Stories I’d Like to See: Scratching the Surface of UNRWA

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 3:57am

We know of a few examples from the IDF of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) facilities being used to store weapons and launch rockets at Israel.

This UN agency oversees Palestinian refugee camps — everything from schools and medical clinics, to camp infrastructure. According to its web site, the agency’s 2014-2015 budget is $1.4 billion, and 92 percent of the money comes from UN member states — your tax dollars.

With rockets in the schools being too advanced for the typical junior high science club, UNRWA has some explaining to do. Problem is, it’s not worth holding your breath waiting for the UN to investigate itself, much less publicly release any findings. One tepid UNRWA apology, grainy IDF footage, and a handful of examples which made the news are just the tip of the iceberg.



It’s time for an enterprising reporter to pick up the gauntlet and ask some hard questions in the public interest.

How did weapons find their way onto UNRWA premises? Was the agency’s staff aware of this, or even complicit?

The scope: How many more UNRWA schools, clinics, storage facilities, and offices were penetrated by Hamas that we don’t yet know about?

The money: What are the agency’s losses, and who is liable? What’s the mood of UNRWA donors?

The fallout: Will the UN hold anyone accountable? What conclusions are officials in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon — which also host UNRWA-administered refugee camps — drawing from all this? And what steps, if any, can UNRWA take to start earning Israel’s trust?

The stakes: Scrutiny could give momentum to those who want to de-fund the UNRWA. Quite a few voices want to transfer responsibility for Palestinian refugees to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (the UNRWA’s redundant) or even to the Palestinian Authority (theoretically strengthening the PA).

Any investigative journalists up to the task?

Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting, flickr/Andrew Magill

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Original article can be viewed at Stories I’d Like to See: Scratching the Surface of UNRWA on HonestReporting.

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