hamas command center located in an UNRWA facility, one of several that have been discovered over the course of the seven-month war. At the state level, some officials and advocacy groups have floated the possibility of stripping the tax-exempt status enjoyed by UNRWA USA, the aid group’s American fundraising arm.

"The U.S. should not be funding terrorism. Period," South Carolina’s Wilson told the Free Beacon. "We’ve known UNRWA is used by terrorists and has helped facilitate terror attacks for decades. The UN’s own investigation confirms what we’ve been raising the alarm about for months. It’s time to permanently cut funding for UNRWA, and we need to do it before they receive another dime."

UNRWA, the state officials say in their letter, has mainlined anti-Semitic propaganda to a generation of Palestinian children that have become radicalized supporters of Hamas’s campaign to eradicate Israel. American funding—which totals millions and accounts for a sizable portion of UNRWA’s budget—is responsible for spreading anti-Semitic hatred, the attorneys general say.

"The future leaders and would-be peacemakers in Gaza are instead having their educations poisoned by anti-Semitic staff and textbooks," they wrote. "Even the European Parliament acknowledged that UNRWA’s education materials contain ‘problematic and hateful contents encouraging violence, spreading anti-Semitism, and inciting hatred.’"

"The United States," they note, "contributes even more to UNRWA than does Europe—and thus we must stop our culpability at once."

While the U.S. government and many European nations froze their funding to UNRWA earlier this year, following revelations that its employees participated in the Oct. 7 attack, many have restarted their aid without receiving guarantees that UNRWA will implement reforms.

"There is no excuse for using taxpayer dollars to fund terrorism," Attorney General Bird told the Free Beacon. "It is well documented that UNRWA has a long history of employing terrorists and driving antisemitic hate, especially in schools. Since taking office, Biden has funneled billions of dollars to UNRWA. Not one more taxpayer dollar should go to a corrupt organization that works hand-in-hand with terrorists. We are calling on Congress to defund UNRWA once and for all."

The United States has a congressionally mandated pause on UNRWA funding in effect, but the State Department continues to work directly with the group and encourage other countries to resume their funding, the Free Beacon reported in late March.

"While the United States suspended UNRWA’s funding in January, it is time to make that permanent—unless UNRWA engages in serious and clear reform," the state officials wrote.

The latest push is backed by attorneys general in South Carolina, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, and Kentucky, among others. It follows a similar letter from February raising concerns about UNRWA’s ties to Hamas and urging Congress to implement a funding freeze.

"Two months ago, 26 States wrote to Congress warning that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency was up to no good," the attorneys general wrote. "And we were right."